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United States v. Debenedetto

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 4, 2014

GARY DEBENEDETTO, Defendant-Appellant

Submitted November 27, 2013

Page 548

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:12-cr-00199 -- Rubé n Castillo, Chief Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Nicole Kim, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Gary Debenedetto, Defendant - Appellant: Gary W. Adair, Gary W. Adair & Associates, Chicago, IL.

Gary Debenedetto, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Chicago, IL.

Before FLAUM, RIPPLE, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.


Page 549

Ripple, Circuit Judge 

Gary Debenedetto has been charged in a five-count indictment with knowingly transmitting through interstate commerce threats to injure another person, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). Following his arrest, the district court ordered a mental competency evaluation and made an initial finding that Mr. Debenedetto suffers from a mental disease or defect that renders him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature

Page 550

and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense. The court ordered him to be placed in a facility pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d) for further evaluation, and Mr. Debenedetto was sent to the Federal Medical Facility in Butner, North Carolina (" Butner" ).

The evaluating psychiatrist at Butner conducted additional examinations, which led him to conclude that Mr. Debenedetto would require involuntary treatment with psychotropic medications to restore his competency for trial. At a follow-up hearing, the district court considered the psychiatrist's report and determined that Mr. Debenedetto should be committed for treatment, including involuntary medication, as is necessary to attain the capacity to permit the criminal proceedings to go forward. See 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(2)(A).

Mr. Debenedetto filed a pro se appeal from the district court's commitment order, but after the Government notified the court of its intent to execute promptly the district court's order absent an order from this court, his attorney filed both a motion to stay the order and a motion to withdraw as counsel from the appeal. We ordered a temporary stay of the order. After reviewing the submissions of the parties and the transcript of the district court hearing, we hold that the hearing and subsequent written findings of the district court do not constitute adequate compliance with the requirements set forth in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 123 S.Ct. 2174, 156 L.Ed.2d 197 (2003).[1] We therefore must vacate the court's commitment order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Mr. Debenedetto was arrested on April 11, 2012, on charges that he transmitted threatening communications to various individuals, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). While Mr. Debenedetto was in custody pending trial, the district court ordered, on its own initiative, a mental competency evaluation. Pursuant to this order, the district court received the results of a forensic examination performed by the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, Illinois (" MCC" ), and later conducted a hearing at which the evaluating forensic psychologist testified. Following the hearing, the court determined that Mr. Debenedetto suffered from a mental disease or defect that rendered him mentally incompetent to stand trial. The district court therefore ordered that he be placed in the custody of the Attorney General for additional mental competency evaluations.

Four months later, the court received and reviewed the result of a second examination performed at Butner. According to the district court, " Dr. Robert Lucking, the evaluating psychiatrist, opined that defendant need[ed] to be involuntarily treated with psychotropic medications in order to restore his competency to proceed to trial." [2] On October 8, 2013, therefore, the Court held a hearing regarding the need to medicate Mr. Debenedetto without his consent.

At the hearing, Mr. Debenedetto's attorney initially objected to the intended course of medication. He stated that he did not believe that " the first prong of Sell ," relating to the importance of ...

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