Brave Mother Fights off Psychotic Psychiatrist

"I thought for sure he was going to kill me in front of my son," mother says.

July 26, 2007 — -- Manhattan's famed district attorney's office — the model for "Law & Order" — is fighting to keep a "dangerously mentally ill" psychiatrist locked up, after he admitted to attacking a 2-year-old boy and then choking his terrified mother unconscious, according to a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

The attack was caught by a surveillance camera and prosecutors this week used a PowerPoint presentation of images from the assault to bolster their case.

"We are arguing that [the attacker] is dangerously mentally ill and needs to be in a secure facility," Barbara Thompson, spokeswoman for veteran Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit.

William Johns III, a bipolar Florida psychiatrist who has a history of alcohol problems and violence, admitted in court papers that he drove to New York last summer to escape evil "forces" that he believed were chasing him, Thompson said.

In testimony Wednesday, a friend of the psychiatrist reportedly told a judge that Johns said he had to go to New York to "get out of 'The Truman Show'" — a reference to a 1998 Jim Carrey movie in which the lead character doesn't realize that he's the star of a wildly popular television show and that his friends and neighbors are all actors in the show.

The child's mother, Jil Novenski of Manhattan, testified this week and described how she fought for her life as Johns choked her unconscious.

Novenski told a Manhattan judge that her son Thorin was playing with his plastic bicycle on an afternoon in July 2006, when Johns inexplicably grabbed the child. As Novenski tried to intervene, Johns turned on her.

"I begged, I begged, I begged," Novenski, in tears, testified in a Manhattan courtroom, according to the New York Post. Thompson confirmed the paper's account of the testimony to ABC News Wednesday.

"I screamed, 'Oh God! Please no! I thought for sure he was going to kill me in front of my son," Novenski told the judge. "I wanted to make sure that if I was going to die, he wasn't going to get [Thorin]," Novenski testified. "He squeezed harder and harder, and then everything went black."

Two passers-by pulled Johns off the unconscious mother. Johns pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the spring, acknowledging the attack.

"I tightened my grip on her when the two guys came over because I thought they might try to pull me off of her," Johns admitted, according to court papers reviewed by the Post and confirmed by Thompson.

Wednesday, a lawyer for Johns reportedly told a judge that the psychiatrist had been stable since September and that he should be released or transferred to a nonsecure facility in his home state in Florida. The attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Johns' family was in court Wednesday, supporting him.