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Raithel v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 30, 2017

NICHOLAS PAUL RAITHEL, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, St. Lucie County; Steven J. Levin, Judge; L.T. Case No. 562015CF000332A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and J. Woodson Isom, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Don M. Rogers, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          May, J.

         The defendant appeals his conviction and sentence for making a false report of a bomb. He argues that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to move to suppress his 211 call[1] as protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege; and the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion for judgment of acquittal; (2) proceeding to trial without determining his competency; and (3) imposing a $2, 351 public defender lien. We find merit in his arguments concerning the competency issue and in the imposition of the public defender lien. We therefore reverse and remand the case.

         The defendant has a history of mental illness, a brain injury, and a low IQ. He called 211, stating that he "made a bomb" and "blew up" himself. He told the 211 operator that he drank vodka and wanted to die.

         When officers arrived, they found him heavily intoxicated and belligerent. He told the officers he did not have a bomb, but was "goofing off" because he had an argument with his girlfriend. The officers searched the residence, but did not find a bomb. They arrested the defendant for false reporting of a bomb.

         Prior to trial, defense counsel twice moved to have the defendant evaluated for competency. Within these motions, the defendant waived his right to the required hearing. The trial court entered orders directing examination of the defendant and appointing doctors. The trial court noted the defendant's waiver of the hearing and stated that defense counsel could schedule a competency hearing should it become necessary.

         A doctor conducted the evaluation. After the defendant rejected a plea offer, the court asked whether all issues had been resolved in the case. Defense counsel replied: "Yes, Your Honor. I had him evaluated and he's competent to proceed."

         At trial, the attorneys had difficulty communicating with the defendant and getting him to directly answer questions. At the charge conference, the following dialogue took place:

THE COURT: Has there been a mental health evaluation, competency evaluation regarding this case?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: There was, Your Honor. He was found ...

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