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United States v. LaChase

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 28, 2019


          MOORE JUDGE



         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court for a competency hearing based upon the Motion to Determine Competency of the Defendant [D.E. 7] in the above referenced case. Having convened a hearing on August 26, 2019, this Court recommends to the District Court as follows:

         1. The Defendant, Charlton Edward La Chase, appeared before the undersigned on May 28, 2019 for an initial appearance on a criminal complaint filed against him. The complaint charges Defendant with transmitting threats through interstate and foreign communications in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). [D.E. I].[1] Because Mr. La Chase is deaf, the initial appearance and all subsequent proceeding were interpreted for him by court interpreters certified in American Sign Language. Defendant was temporarily detained as danger to community [D.E. 4] and appointed the Federal Public Defender's Office to represent him [D.E. 5].[2]

         2. On June 6, 2019, the undersigned granted a motion for competency evaluation filed by defense counsel pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). The parties requested that the evaluation be conducted by Dr. Shana Williams, Psy. D., a forensic psychologist who is also fluent in American Sign Language. Dr. Williams has previous experience with Mr. La Chase because she evaluated him for competency before in a previous case. The undersigned directed Dr. Williams to evaluate Defendant's competency to stand trial in this matter. [D.E. 9].

         3. On July 20, 2019, Dr. Williams prepared a report of her evaluation.[3] The report, along with medical and mental health records referenced therein, indicates that Defendant suffers from bipolar I disorder, with psychotic symptoms and possibly other mental disorders. Dr. Williams concludes that while Defendant evidences some ability to understand the proceedings against him, he experiences persistent delusional thinking and paranoid processes that leave him unable to assist his counsel in his defense. Dr. Williams thus recommends that the Court find Defendant incompetent to engage in these proceedings.

         4. The undersigned held a competency hearing on August 26, 2019. [D.E. 18]. The Defendant, his attorney, and the government's attorney were present in court during the hearing. Dr. Williams attended the hearing in person and reiterated the findings and opinions she expressed in her report. Dr. Williams also stressed the impact of Mr. La Chase's deafness when combined with his mental illness on his ability to understand the proceedings and properly assist in his defense. According to Dr. Williams' report, Defendant's "severe to profound hearing loss and pervasive lack of information and mental health disorder all decrease his ability to gain competency". As a result, "any appropriate interventions must be presented with accommodations, including a Sign Language Interpreter."

         5. Based on the report, counsel for both parties agreed that Defendant is unable to assist his counsel in this matter and that he is incompetent with the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 4241 (a).

         6. Having reviewed Dr. Williams' report, heard her testimony, and with both parties agreeing to the report's content and conclusions, the undersigned finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant is presently 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 own defense.

         ACCORDINGLY, this Court recommends to the District Court that the Psychological Competency Evaluation dated July 20, 2019 from Dr. Williams be ACCEPTED, the findings set forth therein be ADOPTED and the Defendant be found not competent to proceed to trial;

         It is further recommended that the District Court enter an order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d) committing Defendant to the custody of the Attorney General, who shall immediately hospitalize Defendant for treatment in a suitable facility for a reasonable period of time (not to exceed four months) as is necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future Defendant will attain the capacity to permit these proceedings to go forward;

         It is further recommended that Defendant be designated to the Federal Medical Center, Butner, by order of the District Court, and provided in person American Sign Language translators during therapy sessions and other appropriate accommodations due to his hearing loss;[4]

         It is further recommended that the District Court hold a status conference within sixty days to obtain an update on Defendant's status or refer the matter to the undersigned to do so.

         The parties have agreed to waive the fourteen day period to file objections to this Report and Recommendation. Pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 59(b)(2), failure to file a timely objection to this Report and Recommendation waives the party's right to review, and it bars the ...

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