UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
June 24, 1998
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, against PAUL NAGY, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET
Following a full hearing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241, upon the findings of fact and conclusions of law set forth below, it is concluded that Defendant Paul Nagy ("Nagy") is incompetent to stand trial, that the mental disease or defect he is suffering from renders him unable to assist properly in his defense, and that he will be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for a term of four months.
The procedural history of this case, set forth below, is more complicated than the usual case.
According to the Government, on or about July 13 and 14, 1995, an individual identifying himself as Paul Nagy placed telephone calls to the White House in Washington, D.C. The caller stated that he wished to speak to President Clinton regarding problems with his Social Security benefits. During one of these calls, after the caller was not connected to the President, the caller threatened to cut the head off of a White House telephone operator. On August 2, 1995, a Secret Service agent went to Nagy's apartment on 243 East 81st Street in New York, New York, and interviewed him. At that time, Nagy admitted to threatening the White House telephone operator.
On September 7, 1995, after learning that Nagy had been previously arrested for battery, unlawful use of a weapon, and resisting a peace officer and that he had previously been hospitalized for psychiatric disorders, including paranoid schizophrenia, two Special Agents returned to Nagy's apartment building to interview Nagy's superintendent. The Government asserts that the superintendent informed the Special Agents that he saw what might be a gun on Nagy's person. The Special Agents then attempted a second interview of Nagy. Nagy refused to open his door, and the Special Agents obtained a key from the superintendent as they became concerned for Nagy's safety, the safety of those who might be in the apartment, as well as their own safety. As they opened Nagy's door, a gunshot was fired from within Nagy's apartment into the hallway.
New York City Police Department personnel arrived at the scene and began negotiating with Nagy for his surrender. According to the Government, Nagy admitted to firing the shot. Nagy was arrested.
Following Nagy's arrest, pursuant to a search warrant, the following items were found in and seized from Nagy's apartment: a loaded Smith and Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a loaded Colt .25 caliber pistol, a loaded INTRATEC TEC-9 9mm Luger semiautomatic machine pistol, a bulletproof vest, assorted ammunition, an eight-inch bowie knife, pepper mace, an electronic stun gun, and a camouflage army helmet.
The Government's complaint, filed on September 8, 1995, charges Nagy with the following counts: unlawfully, wilfully, and knowingly (1) forcibly assaulting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with two Special Agents of the United States Secret Service, while they engaged in the performance of their official duties, and in the course thereof using and discharging a deadly and dangerous weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111; (2) using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to the crime of violence alleged in count (1) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1); (3) possessing a semiautomatic assault weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(v)(1); and (4) (counts four and five charge Nagy with) possessing and receiving two firearms which had the importer's and manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, and altered and which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k).
Nagy was assigned counsel on September 8, 1995. On September 21, 1995, a detention hearing was held. A docket entry indicates that Nagy consented to detention, and the Government requested a psychiatric evaluation to determine Nagy's competence. On September 28, 1995, upon application of the Government, the Honorable Robert P. Patterson, sitting in Part I, ordered that a psychiatric evaluation of Nagy be conducted.
Stuart B. Kleinman, M.D. ("Kleinman"), examined Nagy and prepared a report, dated April 30, 1996, in which he concluded that Nagy suffers from psychotic disorder, probable schizophrenia, paranoid type, that is chronic. In his report, Kleinman stated that:
In his current mental state, Mr. Nagy, to a reasonable degree of psychiatric certainty, is not competent to proceed. Mr. Nagy is currently psychotic, i.e. possesses a grossly distorted perception of reality, and, as a result, is unable to rationally assist, to a reasonable extent, in his defense. His preoccupation with multiple paranoid beliefs significantly interferes with his ability to work with any attorney, paid or otherwise, and to consider rationally defense options or strategies. Mr. Nagy is an intelligent individual who possesses a significant level of knowledge regarding legal proceedings. However, his judgment regarding how to pursue his self interest in these proceedings is grossly diminished by his paranoid concerns. Mr. Nagy's quest to obtain recognition and restitution for (likely) imagined slights has precedence over his pursuing reasonable defense strategies. He perceives a trial as a stage upon which he can publicly decry the multiple injuries he believes have been inflicted upon him.
Mr. Nagy is unable to rationally assess the likelihood of winning at trial. He believes that the public attention he intends to capture via "the media" will either cause the U.S. Government to repent and compensate him for the injuries he feels he has suffered or lead a jury to find that his actions were a reasonable response to over a decade of (perceived) government persecution. Mr. Nagy's paranoid beliefs also render him unable to rationally consider a plea bargain. He does not desire to be incarcerated and is motivated to minimize any prison sentence. Yet, he is disposed to reject a plea offer unless it includes "compensation" by the government. He also reported that he would be loathe to accept a plea bargain because it would hinder his pursuit of civil damages against the U.S. Government. Mr. Nagy's psychosis based concerns interfere with his accurately assessing his legal options.
Judge Patterson held a competency hearing on August 1, 1996, at which Kleinman testified.
During the competency hearing, Judge Patterson stated:
Having heard the testimony, I believe that there is adequate evidence to find by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is unable to assist properly in his defense or to act properly in defending himself in a jury trial involving criminal charges. Although he understands the general nature of the proceedings, he has perceptions which distort the adequate knowledge of the full nature of what is required in order to properly defend himself.
Judge Patterson by order dated August 5, 1996, having found Nagy incompetent to stand trial, committed him to the custody of the Attorney General to be hospitalized for treatment at a suitable facility for a period of sixty days. Nagy was then admitted to the Mental Health Division at FCI Butner ("Butner").
On August 7, 1996, a grand jury indicted Nagy, and the case was assigned to the Honorable Lewis A. Kaplan, 96 Cr. 601 (LAK). Thereafter, Judge Kaplan deferred further proceedings until treatment and evaluation were completed at Butner.
On February 6, 1997, a report prepared by Butner (the "Butner Report") stated that although Nagy suffers from delusional disorder, his symptoms were under control with the use of medication. Butner thus found Nagy competent to stand trial. The Butner Report stressed, however, that Nagy's "competency is dependent on his continued compliance with his antipsychotic medications." Thereafter, Nagy was released from Butner, and Judge Kaplan set this case for trial on July 8, 1997.
On May 9, 1997, Nagy's then counsel, John Jacobs, Esq. ("Jacobs"), served a notice of the possible assertion of an insanity defense in the consequence of which Judge Kaplan granted the Government's application for a psychiatric evaluation. On May 19, 1997, Nagy objected to such a defense on his behalf.
Kleinman, who had examined Nagy in connection with the competency hearing in August 1996, attempted another examination. However, Nagy refused to participate. Accordingly, on June 18, 1997, the Government applied for an order directing defendant to submit to the examination, or, alternatively, to bar the insanity defense. On June 22, 1997, Nagy applied for the appointment of new counsel on the ground that Jacobs had sought to assert an insanity defense against Nagy's wishes. Judge Kaplan denied Nagy's motion for new counsel on June 25, 1997.
On June 27, 1997, Kleinman advised the Government that in his view Nagy was not competent to proceed. Subsequently, Judge Kaplan held a competency hearing on July 3, 1997, to afford Kleinman the opportunity to testify. During the hearing, Kleinman stated that Nagy is not competent to stand trial because he suffers from a psychotic mental illness that interferes significantly with a rational assessment of his situation, and that he is unable to assist his counsel due to an impaired perception of reality. After both sides rested, Nagy protested that he wished to be examined by a private doctor of his choosing. Accordingly, Judge Kaplan directed an examination of the defendant by a qualified psychiatrist of his choice, a Dr. Berger, and adjourned the hearing pending receipt of Dr. Berger's report.
Thereafter, communications between Nagy and Jacobs unraveled. Rather than submitting to the evaluation he had requested, Nagy embarked upon a series of pro se lawsuits and appeals. Nagy moved to disqualify Judge Kaplan based on his disagreement with Judge Kaplan's refusal to proceed to trial, despite the open issue as to competency, to transfer the case to the Eastern District, to appoint new counsel, or to permit Nagy to proceed pro se. Aware that Nagy had drafted a civil complaint naming Judge Patterson,
Judge Kaplan, and the Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA"), Patrick J. Smith ("Smith") as defendants, Judge Kaplan determined that recusal was necessary and this action was reassigned by lot to this Court on January 22, 1998.
During a pretrial conference on April 6, 1998, at Nagy's request, Jacobs was relieved as counsel
and Lawrence H. Schoenbach, Esq. ("Schoenbach") was appointed. In light of the previous proceedings before Judge Kaplan, an examination of Nagy, prior to a competency hearing, by a psychiatrist of Nagy's choice was authorized upon the submission of an appropriate order. A competency hearing was set for May 27, 1998.
On April 13, 1998, Nagy filed his action against Judges Patterson, Kaplan, and the AUSA, Nagy v. Smith, No. 98 Civ. 2622. On that date Nagy also filed two additional lawsuits -- one against Jacobs for $ 5 million, Nagy v. Jacobs, No. 98 Civ. 2620, and another against Kleinman, as well as two other psychiatrists, claiming that each lied about Nagy's mental state, Nagy v. Goldstein, No. 98 Civ. 2621.
By May 27, 1998, no order had been submitted by Nagy to provide for the appointment of a psychiatrist of his choice. On that date, Schoenbach stated that Nagy would be the only witness called by the defense and that no expert psychiatric testimony would be presented as Nagy did not wish to submit to an examination. The Court directed a current evaluation of Nagy by Kleinman. After being advised that an adverse conclusion might be reached by refusal to participate in an examination by Kleinman or by a psychiatrist of his own choosing, Nagy refused to participate in any such examination. Nagy's motion for a Special Prosecutor or, in the alternative, the replacement of Smith as AUSA was denied, and the competency hearing was adjourned until May 28, 1998, to permit Nagy to confer further with his counsel.
At the hearing on May 28, 1998, testimony was heard from Nagy and Kleinman and exhibits were received.
Nagy was born in Transylvania, Romania and came to the United States in 1982. Nagy has claimed that a priest in Indiana, who had participated in sponsoring Nagy's immigration to this country, believed him to be a spy. In fact, according to Nagy, his landlord shared that belief. In essence, Nagy admitted that since he moved to the United States in 1982 people have been conspiring against him. Nagy believes that this conspiracy has continued and followed him wherever he moved.
Nagy expressed his desire to expose the conspiracy against him through the media. In fact, Nagy has written to many media sources, including ABC's Primetime Live. He has sought a congressional hearing for the purpose of exposing the conspiracy. During the hearing, Nagy intimated that the United States Government, the AUSA, the inmates at MCC and Otisville, as well as each psychiatrist who has evaluated him are involved in the conspiracy.
Nagy believes that the issue of his competency to stand trial is simply a ruse to prevent a trial. He believes that at a trial the media will be present and the campaign against him will be revealed. When confronted with the fact that various doctors have found Nagy to be incompetent at the time of their assessments, Nagy responded that "they may have realized that the case, the case that I have now has to do with politics," and that examinations that resulted in Nagy's commitment were politically motivated.
In a letter from Nagy to Schoenbach on May 3, 1998, Nagy stated that there was good reason to request media coverage after his arrest given the "mass cover up" of his problems that are politically related.
Nagy further believes that he has been harassed in prison. He related in the May 3, 1998 letter the pressure he feels from other inmates. According to Nagy, the Government may have infiltrated the prison, forcing those around Nagy to exert "pressure" on him. Nagy is convinced that the prisoners, Government, and various psychiatrists have suggested that he commit suicide.
Kleinman is a highly qualified psychiatrist who based his expert opinion on his prior examination of Nagy, his observation of Nagy's testimony, and the documents, court papers, and letters prepared by Nagy and marked as exhibits, including the Butner Report. Kleinman's expert opinion was credible, factually accurate, and is adopted as a factual finding with respect to Nagy's mental condition.
Although from an intellectual perspective Nagy does not have any difficulty understanding functions of court personnel and the difference between an indictment and a complaint, he has trouble exercising judgment about the relative import of issues in a criminal trial such as this. As Kleinman testified, Nagy views the world through a "distorted paranoid filter," and even though he is of above-average intellect, Nagy utilizes intellectual processes in a skewed fashion.
Nagy suffers from paranoia and exhibits grandiosity which impairs his sense of reality. His responses at the hearing and letters he has written reflect these grandiose notions. Nagy has requested, and still desires, a Special Prosecutor be assigned to this case because of its importance, and as set forth in his May 3, 1998, letter Nagy believes he is "suffering even more than a martyr." Additionally, the number of people Nagy has sued, the size of damages he has sought (in the billions), and the number of people Nagy believes are part of a conspiracy against him are consistent with grandiose thinking.
Moreover, Nagy's continued preoccupation with the media is evidence of his view that the trial is not about assessing whether Nagy is guilty but rather a forum to alert the world of the grief he has been subjected to as a result of the conspiracy against him based upon the false accusation that he is a spy. Indeed, Nagy believes that the "political" problems he has suffered would produce a good defense.
Nagy has refused to consider an insanity defense and maintains that he does not suffer from a mental defect. He insists that the "efforts" to find him incompetent are designed to coverup the conspiracy against him. This is an example of the grandiosity he exhibits as a result of his paranoia. Nagy's belief that there exists a conspiracy against him -- that began in 1982 in Indiana and continues today in New York -- and that he should be given a congressional hearing or at least a trial where the media can expose the conspiracy reveals that it is Nagy who is the victim in this case.
Nagy has refused to take the medication prescribed at Butner. There has been no change in Nagy's mental processes since Kleinman last observed Nagy in June 1997, and Nagy is unable to exercise rational judgment with respect to his defense.
I. Legal Standard for Determining Competency To Stand Trial
Section 4241(d) of 18 U.S.C. provides that if, after a hearing, the court
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 defense,
the court shall commit him to the custody of the Attorney General for such a period, not to exceed four months, as is necessary to permit treatment and an evaluation of the likelihood of the defendant's gaining the capacity to stand trial. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d).
The Second Circuit has noted that the test of competency under § 4241 is whether the defendant has (1) "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding," and whether he has (2) a "rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him." United States v. Nichols, 56 F.3d 403. 410 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 402, 4 L. Ed. 2d 824, 80 S. Ct. 788 (1960) (per curiam)); see United States v. Hemsi, 901 F.2d 293, 295 (2d Cir. 1990); United States v. Vamos, 797 F.2d 1146, 1150 (2d Cir. 1986). According to the United States Supreme Court, "a person whose mental condition is such that he lacks the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing his defense may not be subjected to trial." Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171, 43 L. Ed. 2d 103, 95 S. Ct. 896 (1975).
The inquiry, as stated by the Second Circuit in Hemsi, involves "an assessment of whether the accused can assist 'in such ways as providing accounts of the facts, names of witnesses, etc.'" Hemsi, 901 F.2d at 295 (quoting United States v. Mercado, 469 F.2d 1148, 1152 (2d Cir. 1972)). However, the court continued that "it is not sufficient merely that the defendant can make a recitation of the charges or the names of witnesses, for proper assistance in the defense requires an understanding that is 'rational as well as factual.'" Id. (quoting Dusky, 362 U.S. at 402).
The competency assessment requires the court to examine
the defendant's ability to rationally understand, appreciate, and communicate about (1) the charges, including the range and nature of possible penalties and likely outcomes; (2) the roles of the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, jury, and witnesses; and (3) the factual bases of the charges and possible defenses, including plea options, and the ability to make rational choices among them. Courts must also assess the defendant's ability to rationally assist his counsel in evaluating the testimony of witnesses and the significance of exhibits, whether the defendant can testify coherently, and whether the defendant can control motor and verbal behavior to avoid disrupting court proceedings.
James A. Cohen, The Attorney-Client Privilege, Ethical Rules, and the Impaired Criminal Defendant, U. Miami L. Rev. 529, 543 (1998).
In determining the competency of a defendant to stand trial, the court may take into account a number of factors, including medical evidence, medical and psychological opinion, and observation of the defendant at the competency hearing. See Drope, 420 U.S. at 180; Nichols, 56 F.3d at 411; Hemsi, 901 F.2d at 295; United States v. Oliver, 626 F.2d 254, 258-59 (2d Cir. 1980).
II. Nagy is Not Competent to Stand Trial
A consideration of Dr. Kleinman's medical opinion regarding Nagy's competence and observation of Nagy, as well as his testimony, during the competency hearing, lead to the conclusion that Nagy is not competent to stand trial.
Although Nagy understands factually the roles of the lawyers and the judge, as well as the difference between a complaint and an indictment, this is insufficient to support a finding of competency. He must also be able to assist properly in his defense. See Hemsi, 901 F.2d at 294-95 (affirming district court's assessment that defendant was incompetent even though he understood the nature of the charges against him but could not rationally assist in his defense).
Nagy's paranoid delusions concerning a conspiracy against him and his grandiose notions regarding the function of a trial in this case -- and the result thereof -- demonstrate that Nagy is not properly or rationally able to consider or assist in decisions with respect to his defense, such as whether or not to accept a plea, whether or not to testify at trial, as well as which witnesses should be called, the evaluation the testimony of witnesses and the significance of exhibits, the consideration of the possibility of a disposition of this case involving monitoring and treatment, rational consideration of an insanity defense, and an ability to control his conduct and testimony at trial.
Nagy's desire to proceed to trial so that the conspiracy against him may be exposed is an example of his irrational thought process. In United States v. Blohm, 579 F. Supp. 495, 506 (S.D.N.Y. 1984), this Court found that the defendant's decision to go to trial was irrational and the product of his mental illness. The defendant was intent on a criminal trial on charges of threatening a judge to prove that the judge, and others, were a part of a conspiracy and should therefore be impeached. Id. at 505. "One may question whether the criminal justice system should be used as a forum for delusional defendants to exorcise their delusions. . . . Although therapeutic, permitting defendants to play out their delusions in court abuses the justice system." Cohen, supra, at 555 n.166.
Nagy does not have a rational understanding of the proceedings against him when he believes that a criminal trial at which the media is present will serve to expose the conspiracy against him and when he refuses to accept the drug therapy which has been prescribed for him. His understanding of the pending criminal proceedings is necessarily skewed by his belief that there is a conspiracy against him involving, among others, judges, the Government, a priest, his landlord, and all psychiatrists who have examined him.
By a clear preponderance of the evidence, this Court finds that Nagy is unable to assist properly in his defense and thus incompetent to stand trial. The distorted perceptions under which he presently operates impair his ability to rationally understanding various defense options and strategies, as well as what is required for him to ably assist in preparing his defense.
For the reasons set forth above, Nagy is found to be incompetent to stand trial under 18 U.S.C. § 4241 and will be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for a period of four months.
Settle judgment on notice.
It is so ordered.
New York, N. Y.
June 24, 1998
ROBERT W. SWEET