The Psychiatrist and the Selfie

Jacob Nolan, who claims his psychiatrist programmed him to kill her ex-lover, speaks out for the first time to "48 Hours"

Produced by Clare Friedland, Susan Mallie, Chris Young Ritzen and Mead Stone

NEW YORK CITY – “There’s never gonna be a night I don’t fall asleep feeling awful for what I’ve done,” Jacob Nolan told “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant.

To this day, Jake insists his mind was not his own when he set out to kill Dr. Michael Weiss at his office on Nov. 12, 2012.

Jacob Nolan interview with "48 Hours"

Jake Nolan tells his side of the story for the first time to “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant

CBS News

“The knife was in my pocket. And the sledgehammer was over my shoulders … He sees the sledgehammer and charges at me … and I reached for the knife,” Jake told Van Sant.

“Here I am with this knife. And the guy’s bleeding. And I’m bleeding. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is terrifying.’ It’s as if I woke up from a bad dream,” he continued.

After Jake stabbed him, Dr. Weiss fought back furiously. Both men ended up in the hallway of the Manhattan high-rise, where Weiss also lived.

“I see two men sitting on the ground up against the wall. The younger man is bleeding from the chest. And the other man is bleeding from his arms,” said former NYPD officer Charles Hennessey.

Hennessey and his partner were the first on the scene.

“So what did Jake Nolan tell you?” Van Sant asked Hennessey.

“The only thing that I heard Jake Nolan say was that, ‘He stabbed me, he tried to kill me,’” he replied.

“And what did you hear Dr. Michael Weiss say?” Van Sant asked.

“’He said, “He came into my office. Tried to hit me with the sledgehammer … and I had to defend myself and I stabbed him,’” said Hennessey.

Both men were rushed to the hospital, where Jake was placed under arrest for attempted murder and handcuffed to his bed. 

In the weeks ahead, Jake’s bizarre story unfolded. His claim: that he had been manipulated to kill by his own cousin, psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Buchbinder.

“My experience with Pamela, looking back, was incredibly frightening, incredibly frightening,” said Jake.

Dr. Michael Weiss

Dr. Michael Weiss

Steven Hirsch

Jake’s target that day, Dr. Michael Weiss, was Buchbinder’s ex-boyfriend and another psychiatrist.

“Do you believe he was brainwashed?” Van Sant asked Debbie Nolan of her son.

“Yes,” she replied.

Debbie and Jim Nolan, Jake’s parents, are devastated.   

“He is basically a really good kid who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Debbie Nolan.

When you meet Jake, he seems rational.

“I’ve been on meds now for over a year-and-a-half that have finally worked for me,” he told Van Sant.

But he says that wasn’t always the case.  Jake’s parents insist that to understand how and why their then-20-year-old son could have been conditioned to kill, you have to go back to his childhood.

“Jake was our third and our youngest child … He was a absolute delight,” Jim Nolan said. “He was gifted, he was smart … he liked to invent things.”

But Jake also had problems. By the age of 5, he was diagnosed with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“There was something with him that just … wasn’t the same as everybody else. And we started to notice significant changes in his personality and his demeanor around the ages of 14, 15,” Jim Nolan explained.

“What did you see?” Van Sant asked.

“He went through these large mood swings,” said Jim Nolan.

Still, Jake had moments of brilliance while in high school in Miami. He made news after he won a prestigious contest co-inventing a study tool app for iPhones called “Flash-Me.”

“And then a month later, I couldn’t get outta bed. My parents bribed me with everything to get out of bed,” he explained. “’Please get out of bed; please get out of bed, Jake.’ … ‘You gotta go to school; please go to school today. Don’t miss another day of school.’”

Jake was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety. These episodes worsened to the point where, at the age of 17, Jake threatened to kill himself.

“He got a butcher knife from downstairs and he took it upstairs to his room, and he said he was gonna kill himself. We were terrified,” said Jim Nolan.

Jake was hospitalized, and was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  

“Bipolar disorder is a severe and chronic mental illness that’s characterized by severe mood swings,” said psychiatrist Dr. Sasha Bardey, who has evaluated Jake for the defense.  “…swings that go from deep, dark, suicidal depressions to periods of incredible elation … grandiose ideas, poor judgment.”

“He’s a mess,” Dr. Bardey continued. “He’s such a prisoner of his own mind that he can’t get anywhere in life.”

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of killing myself,” Jake told Van Sant.

“I’ve tried strangling myself, drowning myself, overdosing on drugs…” he said.

By the time Jake was in college, doctors had prescribed some 30 medications to treat him -- with little success.

“Some of these medications … change brain chemistry, do they not?” Van Sant asked Dr. Bardey.

“Well, these are powerful psychotropic medications,” he replied. “His disorder, his problems were so profound … sometimes he’s taking four, five, six medications at once.”

Jake admits he was also doing illegal drugs and drinking, barely making it to class. The Nolans thought their prayers had been answered when Dr. Pamela Buchbinder offered to help.  

“So we thought this was great,” Debbie Nolan said. “I adored Pam.”

“You trusted her” Van Sant noted.

“I trusted her with my most prized possession, my child,” she said.

The plan: Jake would live part-time with Buchbinder in her Manhattan apartment. She would give him therapy sessions and monitor his meds. In return, she proposed he help take care of her then-4-year-old son, Calder, in spite of Jake’s mental illness.  

Jake Nolan and Pam Buchbinder

Jake Nolan and his cousin, psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Buchbinder

“Pamela and I had formed a relationship when I was really young,” Jake explained. “This is my cousin. This is someone I really knew. And I entrust everything into this one woman. I mean, this woman is gonna save my life.”

By all accounts, the plan seemed to be working.

“I thought he was very happy. And I thought he was quite stable,” said Debbie Nolan.

“So you guys must’ve felt everything’s coming together here?” Van Sant asked.

“Thank you,” Jim Nolan agreed.

“Finally,” Van Sant noted.

“Thank you,” said Jim Nolan.

But the Nolans now say sending their son to live with Pamela Buchbinder was the biggest mistake they have ever made.

“It’s a total horrible nightmare,” said Debbie Nolan.

WAR OF THE PSYCHIATRISTS

When Jake Nolan went to live with his psychiatrist cousin, Dr. Pamela Buchbinder, he had no idea he’d end up on the front lines of a physical and psychological war.

 “The relationship between Dr. Buchbinder and Dr. Weiss was very toxic from the outset,” said reporter Rebecca Rosenberg, who has covered the case for The New York Post.

“…The relationship was on again, off again,” she explained. “There were allegations of domestic violence on both sides.”

Roland Acevedo is an attorney for Dr. Michael Weiss.

“It definitely got physical,” he said.

“Is it true that Pam once attacked Michael with broken glass?” Van Sant asked.

“She was arrested and charged with an assault,” Acevedo replied. “He received stitches … I mean, there’s physical proof that he was attacked.”

“Is it true that Michael Weiss has also been arrested in the course of this war with Pam?” Van Sant asked Acevedo.

“Yes,” he replied. “Pamela contended that Michael threatened her or attempted to assault her.”

Dr. Michael Weiss and Dr. Pamela Buchbinder

Dr. Michael Weiss and Dr. Pamela Buchbinder

Steven Hirsch

In each incident, the charges were dismissed.  But the war of the psychiatrists moved onto another battlefield, the courtroom, as Buchbinder and Weiss fought over the custody of their son.

“These are two psychiatrists. Couldn’t they talk it out?” Van Sant asked Acevedo.

“There was no communication,” he replied.

But back during the times when he and Pamela were communicating big time, Michael Weiss attended family parties, including Jake’s bar mitzvah.

Pamela Buchbinder and Michael Weiss

Pamela Buchbinder and Michael Weiss seen in video from Jake Nolan’s bar mitzvah

Debbie Nolan

“Pamela and I just want to wish you congratulations on your bar mitzvah, um we’re both so happy for you,” Weiss said in the video.

“We were inspired by all of the speeches about opportunity and charm and character and we think you have them all,” Buchbinder said in the video.

And that makes it even more incredible that Jake would target him.

“This is a man who respected me and who I respected greatly,” said Jake.

Weiss and Buchbinder never married, and broke up for good soon after their son, Calder, was born.  When Calder was 4, Buchbinder asked Jake to be her child’s godfather -- shortly before she took Jake in.  Jake’s mother is convinced that is when Buchbinder began to manipulate his mind.  

“Jake had been feeling so bad about himself,” Debbie Nolan explained. “And here, all of a sudden … ‘I’m so important to Calder. Everything I do has to be right.’”

“This was a kid that I loved more than life,” Jake said of Calder.

Defense psychiatrist Dr. Sasha Bardey says Buchbinder knew how to give Jake the life he craved.

“Jake wants a normal life,” Bardey explained. “He wants to be a successful, respected family man with a nuclear family … and a happy life.”

“There’s a photograph of the three of you in bed, basically in your underwear. What should we take from that picture?” Van Sant asked Jake.

“I guess that just goes to show you the level of comfort that I really felt there,” he said. “It was not unusual in the morning … for her to invite me into bed … with Calder and I, and to share that familiar moment, you know, really feel like a family together.”

nolan-buchbinder-bed.jpg

Jake Nolan and Pamela Buchbinder

Nolan Defense

But Dr. Bardey finds these images deeply troubling.

“When you think that you’re seeing pictures of, essentially, a patient and his psychiatrist … it’s really horrific. It’s really creepy,” he said.

Just as troubling for Jake’s family were text messages discovered on his cell phone. 

“Let me read to you some of the texts that Pam Buchbinder sent to Jake,” Van Sant said. “’You’re just the most fun person to love!’ ‘You’re so beautiful. …She’d call him ‘Lovey … Sweet J.’ ‘You are remarkable. You are brilliant. I have so many thoughts about you.’”

“Well, this is almost sickening,” Jim Nolan said of the texts. “And there was never any romantic or sexual relationship ever between these two people. So what this is, is all mental manipulation.”

“’I miss you terribly,’ she would say when you were away.  That sounds romantic,” Van Sant commented to Jake.

“You know, it does,” he said. “I don’t know what her intentions were. To this day I wouldn’t be able to tell you.””

And as Pamela Buchbinder was apparently building Jake up, he says she was tearing Michael Weiss apart, claiming Weiss was refusing to pay Calder’s child support -- and worse.  

“She had me convinced … that he was being molested at his father’s home,” said Jake.

“And how many times did she say this? Was this repeated over and over again?” Van Sant asked.

“Oh, this was every day,” Jake replied.

“Has Michael Weiss ever, ever abused his son in any way?” Van Sant asked Acevedo.

“Absolutely not. Michael worships that child,” said Acevedo.

“Jake, what real evidence did you have that Michael was sexually abusing his son?” Van Sant asked.

“There was no evidence,” said Jake.

But at the time, Jake says, that’s how Buchbinder was able to pull him into the plot to kill Michael Weiss.

“Part of the indoctrination process was to get Jake to participate in developing the plan,” said Dr. Bardey.

And the plan, if you believe Jake, was horrific.

“Pamela was determined for me to, you know, torture Michael before killing him,” Jake told Van Sant.

“She wanted me to inject him with some, you know, poisonous chemicals,” he explained. “She wanted to burn him alive in front of a group of people.”

Jake’s story is dramatic, but is it true?  Dr. Pamela Buchbinder would not speak to “48 Hours.” She has not been arrested or charged with any crime. But Michael Weiss is suing her for the attack.  And in court papers she calls the claims against her “utterly baseless” and states, “I never asked Mr. Nolan to attack or harm Mr. Weiss.”

“Dr. Buchbinder also claims that there’s no smoking gun here. There’s no evidence of emails or text messages that show that she and Jake plotted this together,” said Rosenberg.

“You can’t deny the footage that shows her in Home Depot buying a sledgehammer,” said Jake.

nolan-homedepot-770.jpg

Surveillance video of Pamela Buchbinder and Jake Nolan, upper right, at Home Depot

Manhattan D.A.'s Office

Her attorneys would not comment on why Dr. Pamela Buchbinder bought that sledgehammer.  But Jake insists the surveillance video at a Home Depot in New York City proves his claims. Buchbinder is seen standing next to him paying for the very tool that police would find the next morning on the floor of Michael Weiss’ office.

“Jake there is no one that really disputes that you suffer from mental illness. But could you have another problem as well? Could you be a sociopath?” Van Sant asked Jake.

“No I could not,” he replied, adamant. “Had I never met Pamela Buchbinder this wouldn’t be my story.”

CAUGHT ON CAMERA

As Jake Nolan’s eyes opened on the morning of Nov, 12, 2012 -- the day he was supposed to kill Michael Weiss -- he says he wasn’t alone.

“Pamela was there in bed,” Jake explained. “…rubbing my back, telling me how much she loved me -- that I was a savior. That I was the greatest person ever. That no one else understood her.”

Just the night before, Pamela Buchbinder had bought a sledgehammer at a Home Depot in New York…

“That is Pamela Buchbinder paying for the sledgehammer. She’s right there. She has cash in her hand,” Jake said of the store surveillance video.

…with plans, Jake claims, of having him bash her ex-boyfriend in the head.

“She had already told me that she wanted me to hit him over the head, playing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by The Beatles repeatedly in the house,” he continued.

“You know, I intended to kill him,” he told Van Sant.

Jake says that Buchbinder’s lovey-dovey mood quickly changed as she allegedly packed a duffel bag with weapons.  

“She was hysterical, crying tears as she put the sledgehammer into a duffel bag with the kitchen knife,” said Jake.

“Like she’s packing a bag to head off to school, except this is to head off to a murder?” Van Sant asked.

“Exactly,” Jake replied.

And there was one more item that was vital to the scheme.

“The night before, she had provided me with the map … and how to get into his apartment. She handed me that,” Jake said of the map.

map drawing

Dr. Buchbinder’s hand-drawn map 

The map, which Buchbinder drew herself, showed the multiple entrances of Michael Weiss’ building.

“Do you believe, essentially, this was a battle plan map” Van Sant asked Weiss’ attorney, Roland Acevedo.

“I believe it was a map that Jake was provided to allow him to get access to Dr. Weiss’ apartment without going through the normal security measures,” he replied.

Buchbinder says she never gave Jake the knife and that the map was given to Jake to help care for Calder.

“It had the daycare where he was going, it had Dr. Weiss’ building,” said Rosenberg.

Jake says Buchbinder said goodbye that morning with just one goal in mind.

“’Today is the day. Life is gonna be so much better after Michael is’ -- she used the word ‘terminated,’ ‘after Michael is terminated,’” said Jake.

Clutching that hand-drawn map, Jake headed to Weiss’ midtown Manhattan high-rise.

“He kind of scoped out the building on different sides. It had two separate entrances. …Entered through the business entrance,” said Rosenberg.

jake-hallway-surveillance.jpg

Jake Nolan seen on surveillance as he made his way towards the office of Dr. Michael Weiss.

Manhattan District Attorney’s Office

Jake signed in, writing that he was heading to a tutoring center in the building called “Bright Kids.” It was marked on the map.  He didn’t even bother using an alias.

“I signed in with my own name. Remember, I was willing to die for this woman. I wasn’t trying to hide anything,” Jake explained.

Jake went straight to the 12th floor and walked in on Weiss in the middle of a session. Jake left the office and waited in a stairwell while Weiss finished with the patient.

“What are you thinking to yourself? What’s going through your head?” Van Sant asked Jake.

“I think I was really nervous. I think I wanted to back out. But I didn’t have the means to do it. ‘Cause I couldn’t go back to Pamela without this done,” he replied. “I felt like I had no choice.”

After the patient left, Jake asked Weiss for some financial forms for Calder’s school. Buchbinder claims picking up those forms was the only reason Jake was there. But Jake says it was all a ruse to distract Weiss while Jake went to the restroom to prepare.

“I grabbed the sledgehammer. I put the knife in my pocket. From here on out, it’s -- it’s -- I remember bits and pieces,” said Jake.

But according to Michael Weiss’ attorney, Weiss remembers it all too well.

“Jake came out of the bathroom in Michael’s office and hit him with a sledgehammer,” said Acevedo.

Weiss managed to duck just in time, missing the full brunt of the 10-pound tool. Still, the sledgehammer made contact with his shoulder. That’s when Weiss says Jake reached for the knife.

“That’s when I first stab Michael Weiss. And then from there on out, it was just-- it was a fight,” said Jake.

“He stabbed Michael seven or eight times in various places -- the stomach, the back, the chest,” said Acevedo.

Weiss, who is 6’3” and 205 pounds, managed to overpower Jake.

“On the ground, standing up. You know, I got stabbed multiple times,” Jake told Van Sant.
“I thought that someone was bound to die.”

The two men stumbled into the hallway where neighbors heard the commotion:

911 operator: 911, where’s emergency?

Caller: There’s a guy screaming like crazy for help. I think it’s a psychologist who might have had a client who went nuts.


911 operator: Good morning Manhattan caller. …Patient breathing?

Caller: Yeah, but they got a lot of blood, they are losing a lot of blood.

Then, as he sat on the floor bleeding, Jake lifted his cell phone and took that selfie.

nolan-bloody-selfie-220.jpg

Jake Nolan’s bloody selfie after his fight with Dr. Michael Weiss

Nolan defense team

“What was so odd about this is he didn’t try to flee,” Rosenberg noted. “Jake Nolan starts snapping selfies of himself covered in blood. …I mean, who would possibly snap a selfie right after they tried to murder someone?”

Asked why he took the selfie, Jake told Van Sant, “You know, we were sitting right next to each other. And I was reporting back to Pamela. Like, ‘What do I do next?’”

Jake says Buchbinder didn’t respond. A short time later at the hospital, Jake tried texting her again.

“This is what you wrote. ‘In hospital. Please come. Michael bleeding badly. Same.’  ‘I walked into office. He stabbed me with my knife. In the heart,’” Van Sant read aloud to Jake.

This time, Buchbinder answered with a single word: “Where?”

“There was no plan for after the attack. I think it was Pamela’s plan to just dismiss me, and, like, ‘Oh, well, he tried to kill him. He lost. You know-- try again later.’ I really believe it’s her plan to try again later,” said Jake.

Hospital records say Jake was in a manic state after the attack. Buchbinder eventually showed up at the ER, but was not allowed to see Jake.

“I was in full-blown psychotic episode,” Jake explained.

Michael Weiss suffered multiple cuts to his upper torso and legs. He was stitched up and released from the hospital. Jake was still recovering from his own wounds to his chest and hand when the reality of his arrest for attempted murder hit him.

A RISKY DEFENSE

After his arrest for attempted murder, Jake Nolan spent four days recovering in the hospital.  He then appeared before a judge, and was freed on $200,000 bail pending trial. Jake was allowed to fly home to live with his parents outside of Miami.

“What would you have said to Calder one day, if he asked you, ‘Why did you kill my father?’” Van Sant asked Jake.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I gave everything for this child. I was willing to kill someone for this child. That alone can only show how sorry I feel when he finds out about this later on in life.”

But what of Pamela Buchbinder?  Soon after the attack, Michael Weiss sued for custody of their son, claiming Buchbinder was the mastermind. A family court judge considered the evidence in that case, including the Home Depot images, and granted Weiss full custody of Calder and barred Buchbinder from any contact for five years.

“The evidence showed, and the family court agreed, that Pamela was involved in the plan or plot to attack and kill Michael,” said Acevedo.

Dr. Pamela Buchbinder

Dr. Pamela Buchbinder would not speak to “48 Hours.” She has not been arrested or charged with any crime.r

Steven Hirsch

So why has Pamela Buchbinder not been charged with any crime? The District Attorney’s office will not comment.  But Michael Weiss’ attorney thinks part of the problem is the key accuser in this case.

“Jacob, because he contends that he has this history of mental illness, is perhaps not the most reliable witness for the prosecution,” Acevedo explained.

Jake spent much of his time awaiting trial in and out of treatment centers for both his mental problems and his drug and alcohol addictions. Despite those efforts, his life almost came to a tragic end in May 2015.

jake-nolan-coma.jpg

In May 2015, Jake ended up in a coma after poisoning himself.

Nolan defense photo

“What happened that caused you to be in this hospital bed?”  Van Sant asked Jake, holding up a picture of Jake in the hospital.

“I tried to kill myself.  I tried to take my own life,” he stated.

This time, Jake ended up in a coma after poisoning himself.

“This was probably the worst day of my life,” Debbie Nolan said in tears, looking at the photo. “Because they told us they didn’t think Jake was going to make it.”

Finally, in March 2016, three-and-a-half years after the attack, Jake’s trial gets underway in New York.

“The prosecution portrayed Jake as kind of a spoiled rich kid,” said Rosenberg.

Jacob Nolan in court

Jake Nolan

Steven Hirsch

Just one of many challenges for the defense.

“Jake Nolan was a very unreliable narrator of this event,” Rosenberg continued.

For one thing, it wasn’t until weeks after the attack that Jake claimed Pamela Buchbinder had manipulated him. Another problem…

“He gave at least three different versions of what happened,” Rosenberg explained. “Each was meant to cast him in the most innocent light possible.”

In one version, Jake tried to put the blame on Michael Weiss.

“When the first responders showed up, he immediately pointed the finger at Dr. Weiss and said, ‘He stabbed me,’” said Rosenberg.

In another account, Jake told investigators he never swung the sledgehammer.

“This was a big hammer. I couldn’t even lift the thing up,” Jake told Van Sant.

Jake claims he’d only brought the sledgehammer and knife because he was afraid of Weiss. Perhaps most stunning of all: a third version.

“He claims that Dr. Weiss pulled the sledgehammer out of his bag and attacked him first with it. So that really doesn’t make any sense. I mean, how would Dr. Weiss even know that the sledgehammer’s in the bag?” said Rosenberg.

Jake has said all along he had been convinced the attack on Michael Weiss was the only way to save Calder. But at trial, prosecutors hinted at another motive. Weiss had taken out a $1.5 million life insurance policy.

“The beneficiary was his son, who, probably at the time, was 3 or 4 years old,” said Acevedo.

But there was a catch. Just three days before the attack, Weiss agreed to make Buchbinder the policy’s irrevocable trustee.

“What does that mean in English?” Van Sant asked Acevedo. 

“Irrevocable means can’t be taken back,” he replied. “If Michael passed away, the child would get the $1.5 million. But she would be the person that controlled the money for the child.”

To this day, Jake insists he had no clue before the attack that money may have been involved.

“I had no idea. Pamela never mentioned that to me,” he said.

But the most damning evidence came from Jake himself. The prosecution’s psychiatrist interviewed Jake before trial and clips from the exam were played to jurors:

Dr. Jason Hershberger: Her plan was for you was to kill him?

Jake: Mm hmm [affirms].

 In one, a shockingly frank discussion about another item Buchbinder bought at Home Depot:

Dr. Hershberger: What were the zip ties for?

Jake: She wanted me to like torture Michael, um, which I didn’t tell her, but I wasn’t down to do that. 

Dr. Hershberger: So you were down to kill, but not torture.

Jake: Yeah.

Dr. Hershberger: OK. What did she want you to do to him to torture him?

Jake: She wanted me to cut off his b---s, she said.

Dr. Hershberger: That was a line too far for you?

Jake: Yeah.

Dr. Hershberger: How come?

Jake: I don’t know. I’d never hurt anyone before.

The prosecution saw this as a stunning admission. On tape at least, it appears Jake was a willing participant in planning the attack and could draw a line … when he wanted to.

The crux of the prosecution’s argument here is that … this is not some babbling idiot that didn’t know which way was up,” said Rosenberg.

“I think I was in control—up to a degree,” Jake said. “But the deal was to kill Michael Weiss. The deal wasn’t to torture Michael Weiss.”

It might seem like Jake is splitting hairs, but one of Jake’s lawyers, Steven Brounstein, says that’s exactly how Jake’s mind was working. In fact, it’s why he and his legal team argue a risky defense: diminished capacity.

 “You’re gonna have to admit that your client did the crime. But his capacity to establish the intent, the motive to commit that crime, he lacked. And therefore should be found not guilty,” said Brounstein.

“I understand that the prosecution feels that, clearly, Jake never had a gun to his head,” Dr. Sacha Bardey said. “In my opinion, psychologically speaking, he did.”

Dr. Bardey, who testified for the defense at trial, says Buchbinder had replaced Jake’s free will with her own.

“It’s very much like a cult where there is a shaping of the person’s thought processes to meet the cult’s ideals,” he explained. “It’s a small cult. It has two people in it. There’s the cult leader, Pamela Buchbinder, and the cult member, Jake Nolan.”

Jake never takes the stand. But the jury does get to hear about his many suicide attempts, which the prosecution suggested weren’t genuine -- setting off defense attorney Roger Stavis. 

“She said, ‘Oh, it was just like a cry for help and it wasn’t real and it’s not that serious.’ So I took this photograph and I pushed it in the prosecutor’s face. And I said, ‘Not serious? You’re making this up? This, with all these tubes? This isn’t serious?’” Stavis said of the photo of Jake in the hospital.

Pamela Buchbinder also never testified, having never been served a subpoena.

“We hired someone, surveilling her apartment to see where she is,” Brounstein said. “We couldn’t find her.”

Without hearing from Pamela Buchbinder, the jury would have to decide if Jake was just a pawn in Pamela’s deadly scheme or an assassin who knew exactly what he was doing.

THE VERDICT

On a cold, rainy day last March, Jake Nolan’s moment of reckoning was fast approaching.  The jury was deciding his fate after the prosecution cast doubt on the extent of Jake’s mental illness and his vulnerability.

Jake Nolan walking to court in the rain

Jake Nolan heads to court, awaiting his verdict

John Marshall Mantel

“At the heart of the prosecution’s case against Jake is that … he made decisions. He was an involved participant. This isn’t a brainwashed robot,” said Rosenberg.

And Jake’s attorneys – Steven Brounstein, Roger Stavis and his daughter, Allyson -- were worried.    

“You have this attractive, well-dressed young man,” Allyson Stavis said. “But you can’t see that inside is a very sick, very highly medicated, very troubled young individual.”

After a two-week trial, the jury reached a verdict in less than an hour.

“I had a really strong feeling that the decision was not going to be in our favor.  I just remember looking at Jake … and it was devastating to me to believe that this was a person that was going to be convicted,” said Allyson Stavis.

“The jury comes back,” Jim Nolan said. “’We have reached a verdict. Guilty.’”

Guilty of attempted murder. The Nolans believe that jurors ignored the complex psychiatric defense.

“They lost track of why he committed the crime,” Jim, Nolan said. “What caused him to be there?”

Before they knew it, their son was taken away.

“You’re in just such shock,” said Debbie Nolan.

“I was like somebody just crushed me from, from top to bottom. Just, just totally took my heart right out of me,” said Jim Nolan.

Alternate juror Yale Shih says the defense made a strong argument that Jake was manipulated by Dr. Pam Buchbinder -- especially with those photographs of them in bed.

“That was very unsettling. …It was gross in a lot of ways,” Shih said. “I did feel very sorry for Jake.  I know that mental illness is not something that’s easily overcome.”

“There were a lot of things that Dr. Buchbinder did that took advantage of some of Jake Nolan’s weaknesses,” Shih continued.

Shih and other jurors assumed Buchbinder had been arrested.

“I think if the jury knew that Pam hadn’t been, they might have felt totally different towards Jake. I mean, I don’t think they realized that Jake was getting the brunt of this,” said Debbie Nolan.

But in the end, it was Jake’s interview with the prosecution’s psychiatrist that did him in.

Jake to Dr. Hershberger: Pamela would put her arms around me and tell me how much she loved me…

“I think it was the nail in the coffin,” said Jim Nolan.

Dr. Hershberger: Her plan was for you to kill him.

Jake:  [Nods yes]

To Shih, Jake looked cold, calculating and guilty:

Dr. Hershberger: So you were down to kill but not torture? 

Jake: Yeah.

“He was contributing specific ideas on ways that they could kill him,” Shih said. “It wasn’t just him doing everything that she said.”

Jake: There was another one about making a pneumatic gun like an air rifle…

Dr. Hershberger: Uh huh.

Jake: …and shooting him with that. But when we got to Home Depot, that was like so complicated that the sledgehammer just sounded better.

“I firmly believe that he was of sound mind and he was an active and willing participant,” said Shih.

“Jake, did you help her plan this attack?” Van Sant asked.

“You know … she would ask me, you know, like, ‘what do you think about this?’ And I would give an idea.  And it was a tit for tat kind of thing.  And so in that way, yes,” he replied.

Jake faced anywhere from five to 25 years in prison. The judge called the attack “an act of extreme brutality and violence,” and sentenced him to nine-and-a-half years. 

“Nine-and-a-half years. Did that shock you?” Van Sant asked Jake’s parents.

“Yes. Beyond imagination,” said Jim Nolan.

“It’s unjust. I’m no harm to society,” said Jake.

“A prison sentence for someone who tried to kill themselves so many times when they weren’t in prison, felt like a death sentence,” said Roger Stavis.

Debbie Nolan writes to her son every day, and she and her husband routinely commute from Miami to New York to visit him.

“It’s emotionally very hard. It’s taxing, physically, emotionally, financially. But it’s what keeps him going.  And that’s the most important thing – that he has family and knows that he’s loved and supported,” she told Van Sant.

“Are you genuinely sorry? Are you remorseful for what happened?” Van Sant asked Jake.

“Look, if I could see Michael Weiss and give him a hug,” he replied, “that right there would be the best thing.”

“Jake says he is very remorseful for what he has done, and that he would like to give Michael Weiss a hug,” Van Sant told Acevedo.

“Well, I’m sure Michael doesn’t want a hug from Jake. The last time Jake was near Michael, Michael almost died,” he said.

Now raising his son alone, Michael Weiss still lives in fear -- even four years later -- says his attorney.

“Michael never goes anywhere without looking over his shoulder,” Acevedo explained. “He’s been traumatized by this.”

“I know what I did was very serious. And I take responsibility for it. But there is also another party that needs to take responsibility too.” Jake told Van Sant.

And that person is?”

“It’s Pamela Buchbinder,” said Jake.

The New York City Police Department says the investigation into the attack on Dr. Michael Weiss is “ongoing.”

But a spokesperson would not say whether Dr. Pamela Buchbinder is a suspect.

  • Peter Van Sant

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"