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Wild man of 96th Street' sent to psychiatric hospital

NEW YORK -- A homeless, crack-addicted war veteran known as the 'wild man of 96th Street' for terrorizing Manhattan's Upper West Side was involuntarily taken to a psychiatric hospitalMonday after two doctors deemed him to be a danger to himself and to society.

The doctor's assessment of Larry Hogue cleared the way for Manhattan prosecutors to turn him over to state mental health officials for observation.

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'We're pleased,' said Manhattan assistant district attorney Paul Schectman. 'We've always felt that the problem here was always one that required the involvement of the mental health system more than criminal justice system.'

Hogue was taken to Creedmore Hospital in Queens, where if doctors there agree that he indeed poses a risk of 'imminent' danger, he will be involuntarily committed for treatment, Schectman said.

Since 1985, Hogue has harassed people and vandalized property on Manhattan's Upper West Side and been picked up by police dozens of times, only to be returned to the streets, often within days.

He was acquitted at trial of attempted murder for allegedly pushing a young girl in front of a bus on Amsterdam Avenue, and has never served longer than a year in prison for several convictions on lesser charges.

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Community residents, police and homeless advocates say Hogue's case dramatizes the difficulty of getting a mentally ill and dangerous person off the streets until he seriously injures himself or someone else.

His case has attracted national attention, including a segment on CBS's '60 Minutes' Sunday night.

Hogue, who receives veterans benefits, reportedly was hit in the head during military service and suffered brain damage that makes him turn violent when he smokes crack.

When the drug passes out of his system, however, he becomes passive and rational, leading to his release from custody.

Hogue's latest run-in with the law occurred in August less than a week after he was released from prison after serving an eight-month term for smashing a car window with a rock.

Within days, he returned to the 96th Street area and was picked up twice in as many days, the second time for scratching a car with a knife.

Schectman said the criminal charges in the car-scratching case have been adjourned until next month.

In the meantime, a civil judge was scheduled to hold a hearing next Tuesday to hear whether Creedmore doctors think Hogue is mentally unstable enough to hold against his will.

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Hogue, interviewed in custody by '60 Minutes,' said he would immediately return to West 96th Street if released.

'When I leave here, I'm gonna buy me a bag of marijuana and some alcohol, some scotch, yeah,' he said. 'I'm not going into no drug treatment program....Nobody dominates my life. Nobody tells me where I can go.'

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