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Mental issues won’t derail trial

Wed., March 14, 2012, midnight

Prosecutors sought incompetence ruling

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 who asked to avoid prosecution by a ruling of mental incompetence.

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Patrick Johnson asked the court to halt the criminal trial on mental grounds.

Johnson said psychologist Dan Lord-Flynn examined Joseph Ali Bin Muhammad – formerly Paula K. Reynolds-Eblacas, 45 – and determined Muhammad suffers from psychosis. Johnson said Muhammad has religious delusions that prevent him from understanding the legal process, so much so that Muhammad “lacks the capacity to understand the charges against him … thus is unable to proceed to trial.”

Muhammad prefers to be considered a man, and was referred to that way by the court. He previously told The Spokesman-Review that he was born a woman, had a child and considers himself transgendered.

Muhammad has gone through three attorneys – including one twice – and continues to represent himself in court on the outstanding felony charge of third-degree assault. The charge stems from an incident on July 25, 2009, in which Muhammad allegedly grabbed a Spokane Police Officer’s genitals as the officer attempted to detain Muhammad for a mental evaluation.

“It’s clear the defendant is not able to work with counsel on a strategy that would be reality based,” Johnson said. “Mr. Muhammad is plenty intelligent. But legally, we cannot proceed to trial. I would ask the court to find the defendant not competent to go to trial.”

Muhammad said he takes instructions directly from the “Holy Spirit. We should do as Christ says.”

Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor noted that Muhammad admitted to hiding from authorities for about nine months until he was arrested late last year.

“Mr. Bin Muhammad does have mental health issues,” O’Connor said. “On the other hand, there are a number of defendants who readily admit to mental health issues that do not affect their competency to stand trial.”

As a result, O’Connor lifted the stay on the case and set a trial date of April 9. If convicted, Muhammad likely faces about 90 days in jail.

In the meantime, Muhammad – who once sought a Spokane City Council seat – will remain out of jail. On Feb. 29, he spoke at the city’s first Use of Force Commission. He said he represents low-income Spokane residents and requested to be appointed as a citizen member.

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