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January 31, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan Humphrey Lefkow, District Judge.


Defendant, Daniel E. Salley ("Salley" or "defendant"), has been charged in a 15-count indictment on charges arising from a bank robbery and the ensuing arrest of defendant on August 28, 2001, which tragically resulted in the severe and long-term disability of Joseph Airhart ("Officer Airhart"), a FBI task force Chicago police officer who was assisting agents of the FBI.*fn1 Among the many serious charges lodged against defendant are attempt to kill Officer Airhart (Count I) and FBI Special Agent Gary L. Kissinger (Count VI) while in the performance of official duty, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1113 and 1114, and armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d) (Count XII).*fn2 Before the court is the issue of Salley's competency to stand trial.


Defendant was arraigned on September 21, 2001 and counsel was appointed on September 26, 2001 (Docket Entries #1, #13.) Pursuant to this court's November 14, 2001 order (Docket Entry #15), Salley was evaluated for competency to stand trial during a period between December 6, 2001 and February 22, 2002, by Dr. Lea Ann Preston ("Dr. Preston"), a clinical psychologist employed by the Bureau of Prisons. During this evaluation, Salley refused to submit to standardized psychological tests but, based on her interview with Salley, Dr. Preston found that Salley was aware of the nature of the proceedings against him and was able to accurately describe the roles of the various individuals who participate in a trial, knew about the possible pleas that may be entered, and presented rational ideas regarding defense strategies. (Preston rep. at 8.) Based on these findings, Dr. Preston concluded that Salley was competent to stand trial and make decisions regarding his case, although Dr. Preston did note that she was unable to rule out a diagnosis of delusional disorder because Salley was not completely forthcoming while discussing his beliefs. (Id. at 6-7.)

At a status hearing before the court on March 22, 2002, however, Salley made bizarre remarks to the court; for example, given the opportunity to speak about the matter of representation, Salley declared, inter alia, that $65 million of his assets had been stolen for which he demanded compensation of $555 billion, and he accused the court and the United States of America as being in contempt of "God's court," and "hereby removed [the court] forever by the grace of God. . . ." (Transcript (Tr.) of Proceedings of March 22, 2002 at 3-4.) Salley refused to respond to the court's question whether he was satisfied with counsel's representation, so the court let the matter stand and set a July, 2002, trial date.

On April 10, 2002, counsel moved to withdraw and the court appointed a second attorney. At the next status hearing, however, on April 26, 2002, Salley's counsel presented a motion for leave to proceed pro se with standby counsel. Salley denounced new counsel's representation in terms such as, ". . . He has asserted that he would file motions that I would command him not to file, and that he would not file motions that I would command him to file based upon his personal ethics. I'm not here to request anything of this particular Court. I am asserting the commands of his majesty, and I am . . . asserting also the inalienable rights. . . ." (Tr. of Proceedings of April 26, 2002 at 3.)

On May 29, 2002, Salley's second counsel presented a motion to withdraw. Salley again lectured the court, ". . . Let us not pretend that this is going to be fair. I have a defense, and I will be defending in the way that I decide that it is going to be done, not according to someone that you have appointed to me. . . ." (Tr. of Proceedings of May 29, 2002 at 3-4.) Salley stated that if counsel of his liking were not found he wished to represent himself. (Id.)

On June 5, 2002, due to the court's concern that the original mental health evaluation did not address whether Salley could adequately cooperate with counsel, this court concluded that Salley needed to be sent back for a further evaluation to make this determination. See United States v. Teague, 956 F.2d 1427, 1432 (7th Cir. 1992) ("Due process requires that when sufficient evidence demonstrating reasonable cause to believe that a defendant is mentally incompetent to proceed [is] before the court, it must order a competency hearing.") This evaluation was again slated to be performed by Dr. Preston as a supplement to her original report.

The anticipated hearing on the matter of whether defendant could cooperate with counsel was aborted, however, because Salley had refused to speak again with Dr. Preston. Salley further advised the court that because Dr. Preston had concluded that he was competent, "this can be construed also as an abuse of discretion because there is an attempt by the prosecution to take away my right to defend myself. . . ." (Tr. of Proceedings of June 24, 2002 at 6.) This statement was in the face of protestations by the Assistant United States Attorney that defendant was certainly competent and that further evaluation was unnecessary. (See id. at 9.)

The court then ordered a second evaluation which was conducted by Dr. Christine Scronce ("Dr. Scronce"), also a clinical psychologist employed by the Bureau of Prisons, during July and August, 2002. Dr. Scronce concluded that Salley suffers from a delusional disorder. (Scronce rep. at 7.) According to Dr. Scronce, an individual with this mental illness experiences "nonbizarre" delusions, i.e., things that could occur in real life, such as being conspired against or poisoned. (Id.) Dr. Scronce observed in Salley "grandiose and paranoid thinking" as reflected in his connecting a surgery that was done on his knee while in custody with his belief in a government conspiracy, stating "I don't know who all the players are, who might be operating behind the scenes. I don't know why they did that second operation." She also reported that he had told the pretrial services officer that during his arrest he had been shot twice in the chest, but "the bullets bounced off." (Scronce rep. at 6.) Dr. Scronce observed that Sally's preoccupation with government conspiracy theories against him and his guarded and uncooperative nature with his attorneys and evaluators, along with other evidence, suggested a major mental illness. (Id. at 8-9.) Dr. Scronce concluded that because the delusional thinking would hinder Sally's rational understanding of the proceedings and his ability to assist his defense, he was not fit for trial.*fn3 (Id.)

After Dr. Scronce's report, the United States requested and the court granted leave to have defendant examined a third time. This examination was performed by Dr. Ronald Roesch of Park Dietz and Associates.*fn4 In the report, Dr. Roesch concluded that Salley is competent to stand trial. (Roesch rep. at 11-12.) While the report stated that Dr. Roesch could "neither exclude the possibility of delusional disorder nor confirm that diagnosis," Dr. Roesch stated that he did not believe any such delusional disorder "has affected [Salley's] ability to understand the proceedings or the consequences of the trial." (Id. at 11.) In support, Dr. Roesch explained that Salley did conduct himself appropriately in many court appearances, particularly when discussing the issue of competency; that it is possible that Salley's unrealistic beliefs as to his selfrepresentation are based on his religious beliefs as well as prior experience in self-representation (two successful employment discrimination administrative appeals); and that his defenses involving a government conspiracy do not necessarily reflect delusional thinking, stating,

While [a government conspiracy theory] may seem far-fetched, in our opinion it does not necessarily reflect delusional thinking. From Mr. Salley's perspective, the IRS did appear to target him and his clients, and he interpreted this as affecting his livelihood and ability to support his family. Mr. Salley was angry at the government and ...

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