Two weeks after family members went to court to get her hospitalized, an Ada woman on Wednesday, Jan. 4 was charged with threatening to commit an act of terrorism for threats made Monday outside a Kentwood mosque.
With all but her eyes covered, 33-year-old Kari Moss appeared for a video arraignment on the felony charge, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Moss interrupted the Kentwood District Court judge several times, calling the criminal charge fraudulent and accusing staff at the Kent County Jail of inhumane behavior.
She made it clear she does not want a court-appointed attorney.
“No, I’d like to represent myself,’’ Moss told the court. “I’m a philosophy student.’’
Her mother, who attended Wednesday's arraignment, said her daughter needs mental health treatment, not jail.
“I think the world can see that this is not a normal person; that she is severely mentally ill and she needs to be in the hospital,’’ Charlotte Steigenga said.
Moss had been living with her mother in Ada, but was recently asked to leave due to increasingly erratic behavior, Steigenga said.
Authorities say Moss showed up at the At-Tawheed Islamic Center, 3357 East Paris Avenue SE, about 8:45 a.m. Monday and began asking people entering the building for money.
She did not make it inside, but her comments, including references to a gun and explosives, warranted a call to police, said Dr. Ali Metwalli, who heads the facility.
“She is mentally ill,’’ Metwalli said. “She has a mental sickness and is probably desperate for money. We are known around the community that we help people.’’
A Michigan State Police bomb squad checked items left in the parking lot as well as Moss' car, which was parked in an adjacent strip mall. No weapons or explosives were found.
Kentwood District Court Judge William Kelly set bond at $500,000. Moss told the judge she has no intention of posting bond.
“I cannot pay bond or ask anyone to pay bond for me because interest is forbidden in Islam and I will not pay interest,’’ she said. “I will go to jail for life before I disobey my religion.’’
It is likely her attorney will ask for a mental health evaluation when Moss returns to court next week for a probable cause hearing.
Following today’s arraignment, her mother talked with reporters outside the courtroom to call attention to what she says is a mental health crisis in the United States.
“We want to see the broken system repaired,’’ Steigenga said. “There needs to be much more education in America on mental health issues. And not the fear and the stigma about mental health.’’
In 2012, a petition was approved in Kent County Probate Court to have Moss involuntarily committed to Forest View Psychiatric Hospital following a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, court records show. Moss had been hearing voices and was obsessed with Islam. She also threatened to “commit an unspecified act of terrorism,’’ probate court records show.
After several months of hospitalization, Moss made significant progress; she improved social skills and started taking creative writing classes, court records show.
Moss in May, 2013 asked that she no longer be under court-ordered guardianship because “she no longer feels she needs a guardian because she has been symptom-free for a year,’’ court records show.
Moss lived in France for several years and underwent mental health treatment there, court records show. It is during her time abroad that Moss became attracted to the Islamic faith, her mother said.
“She was alone and needy,’’ Steigenga said. “She was raised Christian and I always thought it was sort of a rebellion against me. And it’s the eccentric part, the bad part of the Muslim faith. But she is not a devout Muslim.’’
Steigenga on Dec. 21 filed a petition for hospitalization for her daughter, saying that in the previous two weeks Moss had been showing renewed symptoms of mental illness, including isolation from others, a lack of self-care, hoarding food in unsanitary conditions and “increased religious preoccupation,’’ court records show.
The former South Christian High School student lost a job because she had not been showing up for work and was involved in a serious car accident in mid-December, court records show.
During a recent evaluation through Network 180, a determination was made that Moss was “at the brink of a psychosis,’’ her mother said. When Moss was seen by emergency room doctors, they dismissed hospitalization as unnecessary, Steigenga said.
“She showed up at my house in the middle of the night saying ‘see, I told you I was OK,’’’ said Steigenga, a registered nurse. “I’m used to seeing this. That is why I sought intervention, but it didn’t happen.
“So I am the one experiencing her anger right now,’’ Steigenga added. “I will not be the one to be able to help her; it will have to be other people helping Kari right now.’’