United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. ANAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
has been charged in a one-count Indictment with threatening
to murder the Vice President of the United States, with
intent to impede, intimidate and interfere with his
performance of official duties, in violation of Title 18,
United States Code, Section 115(a)(1)(B). The matter is
currently before the Court on the issue of whether the
Defendant is competent to stand trial. As explained below,
based on the unrefuted testimony of the examining
psychologist, the Court RECOMMENDS that
Defendant be declared INCOMPETENT to stand
trial and that he be further evaluated for potential
restoration to competency.
Government moved for an evaluation of the Defendant's
competency on September 11, 2018 . The Government
proffered that, in Defendant's post-arrest interview, he
claimed that he threatened the Vice President for the sole
purpose of being arrested and put into federal protective
custody, because the Defendant believed that the
“Mexican Mafia” was following him, tracking his
ATM usage, and had paid “everyone off” to help
track the Defendant down. Id. at 2. The Government
noted that the Defendant had previously been found
incompetent and committed to a mental health facility, had
been diagnosed with paranoia with grandiose delusions, and
was continuing to appear to suffer from mental illness.
Id. The Court thereafter granted the motion for an
evaluation, see Order , and the Defendant was
thereafter transported for an evaluation at the Federal
Bureau of Prison's facility at the Metropolitan
Correctional Center (“MCC”) in New York City.
receiving the report from the examining psychologist, the
Court originally convened a competency hearing on January 23,
2019 . The hearing was continued to March 19, 2019 at the
Defendant's request, because after originally stipulating
to the psychologist's report he decided during the
hearing that he wished to have the opportunity to
cross-examine the psychologist. Id. At the March 19,
2019 hearing, the Court heard testimony from the examining
psychologist, Kari Schlessinger, Psy.D., Ph.D., as well as
from the Defendant. The Court also received Dr.
Schlessinger's report into evidence as Exhibit 1.
Schlessinger and other evaluators working with her at the MCC
reviewed the Defendant's criminal, medical and
imprisonment history, interviewed the Defendant, and
administered various tests of his mental status and cognitive
functioning. See Ex. 1 at 2-12. She found that the
Defendant likely suffers from, among other disorders,
Schizophrenia, Multiple Episodes, Currently in Acute Episode.
Id. at 13. As she stated, among other things:
Mr. Powell presented with paranoid, delusional, and
disorganized ideation throughout his clinical interviews.
Specifically, he reported a strong and fixed belief others
(e.g., Mexicans, acquaintances, strangers) have been
following and targeting him for several years. Mr. Powell was
unable to articulate or provide evidence for these assertions
but remained convinced of their veracity; he became
disorganized, tangential, and somewhat irritable when queried
further regarding his paranoia. He also presented as alert,
anxious, and hypervigilant on interview, frequently looking
around at other individuals on the unit and tangentially
remarking he believed staff and other inmates were out to get
him. With these factors considered, Mr. Powell appears to
evidence paranoid, persecutory, and grandiose delusions with
ideas of reference (i.e., interpreting benign events/behavior
as pertaining directly to him).
Additionally, Mr. Powell has a reported history of auditory
hallucinations (i.e., whispers) for several years, although
he denied command auditory hallucinations on clinical
interviews. No. evidence of catatonic behavior or negative
symptoms was noted. He also has a history of numerous
hospitalizations, which have reportedly been prompted by
disorganized, delusional, and paranoid behavior. Mr. Powell
has a history of psychotic disorder diagnoses and
prescriptions of various antipsychotic medications. With
these factors considered, Mr. Powell currently meets the
diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia.
Id. at 13-14. Ultimately, Dr. Schlessinger concluded
that, as a result of Defendant's mental illness,
“Mr. Powell does not currently have a rational
understanding for the proceedings against him, nor is he
capable of assisting counsel with his defense.”
Id. at 17-18.
contrary medical opinion evidence was offered at the hearing.
The Defendant testified. In a lengthy, rambling statement
that appeared consistent with the statements described by Dr.
Schlessinger, the Defendant continued to insist that he
really was being followed and hunted by Mexican gang members
and made his threat to the Vice President for the sole
purpose of getting into “protective” custody. He
denied that he was delusional about such threats.
the competency hearing the parties agreed to submit the
matter to the Court's determination upon preparation of
the transcript, with no requests for briefing.
18, U.S.C. § 4241, et seq., guides the
assessment of a defendant's competency in federal
criminal proceedings. Section 4241(d) provides that the Court
shall find the Defendant to be incompetent “[i]f, after
the [competency] hearing, the court finds by a preponderance
of the evidence that the defendant is presently suffering
from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally
incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the
nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to
assist properly in his defense. . . .” 18 U.S.C. §
4241(d). The test is “whether [the defendant] has
sufficient present ability to consult with this lawyer with a
reasonable degree of rational understanding - and whether he
has a rational as well as factual understanding of the
proceedings against him.” Dusky v. United
States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960) (per curiam) (construing
§ 4241's predecessor, 18 U.S.C. § 4244 (1958)).
relevant competency statute arguably contemplates that the
burden will lie with the party making a motion to determine
competency, ” which, here, is the Defendant. United
States v. Izquierdo, 448 F.3d 1269, 1276 (11th Cir.
2006). See also United States v. Johns, 390
Fed.Appx. 963, 970 (11th Cir. 2010) (unpublished)
(“Where the defendant files a motion to ...