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United States v. Weinberg

September 28, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEPHEN L. WEINBERG, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Defendant, Stephen L. Weinberg ("Weinberg"), has been found incompetent to stand trial on a pending federal indictment. He is now confined at the Federal Medical Center at Butner, North Carolina ("Butner"). Officials at Butner believe that Weinberg should receive certain psychotropic medication which they believe may restore his competency. To date, Weinberg has steadfastly refused to voluntarily take such medication.

Physicians at Butner and the Government now request that this Court issue an order, pursuant to the principles established by the United States Supreme Court in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), authorizing officials at Butner to forcibly administer drugs to Weinberg. Weinberg opposes such a request. For the reasons that follow, the application to forcibly administer psychotropic medication, as proposed, is denied.

BACKGROUND

Weinberg was arrested on December 2, 2008 on a criminal complaint charging a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), that is, knowingly transmitting a threatening communication in interstate commerce. The complaint, and the affidavit attached to the complaint, allege that Weinberg, via an email communication, threatened Monroe County Court Judge Frank Geraci, who had previously issued an order in a state court case directing Weinberg to accept outpatient mental health treatment. Weinberg sent the email communication from his email address to various government officials, including the Vice President and the FBI, threatening to shoot Judge Geraci. Weinberg signed the email and apparently also telephoned an Assistant United States Attorney in Rochester and left a similar message on that attorney's voicemail.

Shortly after Weinberg's first appearance in court, his then-attorney moved for a mental competency determination and within days the Court granted the motion and directed that Weinberg be examined at a federal medical facility pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a).

Weinberg was confined to the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in New York, New York for such an examination. Officials there issued a forensic report, dated March 4, 2009, concluding that Weinberg suffered from a mental disease or defect and was not competent to stand trial because he did not possess a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings, nor did he have the capacity to assist counsel.

After conducting a hearing, United States Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson issued a Report and Recommendation that Weinberg was not competent to stand trial and that he should be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for a period of time to determine whether there was a substantial probability that he would be restored to competency (Dkt. #32). There were further proceedings before this Court and eventually, on February 12, 2010, this Court entered an Order (Dkt. #34) directing that Weinberg be hospitalized for treatment at a federal medical facility for a reasonable period of time, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d)(1), to determine whether there was a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future Weinberg would attain the capacity to stand trial.

Pursuant to that order, Weinberg was committed to the facility at Butner. After several months, officials at Butner submitted a report to the Court, dated April 29, 2010 ("April 29 Report"). That report concluded that Weinberg continued to be incompetent, but that there was a substantial probability that his competency could be restored if he took anti-psychotic medication. Because Weinberg had refused to voluntarily take such medication, the treating physicians at Butner, Maureen L. Reardon, Ph.D., a staff psychologist, and Ralph Newman, M.D., a staff psychiatrist, requested a court order authorizing such involuntary medication. It is that request that is at issue in the present proceedings. Weinberg, through counsel, objected to that recommendation and, therefore, a hearing was scheduled. To assist Weinberg and his counsel, the Court authorized appointment of a psychiatrist, Dr. Rory P. Houghtalen.

On July 8, 2010, the Court conducted a hearing. Three witnesses testified, including Dr. Reardon and Dr. Newman, on behalf of the Government, and Dr. Houghtalen, on behalf of the defendant. Defendant was present but did not testify.

DISCUSSION

There are two forensic reports concerning Weinberg before the Court. The first, dated March 4, 2009, was the original evaluation from the Metropolitan Correctional Center which concluded that Weinberg was not competent to stand trial. The second report, the April 29 Report, also concluded that Weinberg was still not competent and, therefore, requested the forced medication of him.

Weinberg, now 63, received his undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reportedly earned a Ph.D. in physics and astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley. Weinberg has virtually no employment history and has lived off his parents' income until receiving Social Security Income benefits over 20 years ago. He has a lengthy history of arrests, often involving trespassing on various college campuses, including Harvard University.

Weinberg has had psychotic symptoms for the past 30-35 years. He has been treated and involuntarily committed to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester on several occasions. The conclusion there was that Weinberg suffered from a ...


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