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United States v. Rosenheimer

decided*fn*: December 5, 1986.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 84 CR 97 - Paul E. Plunkett, Judge.

Before CUDAHY, and COFFEY, Circuit Judges, and PELL, Senior Circuit Judge.

Per Curiam.

James Rosenheimer was convicted after a jury trial of devising and executing a scheme whereby he fraudulently acquired thousands of dollars from numerous investors in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 1343 and 2314. Because of Rosenheimer's unusual conduct during trial, the court ordered a psychiatric examination following his conviction to determine whether Rosenheimer had been competent to stand trial and whether he had been sane at the time of the criminal acts for which he was convicted. The district court found Rosenheimer was competent at trial and sane at the time of the commission of the crimes. The defendant now appeals only the district court's finding that he was sane at the time of his criminal conduct. We affirm the decision of district court.


From August 1980 through 1982, Rosenheimer carried out a scheme in which he convinced potential investors that, if they paid him substantial advance fees, he could obtain hefty, low-interest loans for them. The would-be investors paid the fees, but Rosenheimer failed to follow through on the loans. Rosenheimer's sole defense at trial was that he sincerely believed in the plan that he had devised to obtain the loans, thus he did not have the required intent to defraud. Rosenheimer testified at trial that he had planned to meet certain individuals in Europe who would have arranged for billions, sometimes trillions, of dollars in loans for him. He also explained that members of the KGB, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., Interpol, the French underground, and the Gestapo had contacted him and that some of these agents had been following him.

After Rosenheimer completed his testimony, the court sua sponte raised the issue of his sanity. The court held a conference in chambers with counsel to discuss the issue. At the conclusion of the conference, the court stated that it was "almost certain that [it] was going to order a psychiatric examination" after trial.

After the jury returned its verdict finding Rosenheimer guilty, the court appointed Dr. Jonathan R. Kelly, a psychiatrist, to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Rosenheimer. Dr. Kelly's preliminary report persuaded the court to commit Rosenheimer to the United States Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, for a complete 60-day psychiatric evaluation. During this time, the defendant was examined regarding his present mental state, his mental state during trial, and his mental state during the time period when the crime was committed.

On November 13, 1985, an evidentiary hearing was held to determine the defendant's competency to stand trial and his sanity at the time the acts were committed. Before any witnesses were presented, the government's counsel advised the court that, "certainly under the new rules the burden would be [defendant's], but we are all working under the old rules where I think the burden is probably ours." The government then presented its first witness, Dr. Clayton Pettipiece, a psychiatrist who opined that Rosenheimer was competent at the time the fraudulent transactions took place and at trial. He found that the defendant was suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder, which meant the Rosenheimer sincerely believed in what he did. As an example, he said it was comparable to someone who, after a lifelong pattern of crime in the Mafia, begins to believe that what he is doing is right regardless of its legality. Dr. Pettipiece did not believe that Rosenheimer's disorder reached the level of a psychotic disorder, however, because all of Rosenheimer's apparent delusions had some basis in fact.

Dr. Richard J. D'Andrea, a psychologist who had prepared a report following a series of tests on Rosenheimer, also testified for the government. Dr. D'Andrea found Rosenheimer to be of normal or higher intelligence. According to Dr. D'Andrea, Rosenheimer did not suffer from any mental illness, disease or mental defect, and had no organic brain defect. Dr. D'Andrea determined that, because of his personality disorder, Rosenheimer tended to "fabricate material in a self-serving manner to explain his behavior."

Rosenheimer's counsel called the court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Kelly, to testify on the defendant's behalf. Dr. Kelly opined that Rosenheimer was suffering from both a narcissistic personality disorder and a paranoid disorder. He found that the defendant's paranoid disorder manifested itself in psychotic delusional beliefs. One of the delusions from which Rosenheimer apparently suffered was that he would obtain "millions and zillions" of dollars from somewhere in the world. Dr. Kelly stated that psychotic delusions such as this made Rosenheimer unable to conform his conduct to the law and unable to assist in his own defense at trial.

On cross-examination, Dr. Kelly admitted that, if he had found that Rosenheimer's delusions were in some way rooted in fact, it would have certainly made a difference in his diagnosis. The government then proceeded to detail many instances in which the defendant's apparent delusions were indeed based in fact. Dr. Kelly merely stated, however, that, regardless of those facts, he would not have changed his diagnosis. Dr. Kelly did concede that, despite his disorders, Rosenheimer was free from hallucinations and confusion, well-oriented with respect to date, time and place, and capable of clear and orderly thinking. He agreed that it was possible to suffer from a paranoid disorder and yet know the difference between right and wrong, and be competent to stand trial. Dr. Kelly further agreed that Rosenheimer's manipulative behavior was characteristic of his narcissistic personality disorder, that he had been careful to avoid exposing facts to potential investors that would have dissuaded them from investing, and that he was capable of knowing that his behavior was contrary to law.

At the close of the hearing, the following conversation took place between the counsel for the government and the court:

MR. PEARL: Well, let me just tell you, the existing standard for competency is in 18 U.S.C. 4241. It also describes the consequences if in ...

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