United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
October 12, 2005.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RUBEN CASTILLO, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court are the Government and defense counsel's
stipulations regarding defendant Michael Segal's competency to be
sentenced. Neither side has actively requested a competency
hearing, however, the Court is well aware of its discretion to
hold a competency hearing. After thoroughly reviewing the
parties' stipulations, this Court finds that a competency hearing
is unnecessary and defendant is competent to be sentenced.
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of mail fraud,
wire fraud, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), and multiple
counts of making false statements to obtain renewal of license
applications to the Illinois Department of Insurance in violation
of 18 U.S.C. Section 1033(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. 2.*fn1 Almost
a year after his conviction, defendant's attorneys raised the
argument that he is mentally incompetent to participate in his
defense for purposes of sentencing. Pursuant to
18 U.S.C. § 4241(b) (2005), the Court ordered a psychiatric evaluation of the
defendant. Three psychiatrists examined the defendant, including
two government psychiatrists and one defense psychiatrist. The government and defense psychiatrists differ in opinion as to
defendant's current demeanor and competency to be sentenced. The
government psychiatrists, Dr. Goldstein and Dr. Dinwiddie,
reported that his demeanor ranged from "alert and fully oriented"
to "generally cooperative and . . . interested in participating."
Both doctors noted that defendant suffers from Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder ("ADHD") and has features of narcissistic
and obsessive compulsive personality disorders. Nonetheless, they
believe that defendant is of average intelligence although
impaired by poor reading skills, is fairly knowledgeable about
the charges against him, and has sufficient self control to be
able to behave with decorum.
In contrast, the defense psychiatrist, Dr. Rubin, reported that
at the time of interviewing defendant's "mood was angry, and when
directed outward it was towards his lawyers, the prosecution, the
judge, or me [the psychiatrist]. . . ." He further noted that the
defendant suffers from "a delusional disorder characterized by a
psychotic organization of his thinking into paranoid and
grandiose delusions which interfere with abstract
thinking. . . ." In light of this evidence, this Court must
consider both whether a hearing is necessary to determine the
defendant's competency for sentencing, and if not, whether the
defendant is competent.*fn2
I. Competency Hearing
When there is evidence demonstrating that reasonable cause
exists to believe that a defendant is mentally incompetent to
proceed before the court, a district court may order a hearing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a).*fn3 United States
v. Teague, 956 F.2d 1427, 1435 (7th Cir. 1992); United States
v. Caicedo, 937 F.2d 1227, 1231 (7th Cir. 1991).
"Unquestionably, due process requires a defendant to be competent
to stand trial [and] the need for competency extends beyond trial
to the sentencing phase of a proceeding." United States v.
Collins, 949 F.2d 921, 924 (7th Cir. 1991) (citing United
States v. Garrett, 903 F.2d 1105, 1115 (7th Cir. 1990));
Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 407 (1993) (stating that the
same standard for competency applies regardless of what point in
the legal proceedings the issue of competency arises).
Consequently, the Seventh Circuit has interpreted Section 4241(a)
to mean that a competency hearing is mandatory if "there is
reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be
suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him 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." Teague, 956 F.2d at 1435 n. 9.
Reasonable cause "escapes precise definition," but exists if
there is "some manifestation, some conduct, on the defendant's
part to trigger a reasonable doubt of competency." United States
v. Burns, 811 F. Supp. 408, 415 (E.D. Wis. 1993). The
presumption is that the defendant is competent. Id. at 416.
Applying these principles, this Court finds itself in the
position of determining how much weight to give the psychiatric evaluations that the parties have
submitted. As the Seventh Circuit has noted:
There are, of course, no fixed or immutable signs
which invariably indicate the need for further
inquiry to determine fitness to proceed; the question
is often a difficult one in which a wide range of
manifestations and subtle nuances are implicated.
That they are difficult to evaluate is suggested by
the varying opinions trained psychiatrists can
entertain on the same facts.
Collins, 949 F.2d at 924 (citing Drope v. Missouri,
420 U.S. 162
(1975)). For several reasons, we find that the government's
psychiatrists' findings are entitled to greater weight than the
defendant's. Government psychiatrists spent more time evaluating
the defendant than did the defense psychiatrist. Dr. Goldstein
and Dr. Dinwiddie evaluated the defendant over a two day period
and a four hour period, respectively. Dr. Rubin spent less than
six hours evaluating the defendant. Second, Dr. Goldstein engaged
in an extensive psychiatric examination of the defendant for the
purpose of assessing the presence, nature, and extent of any
cognitive defects that may warrant a competency hearing. In
contrast, Dr. Rubin spent less than six hours evaluating the
defendant without engaging in similar extensive testing as the
government. Third, Dr. Sarrazin, a staff psychiatrist at the
Bureau of Prisons, did the most recent evaluation of the
defendant and found him to be competent to be sentenced. See
id. at 926 (stating that "[t]he judge is also entitled to draw
inferences from the psychiatric evaluations . . . the most recent
and thorough of which determined [defendant] to be competent")
(citations omitted). Since the most recent (Sarrazin) and the
most thorough (Goldstein) of the psychiatric evaluations found
defendant to be competent, we find that there is no reasonable
cause to believe that the defendant is currently suffering from a
mental disease or defect which warrants further proceedings
regarding his competency. This remains true despite the defendant's history of mental
illness. A history of mental illness is insufficient to establish
reasonable cause for a competency hearing. Eddmonds v. Peters,
93 F.3d 1307, 1314 (7th Cir. 1996). In this case, defendant's
history of mental illness is not severe. Consequently, the fact
that defendant has a history of ADHD and is potentially suffering
from obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar affective disorder,
and recurrent major depressive disorder does not automatically
entitle him to a competency hearing especially since his most
recent evaluations attest to his competency.
Given our evaluation of the weight due to the various
psychiatrists' reports, we find that the Court has sufficient
evidence to make a determination regarding the defendant's
competence without further proceedings. The stipulations filed by
the government and defense counsel regarding defendant's
competence provide a complete picture of the defendant's mental
state and demeanor. Here, both parties were given a chance to
provide what evidence they deemed appropriate to determine the
defendant's competence. See United States v. O'Neal,
969 F.2d 512, 514 (7th Cir. 1992) (holding that the district court did, in
effect, hold a hearing when it gave the defense a chance to
supplement a psychiatric report with further evidence). This
Court holds that a competency hearing is not necessary to
determine the defendant's competency to be sentenced.
II. Competency to be Sentenced
Because we have held that a competency hearing is not required,
the final issue to be resolved is whether the defendant is
competent to be sentenced. Under Section 4241(d), if a court
finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant
suffers from a mental disease or defect that renders him unable
to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense, the defendant
must be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for
treatment in a suitable facility. The burden of proving mental
incompetence is on the defendant. Chichakly v. United States,
926 F.2d 624, 633 (7th Cir. 1991).
We will first consider whether the defendant has sufficient
ability to consult with his lawyers with a reasonable degree of
rational understanding. Teague, 956 F.2d at 1432. Factors that
the Court may consider include: "testimony from psychiatrists,
the defendant's behavior both before the court and elsewhere
intelligence, lapses of memory, unresponsiveness . . . [and]
defense counsel's observations." Salley, 246 F. Supp. at 976.
In this case, defense counsel submitted an affidavit stating
that they have reasonable cause to believe that the defendant is
unable to assist properly in his sentencing. They have reportedly
stated that the defendant is "always difficult to communicate
with," has "ideas regarding his sentencing [that] were quite
impractical," and is "unable to complete his thoughts." Dr. Rubin
reported that the defendant's "mental disorder and concomitant
disability has become increasingly disabling to his thinking and
judgment regarding cooperating with his counsel and understanding
his role in his sentencing hearing." He further stated that Segal
has "a complete fixation on his organized paranoid delusion that
six persons in his company (middle-level executives) working with
others from another company (AON), as well as a `hacker' working
for the FBI, had `set' him `up . . . a master set up' in order to
send him to prison, as well as take his company from him."
In contrast, the government psychiatrists who examined the
defendant both found that there was no evidence that the
defendant would not be able to assist with his defense. They
state that two factors affect his ability to communicate with his
attorneys: defendant's difficulties with written communication and his insistence on following a legal
strategy that his attorneys feel is likely to be unsuccessful.
They do not consider these factors to be a bar to sentencing.
The defendant's attorneys may be in the best position to assess
their client's competence. Chichakly, 926 F.2d at 634-35.
However, the observations of the defense attorneys are not
dispositive. See United States v. O'Kennard, 02 CR 481, 2004 WL
1179391, *8 (N.D. Ill. May 27, 2004) (making a provisional
finding that the defendant is competent even though his attorney
argued that he could not assist in his defense); see also Odle
v. Woodford, 238 F.3d 1084, 1088-89 (9th Cir. 2001) (noting that
while defense counsel has "the best informed view of the
defendant's ability to participate in his defense," counsel is
not "a trained mental health professional"). This Court cannot
ignore the fact that Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Dinwiddie, and Dr.
Sarrazin have found the defendant competent to be sentenced.
Although Dr. Rubin found the defendant incompetent, given the
recent evaluations finding the defendant competent it is possible
that communication between counsel and the defendant will be
improved. Id.; Collins, 949 F.2d at 926 (giving significant
weight to the most recent psychiatric examinations).
The issue here is whether the defendant "has sufficient
present ability to consult with his lawyer with reasonable
degree of rational understanding." Eddmonds, 93 F.3d at 1314.
According to the government psychiatrists, at the time of their
evaluations the defendant "expressed no delusional beliefs,
paranoid ideation or other misperceptions about the outcome of . . .
the legal process." Furthermore, the defendant denied "being
misinformed about or otherwise lacking an understanding of any
part of the trial or legal proceedings in which he had just taken
part, and described in detail his thoughts on the verdict." His
tests reflect that he is of average intelligence, is responsive
to the doctors and his attorneys, has not engaged in any bizarre or questionable conduct, and does not suffer from any memory
lapses. Consequently, we find that the defendant has sufficient
present ability to consult with his attorneys.
Even if his attorneys consider some of his ideas impractical or
illogical, the disagreement between defendant and his counsel
regarding legal strategy does not mean that the defendant lacks
sufficient present ability to consult with his attorneys.
Caicedo, 937 F.2d at 1232. Furthermore, his preoccupation with
the alleged conspiracy to take over his company and his
anger/obsession with the legal proceedings against him is not
necessarily an indication of incompetence. Dr. Goldstein the
doctor who performed extensive diagnostic tests on the defendant
noted that in most respects, the defendant appears to be
functioning rationally. Even if he is suffering from delusions as
advanced by the defense psychiatrist, they certainly do not rise
to a level sufficient to find him incompetent. Compare United
States v. Blohm, 579 F. Supp. 495 (S.D.N.Y. 1983) (defendant
found incompetent after accusing a federal judge, former
President Nixon, and professional golfer Arnold Palmer of causing
the defendant to lose a civil suit that he had litigated in the
court of the federal judge and constantly trying to introduce
evidence of such conspiracy in his criminal trial).
To resolve the competency issue, we also must determine if the
defendant suffers from a mental defect that prevents him from
understanding the nature and consequences of the sentencing
proceedings. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). Defendant was questioned
extensively about these proceedings, including the potential
sentence he faces; the consequences of any decisions that he
makes in the course of the proceedings; the various rights that
he, as a defendant, may assert and relinquish; and his comfort
and openness with his attorneys. His answers were very
knowledgeable, clear, and thoughtful. It is also likely that his
training as an attorney aided him in his ability to understand the nature of the proceedings. His
understanding of the nature and possible consequences of the
proceedings also, by definition, shows a capacity to aid in his
defense. O'Kennard, 2004 WL 1179391 at *8. Based on the
defendant's interviews with the government psychiatrists and his
legal background, we find that the defendant understands the
nature and consequences of the sentencing proceedings.
This Court finds that defendant is competent to be sentenced.
Sentencing will proceed on November 30, 2005 at 10:30a.m. The
Court is concerned that the unusual delay in sentencing the
defendant, which has been caused by various actions taken by
counsel and the Bureau of Prisons, may have unintentionally
caused the defendant undue stress. The Court expressly concludes
that proceeding with the defendant's sentencing and subsequent
appeal will benefit his mental health status. Nevertheless, this
order will be reevaluated if defendant's mental status should
deteriorate at any time before sentencing.
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