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Homeless mental patient pleads guilty to stealing car

LOCKPORT – After 20 months in a state mental institution, a Buffalo man pleaded guilty Thursday in a stolen car case and was sentenced by Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon to the time he already has served.

Through a Vietnamese interpreter, Giang T. Cao, 31, admitted to a felony, second-degree unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The interpreter said he would drive Cao to a Buffalo homeless shelter after his release from the County Jail.

Cao was arrested in Wheatfield Oct. 31, 2013, and charged with driving a car that had been reported stolen in Erie County. He was arraigned in December 2013, but a psychiatric examination was ordered, which determined Cao was mentally incompetent to stand trial. In May 2014, Sheldon committed him to the Rochester Psychiatric Center, where he remained until about three weeks ago, when doctors there determined he was fit to proceed.

Cao, a U.S. citizen born in Vietnam, served six months and three weeks in jail before and after his time in the mental institution.