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United States v. Dotson

January 17, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


I. Factual Background/Procedural History

On March 16, 2005, Defendant Anthony Terrel Dotson appeared before the Honorable Kent J. Dawson, United States District Judge in the District of Nevada, and was sentenced to ten months in the Bureau of Prisons followed by three years' supervised release for committing the offense of Theft of Public Property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641. On June 18, 2005, Dotson was released from confinement and began his term of supervised release. On February 27, 2006, Judge Dawson ordered, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3605, that jurisdiction over Dotson be transferred to the Southern District of Illinois, upon this Court's order of acceptance of jurisdiction. The undersigned judge ordered that jurisdiction over Dotson be accepted, effective March 17, 2006.

On September 21, 2007, United States Probation Officer Richard Wactor recommended that Dotson's term of supervision be revoked for the following reasons: 1) School Trespassing on August 29, 2007; 2) failure to make monthly payments in accordance with the Schedule of Payments sheet of the Court's judgment; 3) failure to submit written reports to the probation office; 4) failure to notify his probation officer within 72-hours that he was arrested by law enforcement officers on August 29, 2007; and 5) failure to participate in mental health treatment consistently, as directed by his probation officer. Based on these recommendations, the Court ordered the issuance of an arrest warrant on September 21, 2007.

On September 24, 2007, Dotson appeared with counsel, Assistant Federal Public Defender Julie K. Morian, before United States Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud for Initial Appearance on Petition to Revoke Supervised Release and Detention Hearing. Dotson waived a preliminary hearing. After hearing proffers as to detention, Judge Proud ordered Dotson detained pending further proceedings. A revocation hearing was set before the undersigned judge on October 10, 2007.

On October 9, 2007, United States Probation Officer Damon Yates moved for leave to file an amended petition, amending the School Trespassing violation to Unlawful Possession of Child Pornography and Transportation of Obscene Matter on or about September 24, 2007. The remainder of the petition was unchanged. The Court granted leave to file the amended petition on October 9, 2007. Upon Dotson's motion, the Court continued the revocation hearing to October 18th, to allow Dotson's counsel to prepare against this serious allegation.

On October 12, 2007, Dotson's counsel, Assistant Federal Public Defender Daniel G. Cronin, moved, under seal, for a psychiatric or psychological evaluation of Dotson's competency to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings and to assist properly in his defense. Cronin stated that Dotson has a history of mental illness, including a 2005 diagnosis of bipolar disorder for which Depakote and Risperdal were prescribed. When Cronin met with Dotson, on October 2, 2007, Dotson had difficulty focusing on his case. Dotson's brother, staff at Douglas Elementary School and the St. Clair County Jail Superintendent corroborated Cronin's concerns about Dotson's competency. These concerns were bolstered by Dotson's behavior when Cronin attempted to interview him at the courthouse on October 10th. At that time, Dotson appeared to be in a trance, was unresponsive and, after a few minutes, lay down on the interview room floor.

On October 18, 2007, Dotson was transported to the courthouse for a hearing on Cronin's sealed motion for psychiatric or psychological evaluation, but he was mentally and/or physically unable to be present in the courtroom. On October 19, 2007, the Court found reasonable cause to believe that Dotson may 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. The Court granted Cronin's motion, to which the United States did not object, and directed that a psychiatric and/or psychological examination of Dotson be conducted by a licensed or certified psychiatrist or psychologist at an institution to be designated by the Attorney General or his representative.

Dotson was transported to the Federal Medical Center at Lexington, Kentucky. A letter and report were received from the Medical Center on November 28, 2007. The clinician found Dotson to be acutely psychotic. Because of Dotson's severely impaired mental state, he was unable to provide personal historical information, to respond appropriately, relevantly and sensibly to questions, and to engage in productive interviews with the examiner. Dotson was consistently observed to be uncommunicative and unresponsive. He acted bizarrely, rambled illogically and appeared to be hallucinating. He remained in segregation during the evaluation because he was too mentally impaired to be placed in the general population. He was given medications used to treat mental illness, Risperdal and Remeron, but his condition did not improve and his compliance with the medication was questioned. Dotson did not express suicidal thoughts, but he was reported to have a history of hearing voices telling him to kill himself and a history of attempting suicide.

The clinician recommended that Dotson be hospitalized so that his psychotic symptoms could be treated and his mental condition stabilized before he could be safely released back into the community. Dotson's condition can be expected to improve considerably with sustained compliance with medications. In the opinion of the evaluating clinician, Dotson is "not presently competent to stand trial," but, if committed for treatment, "there is a substantial probability he will obtain the capacity to permit a trial to proceed in the foreseeable future." (emphasis in original). The clinician recommended that Dotson be committed for treatment immediately.

Dotson was returned to the District on January 11, 2008, and the competency hearing was set for January 16, 2008.

II. Legal Standard and Analysis

Dotson has a due process right to a hearing before the conditions of his supervised release can be revoked. FED.R.CRIM.P. 32.1 (except in circumstances not applicable here, "[b]efore modifying the conditions of probation or supervised release, the court must hold a hearing, at which the person has the right to counsel."); cf. Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973) (due process requires a hearing before probation can be revoked). Due process requires that a defendant have the mental competence to participate in supervised release revocation proceedings against him. Cf. Woods v. Anderson, 302 F.Supp.2d 915 (S.D.Ind. 2004) (citing Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 384-86 (1966) (The Due Process Clause prohibits states from trying and convicting mentally incompetent defendants.).

No Supreme Court or Seventh Circuit case has been found that addresses the question of how a court is to proceed when a defendant's competency is questioned in the context of a supervised release revocation hearing. However, a number of courts have addressed this issue and have found that it was appropriate to follow the procedures set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 4241, which governs determinations of a defendant's competency to stand trial. United States v. Avery, 328 F.Supp.2d 1269, 1271-72 (M.D.Ala. 2004)(citing United States v. Vandyke, 64 Fed.Appx. 877, 878 (4th Cir. 2003) (applying § 4241(d) to revocation hearings); United States v. Kanode, 993 F.2d 1540 (4th Cir. 1993) (noting the use of § 4241 to address a motion for an evaluation to determine competency to proceed with a supervised-release revocation hearing); United States v. Baker, 807 F.2d 1315, 1320 (6th Cir. 1986) (affirming district court's finding that defendant in probation-revocation proceeding lacked competency, and affirming defendant's subsequent forced hospitalization pursuant to § 4241(d)); United States v. McCarty, 747 F.Supp. 311, 312-13 (E.D.N.C. 1990) (finding that court did not have jurisdiction to hospitalize defendant in revocation hearing under § 4245, which covers hospitalization of persons serving a sentence of imprisonment, but finding that court did have jurisdiction under § 4241)). The Court finds the analysis of these courts highly persuasive. Moreover, "where there is ...

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