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United States v. Pate

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

May 3, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Timothy Jermaine Pate's motion to evaluate Mr. Pate' competency, doc. 28, and the Government's request for an examination as to whether Mr. Pate was insane at the time of the offenses charged in this case, doc. 40 at 2. The Court held a hearing on these matters on May 2, 2019. Prior to this hearing, Dr. Lisa B. Feldman conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Defendant and authored a report (“the Psychiatric Report”) summarizing her findings. Doc. 47. Based on the entire record in this case, including the Psychiatric Report, I find Mr. Pate is capable of understanding the charges against him and meaningfully consulting with his attorney about his defense, and that Mr. Pate was able to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions at the time of the alleged offenses. Therefore, I RECOMMEND the Court find that Defendant Pate is competent to stand trial and proceed with this case and that Mr. Pate was not insane at the time of the offenses charged in this case.


         The United States charges Mr. Pate with filing false retaliatory liens against federal officials and making a false bankruptcy declaration. Doc. 21. Beginning with Defendant's initial appearance and continuing through several other hearings, Mr. Pate refused to cooperate with proceedings or engage in any dialog with the Court. Docs. 8, 13, 18. During hearings, Mr. Pate made various incoherent arguments regarding “commercial presentments” and the Uniform Commercial Code and has exclaimed that he does not consent to the Court's jurisdiction over him. See, e.g., Doc. 18. Mr. Pate has continually disrupted proceedings in this case, requiring the Court-more than once-to remove Mr. Pate from the courtroom. Id. The Court appointed counsel to represent Mr. Pate at his initial appearance. Doc. 8. During that hearing and at subsequent hearings, Mr. Pate has complained about being represented by appointed counsel but has refused to engage in any meaningful exchange with the Court regarding legal representation, making it impossible for the Court to conduct a Faretta hearing to determine if he was knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently requesting to proceed pro se. Doc. 18. As such, Mr. Pate has been represented by appointed counsel since his initial appearance and continues to be represented.

         At Mr. Pate's initial appearance and arraignment on the superseding indictment in this case, Mr. Pate's appointed counsel made an unopposed motion asking the Court to order an evaluation of Mr. Pate's mental competency. Docs. 28, 32. During that hearing, Mr. Pate was again disruptive, the Court removed him from the courtroom, and he was placed in an area where he could view proceedings remotely. Doc. 32. Also during the hearing, the Government requested that Mr. Pate be examined pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4242(a) to determine if he was insane at the time of committing the alleged offenses. Id. The Court issued an Order based on 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b) granting defense counsel's motion and ordering that Mr. Pate be evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist under 18 U.S.C. §§ 4247(b) and (c). Doc. 29. However, the Court declined to order that Mr. Pate be evaluated for insanity because he had not provided notice under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that he intended to rely on an insanity defense. Id. Defense counsel subsequently provided notice of his intent to pursue an insanity defense. Doc. 39. The Court ordered that Mr. Pate be subjected to an insanity evaluation along with his competency evaluation. Doc. 41.

         Pursuant to the Court's Orders, Dr. Lisa Feldman, a forensic psychologist, conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Mr. Pate at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, Florida, from December 3, 2018 to February 2019 and provided a report of her evaluation to the Court. Doc. 46-1. Dr. Feldman explained that, although the nature and purpose of Mr. Pate's evaluation was explained to him and “it appeared that Mr. Pate understood those procedures, ” Mr. Pate stated that he did not wish to be evaluated and would not complete any psychological tests or interviews . Id. at 2-3. Although Mr. Pate refused to undergo any psychological testing, Dr. Feldman and members of the facility's staff observed and interacted with Mr. Pate during the period of evaluation. Id. Dr. Feldman also conducted a comprehensive review of the docket in this case and in Mr. Pate's other civil filing, as well all information on Mr. Pate's background the Bureau of Prisons was able to provide. Id. at 2-3. Dr. Feldman also corresponded with the assigned Assistant United States Attorney in this case and Mr. Pate's counsel to obtain additional background information regarding Mr. Pate. Id. at 4. Dr. Feldman reviewed certain monitored telephone conversations and e-mail communications by Mr. Pate while he was at the Federal Detention Center. Dr. Feldman did not find any evidence that Mr. Pate had a history of mental health problems. Id. at 5.

         Dr. Feldman then made several evaluation findings based off her interactions with Mr. Pate. Id. at 5-7. She observed that Mr. Pate functioned well at the Federal Detention Center and that Defendant “exhibited organized, rational, sequential, and coherent thought processes.” Id. at 6. Dr. Feldman also indicated that during monitored phone calls, Mr. Pate's thoughts “revolved on his current legal issues and his defense strategy.” Id. Dr. Feldman noted that Mr. Pate did not require or receive any medical or psychiatric treatment during his evaluation. Id. at 6-7.

         Dr. Feldman concluded Mr. Pate satisfied the criteria for adult antisocial behavior but did not diagnose Mr. Pate with antisocial personality disorder, which would draw on a history of conduct disorder in childhood or adolescence. Id. Dr. Feldman described Mr. Pate's mental state as “stable” and declined to recommend any psychiatric treatment. Id. Regarding competency, Dr. Feldman stated that Mr. Pate's refusal to cooperate in this proceeding and the making of many nonsensical arguments “are not believed to be based on any delusional premise, or any symptoms of an active phase of mental illness, but rather based on a volitional attempt to thwart the current legal proceedings.” Id. at 8. Dr. Feldman explained that she is familiar with Mr. Pate's peculiar beliefs and defense strategy and has seen a recent increase in evaluation requests for other “sovereign citizens” employing similar defenses. Id. Dr. Feldman concluded Mr. Pate's “defense strategies are not believed to be based on confused or delusional thinking, or any symptoms of an active phase of mental illness.” Id. Dr. Feldman ultimately concluded there was no evidence to believe Mr. Pate was unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, and that Mr. Pate “possesses the capacity to assist his attorney in his own defense, if motivated to do so.” Id. Dr. Feldman ultimately recommended Mr. Pate be found competent to proceed in this case. Id.

         Regarding Mr. Pate's insanity defense, Dr. Feldman stated her evaluation of Mr. Pate's mental status did “not suggest the presence of mental illness that would have interfered with his criminal responsibility at the time of the alleged offense.” Id. To the contrary, Dr. Feldman noted Mr. Pate's actions appeared “deliberate and organized without evidence of bizarre behavior[, ]” and that Mr. Pate's motivation for the alleged offense appeared to be based on his dissatisfaction with the outcome of a civil case he had filed. Id. Dr. Feldman concluded by stating it was her opinion “that Mr. Pate was not suffering from the symptoms of a mental disorder or disease that were causally related to the alleged offenses that would have resulted in his inability to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts.” Id.

         Following review of Dr. Feldman's report, the parties entered a Joint Stipulation Regarding Competency Report, agreeing that Dr. Feldman's report was factually correct, and that Defendant is competent to stand trial. Doc. 47. The parties also waived the right to present additional evidence at a competency hearing. Id. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Court held a competency hearing on May 2, 2019. At the hearing, the Government and defense counsel reiterated their agreement that Mr. Pate is competent to stand trial.[1] Doc. 48. Defense counsel confirmed that he had corresponded directly with Dr. Feldman and provided information to her regarding his interactions with Mr. Pate. At the hearing, Mr. Pate continued to be disruptive and unresponsive to the Court's directions and questions. Mr. Pate, however, remained in the courtroom throughout the entire May 2, 2019 hearing. Mr. Pate did not make any substantive comment regarding his competency to stand trial, his insanity defense, or his psychiatric evaluation. Id.


         “[C]ompetence is the base upon which other constitutional rights balance[.]” United States v. Wingo, 789 F.3d 1226, 1228 (11th Cir. 2015); see also Cooper v. Oklahoma, 517 U.S. 348, 354(1996) (The United States Supreme Court has “repeatedly and consistently recognized that the criminal trial of an incompetent defendant violates due process.”) (internal quotation and citation omitted); Eddmonds v. Peters, 93 F.3d 1307, 1314 (7th Cir. 1996) (“The Constitution forbids trial of one who, for whatever reason, is unfit to assist in his own defense because our adversarial system of justice depends on vigorous defenses.”).

         Incompetency means “suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering [the defendant] 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(a). A defendant is not entitled to a presumption of incompetency, and he assumes the burden of proof to establish his incompetency by a preponderance of the evidence. Cooper, 517 U.S. at 355; Battle v. United States, 419 F.3d 1292, 1298 (11th Cir. 2005). The legal test for competency is “whether the defendant ‘has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding' and has ‘a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.'” Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 396 (1993) (quoting Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960)); see also United States v. Cruz, 805 F.2d 1464, 1479 (11th Cir. 1986).

         “[N]ot every manifestation of mental illness demonstrates incompetence to stand trial; rather, the evidence must indicate a present inability to assist counsel or understand the charges.” Medina v. Singletary, 59 F.3d 1095, 1107 (11th Cir. 1995). Thus, “the mere presence of a mental disease or defect is not sufficient to render a defendant incompetent . . . .” United States v. Rothman, No. 08-20895-CR, 2010 WL 3259927, at *7 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 18, 2010) (citing United States v. Liberatore, 856 F.Supp. 358, 360 (N.D. Ohio 1994)). “Incompetency to stand trial is not defined in terms of mental illness. As such, a defendant can be competent to stand trial despite being mentally ill and similarly a defendant can be found ...

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