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Soldier who stole and went joyriding in armored vehicle found not guilty via insanity

An M113 armored personnel carrier returns to the field from evacuating a simulated casualty at Orchard Training Center, Idaho, on June 19, 2018. The M113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier (APC). (U.S Army photo by Spc. Michael Hunnisett)
August 20, 2019

A Virginia National Guardsman was found not guilty this week after stealing a military vehicle and taking it on a joyride last year.

Joshua Phillip Yabut, a 30-year-old 1st Lieutenant with the Virginia National Guard, was found not guilty “by reason of insanity” for the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton M577 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) taken from Fort Pickett, Va., in June 2018, according to a report by the Richmond-Times Dispatch on Monday.

Yabut’s physical appearance on Monday was described as a “stark contrast to what he looked like in police booking photos taken after his arrest.”

While he was able to communicate with the judge and answer questions without issue, “the image of a clean-shaven, short-haired Army officer in uniform has been replaced with a lengthy head of hair and a scruffy beard and mustache,” said the Times-Dispatch.

Attorney Amy Austin, who represents Yabut, said he was evaluated by psychologists at Central State Hospital on Aug. 18, 2018, who declared him “incompetent to stand trial” and “not legally responsible for his behavior.”

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Although he later became declared competent, Austin argues that he was “legally insane” at the time of the incident.

Yabut was originally arrested in June 2018 by Virginia State Police, who said they chased him for 65 miles while he was behind the wheel of the APC, which he drove from Fort Pickett to a street near Richmond City Hall.

The APC carried no weapons and no was injured.

Before the incident, an account that appeared to belong to Yabut had tweeted obscure messages hinting at his plan, including a selfie proclaiming “legendary status” for his feat, according to Task & Purpose.

He also live-tweeted throughout the day and shot a “selfie” from inside the APC, according to tweets collected by Task & Purpose.

“After Yabut was released on bond, he went back to tweeting his random musings, talked of things he was coding, shared photos of wood-working projects, and dropped his private medical records, which asserted that he was not under the influence of drugs during the APC incident (this charge was later dropped),” Task & Purpose noted.

“He also shared records purportedly showing a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, bipolar disorder, and an unspecified anxiety disorder,” Task & Purpose added.

In addition to the charges regarding the theft of the vehicle, “he was also charged with violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment),” the Times-Dispatch said.

Yabut will appear before the judge for another hearing on Oct. 4 where he will learn what treatment he will face. He is now at Virginia’s Central State Hospital for evaluation and monitoring.