Prosecutor: Alleged Maui spy is difficult but sane

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2009 10:45 PM

A Maui man accused of spying for China is difficult to work with and makes wild exaggerations but is legally able to stand trial, a federal prosecutor asserted Friday.

But at the close of a competency hearing, the lawyer for Noshir Gowadia contended the defendant suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, which causes him to make grandiose statements and to consider himself better than others.

"These delusions are affecting his ability to assist us in his own defense," Birney Bervar, Gowadia's lawyer, told U.S. Magistrate Kevin S.C. Chang during closing arguments.

Prosecutors have said Gowadia used Maui as a base to design a stealth cruise missile for China. He faces 21 counts of conspiracy, money-laundering and falsifying tax returns, which also assert that he offered to sell classified stealth technology to foreign business people in Israel, Germany and Switzerland. He has pleaded not guilty.

During the day-and-a half-long competency hearing, both the prosecution and the defense portrayed Gowadia as a brilliant if conceited scientist who has contributed to many military projects while working for defense contractor Northrop Corp., now Northrop Grumman Corp. Some of the projects were well-known, such as the B-2 stealth bomber, and others remain classified.

Two expert witnesses for the defense and one for the government agreed Gowadia has narcissistic personality disorder. Gowadia considers himself intellectually superior and makes fantastical statements that contain some truth, they said.

The lawyers for both sides agreed that Gowadia is aware of his legal circumstances _ one of two requirements if he is to be found competent. But they diverged on whether he can adequately assist in his own defense, the other requirement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Sorenson told Chang that Gowadia is a difficult defendant because he is an intelligent, high-functioning individual. But his personality disorder does not rise to the level of a mental defect that would prevent him from working ably with his lawyers, Sorenson added.

He challenged the conclusions of the defense's expert witnesses that Gowadia is incompetent, calling them flawed.

Moreover, Sorenson suggested that the competency hearing was a legal ploy.

"The defense has an agenda," he said. "It isn't competency. It's trial avoidance."

But Bervar cited Friday's testimony by Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Francisco, that Gowadia was incompetent to stand trial.

Stewart said he could not pinpoint a basis for Gowadia's condition during his five-hour examination in March. But narcissistic personality disorder is a likely cause, he added. His testimony supported that of Richard Rogers, a forensic psychology professor at the University of North Texas, who testified Thursday for the defense.

And Bervar challenged the testimony of prosecution witness Lisa Hope, a clinical and forensic psychologist for the federal Bureau of Prisons in Los Angeles. Hope testified Thursday that Gowadia's claim of an IQ of 210 was only exaggeration, even though the IQ scale does not go that high.

"Incredibly, she says that is not delusional," Bervar said.

Chang's recommendation to Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway is expected in the next week or so. Gowadia faces a closed hearing on classified evidence early next month.