The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marian W. Payson United States Magistrate Judge
Currently pending before the Court is a motion by counsel for defendant Frederick B. Young ("Young") for a judicial determination pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241 that Young is incompetent to stand trial. (Docket # 18). The government does not oppose the motion. (Docket # 19 at ¶ 4). For the reasons set forth below, it is my recommendation that Young be determined incompetent to stand trial.
Young has been charged in a one-count indictment with failing to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). (Docket # 8). Specifically, the indictment charges Young with traveling from New York State to Florida without updating his registration. (Id.).
On January 26, 2012, this Court ordered that Young undergo a psychiatric evaluation at an appropriate federal medical facility to determine whether he is suffering from a mental disease or defect that renders him 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. (Docket # 20). On February 15, 2012, Young was admitted to the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in New York City, where he underwent psychological testing and evaluation by a forensic psychologist, William J. Ryan, Ph.D.
Following that evaluation, Dr. Ryan submitted to this Court a written report dated March 19, 2012, recommending that Young be declared incompetent to stand trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241. (Docket # 23). A competency hearing was held on April 11, 2012. (Docket # 25). At the hearing, Dr. Ryan testified for the government, and Young testified for the defense.
A court must declare a criminal defendant incompetent to stand trial if it 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." 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). According to the Second Circuit, the determination of competency turns on whether the defendant has "(1) sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and (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 (1960) (per curiam)) (internal quotations omitted). In assessing competency, "the district court may rely on a number of factors, including medical opinion and the court's observation of the defendant's comportment." Id. at 411 (citing United States v. Hemsi, 901 F.2d 293, 295 (2d Cir. 1990)).
In concluding that Young is currently incompetent to stand trial, I rely principally upon Dr. Ryan's hearing testimony, his written report, Young's conduct during the hearing and, to a lesser degree, upon my own observations of Young during his appearances before this Court.
I turn first to Dr. Ryan's written report and hearing testimony, which I credit. Dr. Ryan testified that he has been a licensed psychologist since 1987 and has worked as a forensic psychologist with the Federal Bureau of Prisons since 1995. His duties in that capacity primarily consist of making competency and criminal responsibility determinations for courts. He estimates that he makes in excess of sixty-five such determinations annually. In determining competency, Dr. Ryan generally administers psychological tests to and conducts interviews with the defendant, reviews relevant records concerning the defendant and interviews the prosecutor and defense attorney.
Consistent with his general practice, Dr. Ryan attempted to administer the Personality Assessment Inventory ("PAI") to Young. (Docket # 23 at 7). According to Dr. Ryan, the PAI is a self-report questionnaire, designed to measure objectively personality characteristics, psychological adjustment, and "response bias." (Id.). Young refused to complete the PAI form, however, and told Dr. Ryan in a letter that "[m]ost of these questions are formulated solely to find out how indoctrinated the Establishment has me." (Id.).
Dr. Ryan also conducted three clinical interviews of Young, occurring on February 21, February 26 and March 8, 2012. The interviews lasted between sixty and ninety minutes. Dr. Ryan also reviewed various records, including records relating to the pending prosecution; records related to Young's conviction in 1986; and Young's criminal history consisting of criminal charges dating back to 1983. (Id. at 2-3, 5). Finally, Dr. Ryan conducted telephone interviews with Young's counsel, the federal prosecutor in this case and Young's mother. (Id. at 1, 3).
Based upon his review of the records, and his interviews of Young and the attorneys involved in the case, and the psychological testing, Dr. Ryan diagnosed Young as suffering from the mental disease of schizophrenia of the paranoid type and polysubstance dependence. (Id. at 10). Dr. Ryan further described Young as displaying hypervigilance and appearing to regard others with suspicion during his interviews. (Id. at 8). Dr. Ryan described Young's thinking as "organized" but "delusional." (Id. at 9). For example, Dr. Ryan reported that Young believes that the government watches people through televisions, and that " Young is experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations of a man named 'Abe,' who he reportedly receives advice from." (Id. at 10-11).
Dr. Ryan recounted in his report numerous statements that Young made expressing his distrust of the legal system, in particular, his attorney, the Assistant United States Attorney and this Court. Dr. Ryan opined that Young "possesses a paranoid delusion that his Judge, as a 'controller,' and his lawyer and AUSA, as 'users,' are trying to control him and are out to get him." (Id. at 10). More specifically, Young described to Dr. Ryan "a system in which 'users' (such as his lawyer and prosecutor) follow orders from "controllers' (such as his Judge) in order to tame the masses and infringe on their freedom. Mr. Young emphasized his Judge, lawyer, and prosecutor are trying to control and 'blind' him, in an attempt to transform him into ...