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Press Journal (Vero Beach, Florida)

October 6, 2007 Saturday
Indian River County Edition

‘Mentally ill’ Vero psychiatrist has license suspended

BYLINE: JAMES KIRLEYjim.kirley@scripps.com

SECTION: A SECTION; Pg. A1

LENGTH: 490 words

VERO BEACH — The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency suspension of a
Vero Beach psychiatrist’s medical license this week after learning the doctor pleaded “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect” to charges he tried to kidnap a 2-year-old from his mother in New York City last year.
The doctor later told a court he thought the mother was from outer space.
Dr. William John Johns III, 35, has been incarcerated in New York since his arrest in July 2006. His former office near State Road A1A and County Road 510 is gone and the phone has been disconnected at his Baytree residence.
Initially, Johns was charged with attempted second-degree murder in connection with the incident at a pier on the west side of Manhattan, when he allegedly choked the mother unconscious. That, plus charges of second-degree assault and child endangerment, were dismissed by a New York judge at an April hearing after Johns entered his plea to the kidnapping charge.
Johns asked the court’s permission Aug. 30 to return to Florida and day treatment at a psychiatric facility. Instead, the court found him “dangerously mentally ill” and committed Johns to a secure treatment facility in New York for six months, according to an order by Florida Surgeon General Dr. Ana M. Viamonte Ros.
The order relates New York court testimony in the case that indicated Johns was diagnosed in 2005 with bipolar disorder and has a history of alcoholism, depression and attention deficit disorder.
Shortly before his 2006 arrest in New York, Johns stopped seeing local patients and fired his receptionist.
“He believed he was a character in a movie and that other people were actually actors observing him,” the order reads.
Some time later, Johns reportedly drove to New York City. Along the way, he tore a medication patch from his arm, heard voices and thought he was Jesus Christ, the order states.
At the Manhattan pier, Johns began watching families and children in a play area.
“He became fixated on a 2-year-old boy playing with his mother. … Dr. Johns related that there were certain moments when he thought the child was an alien, or super-human, but later determined that the child was in danger of falling in the water or being hit by a bus and had to be saved from his mother, who was from outer space,” the order states.
Johns allegedly grabbed the child, then choked the mother until bystanders freed her and held him until police arrived.
The lapse in time between the July 2006 arrest and this week’s emergency suspension order may have been due to the Florida health department being unaware of the New York case. The Citizens Commission on Human rights in Florida, a self-described “psychiatric watch dog group” with offices in Clearwater, filed a complaint about Johns with the department July 31.
Department officials said a proceeding seeking formal suspension of Johns’ Florida medical license will take place in the near future.