U.S. v. Weissberger, No. 91-3181

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtBefore EDWARDS, SENTELLE and HENDERSON; HARRY T. EDWARDS
Citation951 F.2d 392,292 U.S.App.D.C. 412
Decision Date10 January 1992
Docket NumberNo. 91-3181
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Mark Alan WEISSBERGER, Appellant.

Page 392

951 F.2d 392
292 U.S.App.D.C. 412
UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
v.
Mark Alan WEISSBERGER, Appellant.
No. 91-3181.
United States Court of Appeals,
District of Columbia Circuit.
Argued Oct. 1, 1991.
Decided Nov. 15, 1991.
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Jan. 10, 1992.

Page 394

[292 U.S.App.D.C. 414] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Criminal Action No. 91-363-01); Norma H. Johnson.

Santha Sonenberg, Asst. Federal Public Defender, with whom A.J. Kramer, Federal Public Defender was on the memorandum, for appellant.

Ann K.H. Simon, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Jay B. Stephens, U.S. Atty., and John R. Fisher, Asst. U.S. Atty., were on the brief, for appellee. Roy W. McLeese, III, Asst. U.S. Atty., also entered an appearance for appellee.

Before EDWARDS, SENTELLE and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge HARRY T. EDWARDS.

HARRY T. EDWARDS, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a decision of the District Court requiring a 30-day competency examination and pretrial detention of appellant Mark Alan Weissberger. The appellant was arrested in the Dirksen Senate Office Building for carrying a fully-loaded .357 magnum revolver. The resulting search of his briefcase uncovered a batch of fanciful letters in which Weissberger identified himself as "World President." The letters revealed Weissberger's intention, as "World President," to order the arrest and imprisonment of a group of public figures, including President Bush, Vice President Quayle and Senator Paul Sarbanes. Subsequent investigation revealed that Weissberger may have been trying to get at Senator Sarbanes, who was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Joint Economics Committee on the day in question.

At a preliminary examination, the Magistrate Judge ordered Weissberger to undergo a 30-day competency evaluation as permitted by 18 U.S.C. §§ 4241(a), 4247(b) (1988) and denied bail. Appellant then requested the District Court to review the Magistrate Judge's orders. At a hearing before the District Court, appellant, with the assistance of counsel, argued that the Magistrate Judge exceeded her authority in ordering a competency evaluation, that the proceeding violated procedural due process and that there was no justification for the denial of bail. Following de novo review of the case, the Chief Judge of the District Court affirmed the orders requiring a 30-day competency evaluation and denying bail. This appeal followed.

Weissberger argues that he is competent to stand trial. He challenges the District Court's orders on three grounds: first, he claims that the Magistrate Judge was without authority to order a 30-day competency evaluation; second, he argues that, in any event, pursuant to procedural due process, a person in his position must be given a 24-hour screening examination before he can be subjected to the more intrusive 30-day competency evaluation; and, finally, he contends there is no basis for pretrial detention. The Government argues that this court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter pertaining to the 30-day competency evaluation, because there is no appealable final order; the Government's principal argument, however, is that the judgments on review should be affirmed in all respects because there is no basis for overturning the orders of the District court.

The court finds that it has jurisdiction to hear appellant's challenges to the 30-day competency evaluation under the collateral order doctrine; on the merits, we affirm both the competency evaluation order and the decision denying bail.

I. BACKGROUND

Sometime during the day of May 22, 1991, appellant Weissberger went to the office of U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes. The purpose of his visit was to inquire whether Senator Sarbanes planned to attend a meeting of the Joint Economics Committee scheduled for later that day. It is not entirely clear why Weissberger wanted to know the whereabouts of Senator Sarbanes..

Page 395

[292 U.S.App.D.C. 415] The record indicates, however, that Weissberger had been fired from a job at Voice of America, and he apparently held Senator Sarbanes responsible for his discharge.

Later during the day of May 22, Weissberger showed up in the Joint Economics Committee hearing room of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. After he was discovered to be carrying a fully-loaded .357 magnum revolver, Weissberger was arrested by the United States Capitol Police. Appellant was then charged with carrying a firearm into the Dirksen Office Building in violation of 40 U.S.C. § 193f(a)(1) (1988).

Upon arresting Weissberger, the Capitol Police searched his briefcase and found a series of letters signed by the appellant, in which he identified himself as the "World President." The letters revealed that, in his assumed capacity of World President, Weissberger "ordered" a group of individuals to be arrested and imprisoned in connection with "Watergate 2" and some related conspiracy that resulted in the expulsion of United States State Department personnel from the United States Embassy in Moscow. The letters indicated that the persons against whom action was to be taken included President Bush, Vice President Quayle, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Senator Paul Sarbanes, William Schaeffer, Ronald Reagan, Candice Bergen, Jimmy Smits and Jack Nicholson. According to one letter, because this "problem group" included President Bush, United States enforcement officers were refusing to execute the arrests; Weissberger therefore wrote to Ambassador Dubinin of the Soviet Union, requesting the assistance of INTERPOL to carry out the arrests of the named individuals.

At a preliminary hearing held on May 28, 1991, the Magistrate Judge denied bail and, finding that there was a question as to Weissberger's competency to stand trial, ordered a 30-day competency evaluation. Weissberger, claiming that he was competent, sought review by the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (1988). The Chief Judge conducted a de novo review of the evidence, after which he found that a 30-day competency examination was warranted because there was reasonable cause to believe that Weissberger might be incompetent to stand trial; the Chief Judge also denied bail because he found that the appellant was a threat to the community.

II. ANALYSIS

Weissberger now appeals the competency evaluation order on the grounds that the Magistrate Judge exceeded her authority in ordering it sua sponte and that the Order violated procedural due process. Further, Weissberger appeals the pretrial detention. Before turning to appellant's claims, however, we first address the issue raised by the Government, i.e., whether this court has jurisdiction to hear the competency evaluation appeal.

A. Appealability

Under federal law, an individual cannot be prosecuted on criminal charges unless he is "competent" to stand trial. Generally, a defendant is considered to be incompetent if 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(a) (1988).

There is a three-stage statutory process pursuant to which competency determinations are made. 18 U.S.C. § 4241 (1988). At the first stage of the competency determination process, a court may order a competency evaluation committing a defendant for a period not exceeding 30-days if the court has "reasonable cause" to believe that the individual may be incompetent to stand trial. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). There is no precise definition of "reasonable cause"; however, the Supreme Court has held that any significant doubt as to the defendant's competency requires a competency evaluation. Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 385, 86 S.Ct. 836, 842, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966) (where evidence raises a bona fide doubt as to defendant's competency, an evaluation must be held); see also United States v. Crosby, 739 F.2d 1542, 1546 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1076, 105 S.Ct. 576, 83 L.Ed.2d 515 (1984) (test is whether there is reasonable

Page 396

[292 U.S.App.D.C. 416] cause to believe that the defendant "might be incompetent to proceed," not whether the defendant is incompetent). The information produced by the evaluation is presented at an adversarial hearing at which the judge determines whether a preponderance of the evidence indicates that the defendant is incompetent. 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a), (d) (1988).

At the second stage of the...

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39 practice notes
  • Pierce v. Blaine, No. 04-9000.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 24, 2006
    ...States v. Rinaldi, 351 F.3d 285 (7th Cir.2003); United States v. Davis, 93 F.3d 1286 (6th Cir.1996); and United States v. Weissberger, 951 F.2d 392 (D.C.Cir.1991), apply here, because the commitment is involuntary and the question of involuntary commitment satisfies the Cohen "importance" p......
  • Patton v. Johnson, No. 18-1750
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • February 11, 2019
    ...The district court's prophylactic action cured the defect and rendered any procedural error harmless. See United States v. Weissberger, 951 F.2d 392, 398 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (holding that district court's application of proper standard of review "cured any arguable defect" in magistrate judge'......
  • U.S. v. Poindexter, No. 90-3125
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • July 8, 1992
    ...efforts to "corruptly ... influence, intimidate, or impede any witness in any proceeding pending before ... Congress;" Page 392 [292 U.S.App.D.C. 412] clause addressed efforts to "corruptly ... influence, obstruct, or impede [a] the due and proper administration of the law ... or [b] the du......
  • United States v. McKown, No. 18-20467
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 22, 2019
    ...Cir. 2000) ; United States v. Boigegrain , 122 F.3d 1345, 1349 (10th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (per curiam); United States v. Weissberger , 951 F.2d 392, 396–97 (D.C. Cir. 1991) ; United States v. Donofrio , 896 F.2d 1301, 1303 (11th Cir. 1990) ; United States v. Gold , 790 F.2d 235, 238–39 (2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • U.S. v. Poindexter, No. 90-3125
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 8, 1992
    ...efforts to "corruptly ... influence, intimidate, or impede any witness in any proceeding pending before ... Congress;" Page 392 [292 U.S.App.D.C. 412] clause addressed efforts to "corruptly ... influence, obstruct, or impede [a] the due and proper administration of the law ... or [b] the du......
  • Pierce v. Blaine, No. 04-9000.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 24, 2006
    ...States v. Rinaldi, 351 F.3d 285 (7th Cir.2003); United States v. Davis, 93 F.3d 1286 (6th Cir.1996); and United States v. Weissberger, 951 F.2d 392 (D.C.Cir.1991), apply here, because the commitment is involuntary and the question of involuntary commitment satisfies the Cohen "importance" p......
  • Patton v. Johnson, No. 18-1750
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 11, 2019
    ...The district court's prophylactic action cured the defect and rendered any procedural error harmless. See United States v. Weissberger, 951 F.2d 392, 398 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (holding that district court's application of proper standard of review "cured any arguable defect" in magistrate judge'......
  • United States v. McKown, No. 18-20467
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 22, 2019
    ...Cir. 2000) ; United States v. Boigegrain , 122 F.3d 1345, 1349 (10th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (per curiam); United States v. Weissberger , 951 F.2d 392, 396–97 (D.C. Cir. 1991) ; United States v. Donofrio , 896 F.2d 1301, 1303 (11th Cir. 1990) ; United States v. Gold , 790 F.2d 235, 238–39 (2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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