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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: competency

Ricin suspect ordered to obtain psychiatric evaluation

A federal judge has ordered a Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to government officials, including President Barack Obama, receive psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Matthew Ryan Buquet has been in federal custody since May, when several letters that initially tested positive for the castor bean-derived toxin arrived at the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse in downtown Spokane. The missives, which included the message “We have a bomb placed we are going to kill you! Hezbollah,” arrived in envelopes bearing the return address of a downtown Spokane law firm, according to court documents since sealed.

A female employee of the firm reported she began receiving notes and gifts, including a can of Coca-Cola, on her desk. Buquet, a member of the janitorial crew that cleaned the office space leased by the law firm, had been dismissed from previous jobs for similar behavior. The FBI detained Buquet at his apartment shortly after the letters were discovered and interrogated him at a hotel, according to court paperwork. An FBI agent with the investigation said at the time Buquet appeared “gravely disabled,” exhibited “bizarre behaviors” and was “delusional,” according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty authorized the mental evaluation. Haggerty, an Oregon judge, was assigned to the case after a Spokane judge recused himself because one of the poisoned letters was addressed to a colleague.

Haggerty wrote in his ordered he was “satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe the defendant may not be competent to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense.”

A hearing to argue the findings of the competency hearing is set for May, with a potential jury trial in the case pushed to October. Buquet has been indicted on a criminal charge of possessing a deadly biological agent and two counts of mailing threatening communications. If convicted of the charges, Buquet could spend 20 years to the rest of his life in federal prison.

Bearded woman asks for new trial

A woman who wears a beard as a symbol of her activism and lives as a man is asking for a new trial following her conviction earlier this month for grabbing a Spokane Police officer's genitals in 2009 during an arrest.

 Joseph Ali Bin Muhammad, 45, formerly Paula K. Reynolds-Eblacas, represented himself at trial in which a jury deliberated just 20 minutes before convicting him April 11. He is scheduled to be sentenced today.

In his motion for a new trial, Muhammad alleged misconduct, “surprise” and jury manipulation by Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Patrick Johnson. He also said Johnson was simply using the assault case as an evidence-gathering mission to charge the two officers, who were attempting in 2009 to take Muhammad into custody for a mental evaluation.

“The defendant felt a great aversion to being misused by the prosecutor to embarrass and humiliate the officers as it is not the defendant's intent or desire to be the target of corrupted officers in Spokane,” Muhammad wrote, referring to himself as “defendant.” “The defendant's safety was being put in jeopardy by a bizzarre, backwards, and most likely illegal strategy of the prosecutor to gain more evidence against the officers, and so the defendant changed his defense strategy to not show the video. Had he entered the video as evidence, the jury may have voted for acquittal as the video gives great suggestion that no charge should have ever been placed on the defendant and that (Officer John) O'Brien and (Officer Jeremy McVay) are blatant liars who violated the defendant that day.”

Johnson had argued that Muhammad was not mentally competent to stand trial. Muhammad, however, successfully argued he was competent despite the fact that him being delcared incompetent would have resulted in dismissed charges.

As part of his seven-page motion, Muhammad also wrote that 20 minutes was not enough time for the jurors to fully consider the case.

“Jurors may have held mulpitle bias against the defendant, including for him being a hermaphrodite and for being a Muslim,” said Muhammad, who gave birth to a daughter prior to changing his name. “Jurors may have been motivated by the second sunny warm day after a long cold winter to disregard their oaths and the United States Constitution … so that they could finish their task before lunch and have the rest of the sunny afternoon to enjoy free from work or juror responsibilities.”
  

Past coverage:

Dec. 14: Fugitive since February jailed on $50k bond

Aug. 11, 2009: Bearded woman back in court

State wanted case halted for mental issue

A woman who lives as a man, including wearing a full beard she previously described as a public display of her activism, was ruled competent Tuesday to stand trial on the charge of assaulting a police officer in 2009.

 Prosecutors are disappointed.

Yes, you read that right.

In a reversal of the norm, it wasn’t a defense attorney or even the defendant, Joseph Ali Bin Muhammad – formerly Paula K. Reynolds-Eblacas, 45who asked to avoid prosecution by a ruling of mental incompetence.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 14: Fugitive since February jailed on $50k bond

Aug. 11, 2009: Bearded woman back in court

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