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United States v. Brown

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

November 27, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC BRIAN BROWN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Raymond A. Jackson United States District Judge

         Before the Court is the Government's Motion to Extend Defendant's Mental Health Treatment and Eric Brian Brown's ("Defendant") Oral Motion for a hearing on the substantial probability that Defendant will regain competency. For the reasons set forth below, the Government's Motion is GRANTED, and Defendant's Oral Motion is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 7, 2017, Defendant was charged with kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1), (2). ECF No. 3. On December 1, 2017, the Government moved for a psychiatric examination to determine Defendant's competency to stand trial. ECF No. 15. The Court granted this motion on December 15, 2017. ECF No. 17. On January 23, 2018, the Bureau of Prison's ("BOP") clinician filed their findings. ECF No. 20. On January 25, 2018, based on the clinician's findings, the Court found Defendant incompetent to stand trial and that he should be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for further evaluation for no more than four months. ECF No. 24.

         On May 31, 2018, Defendant filed an emergency motion to preliminarily enjoin the clinicians at the clinic in Butner, North Carolina from involuntarily medicating Defendant. ECF No. 26. On June 4, 2018, the Court denied this motion for lack of ripeness but also ordered that any forcible medication be stayed until the Court determines its appropriateness. ECF No. 30. On June 12, 2018, Defendant filed a new motion to enjoin forcible medication after the clinic in Butner, North Carolina held a Harper hearing and determined it was necessary to involuntarily medicate Defendant to avoid harm to himself or others. ECF No. 34. On June 22, 2018, after a hearing, the Court denied this motion, finding that the BOP may forcibly medicate Defendant, and lifted the June 4, 2018 stay. ECF No. 45.

         On July 13, 2018, the BOP's psychiatric report confirmed Defendant's psychiatric incompetency. ECF No. 46. The BOP recommended Defendant be further evaluated for another four months to restore his competency. ECF No. 46 at 11. On September 18, 2018, the Magistrate Judge ordered nunc pro tunc, June 22, 2018, that Defendant be committed for an additional four months because there was a substantial probability that he would regain competence under § 4241(d)(2)(A). ECF No. 48. That commitment terminated on October 20, 2018. ECF No. 56 at 3. The BOP filed another psychiatric report dated October 22, 2018 addressed to the Magistrate Judge, which was filed before this Court on November 9, 2018, asking for an additional 120 days to restore Defendant's competence since he has been improving with his current medication but has not fully regained competency.[1] ECF No. 59.

         On October 19, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for a status conference to request a hearing to challenge the feasibility of Defendant regaining competence after an additional 120 days.[2] Id. at 3-6. A hearing was held on November 13, 2018. ECF No. 60. The Government filed their Motion to Extend Defendant's Mental Health Treatment on November 6, 2018. ECF No. 58. Defendant's counsel opposed the motion during the November 13, 2018 status conference and has since filed a brief letter in opposition. ECF No. 62. The Government then filed its reply on November 20, 2018. ECF No. 63. Given that Defendant has adequately stated his arguments against the Government's motion, the Court finds that the motion is ripe for disposition.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Section 4241 of Title 18 of the United States Code governs the procedure used for determining a defendant's competency. Specifically, § 4241(d) provides that a court can order a defendant to be committed to the custody of the Attorney General and that the Government will hospitalize a defendant:

(1) for such 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 he will attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward; and
(2) for an additional reasonable period of time until-
(A) his mental condition is so improved that trial may proceed, if the court finds that there is a substantial probability that within such additional period of time he will attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward; or
(B) the pending charges against him are disposed of according to law; whichever is earlier.

§ 4241(d). While the Attorney General cannot hold a defendant for longer than four months absent a court order extending the time, it is harmless error if a court enters such an order shortly after the expiration of the original order committing defendant. United States v. Magassouba,544 F.3d 387, 409-10 (2d Cir. 2008) (finding harmless error for hospitalizing a defendant under § 4241 for three weeks after the initial four months expired); see United States v. Bar field,969 F.2d 1554, 1556-57 (4th ...


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