United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
OPINION AND ORDER
B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE
of 2017, Defendant, Stephen M. Patterson Jr., was charged
with being a felon in possession of a firearm. (R. 1). In
august of 2017, Patterson moved this Court for a competency
hearing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241, 4242 and
4247. The Court granted the motion and ordered a psychologic
evaluation of Patterson be conducted prior to the hearing.
(R. 17). The psychological evaluation was performed at
Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago by Dr. Schenk, a
forensic psychologist. (R. 25). Based on her evaluation, Dr.
Schenk prepared a report, which was filed with the Court in
February of 2018. In her report Dr. Schenk determined
Patterson competent to stand trial. Paterson's competency
hearing was then conducted on October 4, 2018. Dr. Schenk
testified at the hearing both before and after Patterson gave
testimony. Her opinion remained consistent-Patterson may hold
unorthodox beliefs, but he is nevertheless competent to stand
trial. As explained more thoroughly herein, based on Dr.
Schenk's report, and the October 4th competency hearing,
the Court agrees with Dr. Schenk. Patterson is competent to
18 U.S.C. § 4241 “the district court has not only
the prerogative, but the duty, to inquire into a
defendant's competency whenever there is
‘reasonable cause to believe' that the defendant is
incompetent to stand trial.” United States v.
White, 887 F.2d 705, 709 (6th Cir. 1989). “[T]he
bar for incompetency is high: a criminal defendant must lack
either a ‘sufficient present ability to consult with
his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational
understanding' or ‘a rational as well as factual
understanding of the proceedings against him.'”
United States v. Miller, 531 F.3d 340, 350 (6th Cir.
2008) (quoting Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 172,
95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975)); 18 U.S.C.S. §
4241(d). The Court's determination must be based on a
preponderance of the evidence. 18 U.S.C.S. § 4241(d). In
making its determination the Court should consider the
defendant's demeanor, any prior medical opinion regarding
competency, and any evidence of irrational behavior.
Drope, 420 U.S. at 180.
mentally competent to stand trial, Patterson must possess two
things. First, Patterson must possess the ability to
understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings
against him. 18 U.S.C.S. § 4241(d). Second, Patterson
must possess the ability to assist properly in his defense.
18 U.S.C.S. § 4241(d). He Possesses both.
Patterson has the Ability to Understand the Nature and
Consequences of the Proceedings Against Him.
evidence presented by Dr. Schenk, as well as Patterson's
testimony and demeanor convince the Court that Patterson
understands the nature and consequences of the proceedings
against him. Dr. Schenk is highly qualified. She attended the
University of Wisconsin, where she majored in psychology and
minored in criminal justice. She then went on to West
Virginia University, where she received her doctorate in
clinical psychology with a focus in forensic psychology. Dr.
Schenk then pursued a post-doctoral fellowship specializing
in forensic psychology with Georgia Regents University and
East Central Regional Hospital in Augusta. Finally, in 2015,
she became employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a
writing her psychological report for the Court, Dr. Schenk
reviewed all the records concerning Patterson's case, but
most importantly, Dr. Schenk conducted a variety of in-person
interviews with Patterson over the span of roughly two
months. Based on her firsthand interaction with Patterson,
Dr. Schenk testified that Patterson may have some sincerely
held unusual beliefs. For example, Patterson told Dr. Schenk
that he was a “vice generate.” When asked to
define the term, Patterson told Dr. Schenk that it was
“an overseer.” Patterson also expressed to Dr.
Schenk that he thought his name belonged to the United States
Government because his mother signed his birth certificate.
Patterson at one point even told Dr. Schenk that he heard
ultimately, Dr. Schenk concluded in her report and
testified-before and after Patterson's testimony-that
while these beliefs and behaviors are unorthodox, they are
not indicative of mental illness or defect which would
preclude Patterson from understanding the nature and
consequences of the proceedings against him. Instead, from
her interaction with Patterson, Dr. Schenk concluded
Patterson to be capable of rational understanding, the
ability to weigh pros and cons against one another, and a
general understanding of how the justice system works. From
these determinations, Dr. Schenk testified that it is her
professional opinion that Patterson understands the nature
and proceedings against him. The Court finds Dr. Schenk's
professional opinion to be persuasive. Furthermore, based on
Patterson's testimony and demeanor at his competency
hearing, the Court shares in Dr. Schenk's opinion.
Patterson's testimony, the Court finds it undeniable that
Patterson sincerely holds some very unorthodox beliefs.
Without detailing every single one, the Court notes some of
the more prominently unusual. Patterson testified that he
was, indeed, a “vice generate.” When asked to
define the term, Patterson testified that is was “an
overseer.” Patterson testified that he heard voices
that urged him to do various things such as, better himself,
be still, or be aware. Patterson testified that he thought
his birthday was the day he was conceived. He also testified
that he owned the corporate rights associated with the name
Stephen Patterson. Patterson's testimony regarding these
unusual ideas and beliefs struck the Court as sincere.
Patterson's testimony was not the only indication of his
behavior is also unusual. Patterson has jumped from a moving
car-which he was driving. The car nearly went through a
house. Patterson chose to be held in solitary confinement for
nearly six months rather than sign his own name on booking
documents. But most unusual, Patterson bit the canine unit
during his most recent arrest.
while the Court notes Patterson's unorthodox beliefs and
unusual past behavior, these strange beliefs and behaviors do
not necessarily demonstrate that Patterson does not
understand the proceedings against him. United States v.
Gooch 595 Fed.Appx. 524, 527 (6th Cir. 2014)
(“[M]erely believing in fringe views does not mean
someone cannot cooperate with his lawyer or understand the
judicial proceedings around him.”). While Patterson
told Dr. Schenk he is considering “sovereign
citizenship”, the unusual beliefs espoused by Patterson
are not a consequence of such consideration. Nonetheless, the
reasoning used by other courts in declaring sovereign
citizens mentally competent applies here. Courts have held
time and time again when dealing with so called sovereign
citizens, that unorthodox beliefs-as unusual as they might
be- do not indicate mental incompetency in the absence of
mental illness or involuntary behavior. See United States
v. Coleman, 871 F.3d 470 (6th Cir. 2017); United
States v. Neal, 776 Fed.Appx. 398, (6th Cir. 2016).
Like sovereign citizens, Patterson holds very unusual
beliefs. But the Court does not find those beliefs-unusual
though they are-to interfere with Patterson's ability to
understand the proceedings against him.
the Court finds from Patterson's testimony that he is
articulate, rational, and fully capable of understanding the
proceedings against him. First, Patterson seemed to
understand the gravity of waiving the attorney client
privilege. So much so, that he declined to do so. Further,
Patterson followed up by inquiring about what questions were
going to be asked of him, implying that he ...