Judge: Man accused of threats to Obama incompetent

AP News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2014 3:39 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man is mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges of threatening President Barack Obama's life, and prison officials should determine whether he was also incapacitated at the time of the alleged offense, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an order Monday saying Deryke Matthew Pfeifer of Ozark cannot be put on trial on a felony charge of threatening the president.

But, Thompson said, federal authorities can hold Pfeifer for as long as four months to determine whether he can regain his sanity, and the Bureau of Prisons should also evaluate the man to determine his mental status before his arrest earlier this year.

The decision followed a hearing last month in which a mental health expert testified that Pfeifer is delusional. Evidence showed Pfeifer told a psychologist that God is upset with Obama, particularly over condoning same-sex relationships.

Pfeifer was arrested in July on charges of threatening Obama in phone calls to the Federal Protective Service and in online videos. In one video, he held a handgun.

Thompson initially ruled the man mentally incompetent without holding a hearing, but Pfeifer objected in a statement in which he told the judge he was sane.

The judge vacated his ruling and held the hearing, during which Pfeifer stood before Thompson with a Bible and asked the judge to find him sane. Before the hearing, Pfeifer accused his lawyer of covering up "what the Secret Service is doing."

Prison officials should evaluate the man for as long as four months to determine whether his sanity can be restored, Thompson wrote, and Pfeifer could be held longer or released without trial if he cannot return to mental competence.

Officials should also try to determine whether the man was mentally competent at the time of the alleged threats because sanity already is an issue in the case, Thompson wrote.