Mental illness stalls case of bomb outside Detroit building

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2015 12:40 PM
Mental illness stalls case of bomb outside Detroit building

DETROIT (AP) — A man accused of planting a bomb outside of a Detroit federal building four years ago may never stand trial despite extraordinary efforts to improve his mental health.

Two courts allowed the government to forcibly medicate Gary Mikulich, but he's still not mentally competent for trial. The issue now is whether he will stay locked up indefinitely because of his possible threat to the public.

The 2011 incident embarrassed the government. A Husky-brand tool bag holding the explosive was left outside the McNamara Building, which is the local home of the FBI and other agencies. It was brought inside by a security guard but treated as lost property and stashed under a lobby desk.

Three weeks passed before the bag was X-rayed and destroyed at an island in the Detroit River.

"It wasn't the type of bomb that was going to do damage to the building, but there was a lot of shrapnel," said Andy Arena, who was head of the FBI in Detroit at the time. "We're very lucky someone didn't blow their hands off or head off. It was a wake-up call."

The FBI's investigation moved swiftly. Agents learned that Husky tool bags were sold exclusively by Home Depot. The retailer said only nine people in the U.S. had recently purchased that tool bag and a General Electric timer at the same time.

Video from a Home Depot in Iron Mountain, 500 miles north of Detroit, showed Mikulich leaving the store with the items, according to the FBI. He lived nearby in Kingsford.

Mikulich, now 46, was charged with several crimes. There is no dispute that he has a history of mental illness. He was already known to Iron Mountain police, who had received faxes from him complaining about the FBI and claiming that a "card system" had caused the murder of thousands of people.

A judge in 2012 said he could be forcibly medicated, a decision that was affirmed 18 months later by a federal appeals court.

"While we should not take lightly the decision to medicate a defendant against his will, we also should not discount the government's interest in bringing an accused would-be terrorist to justice," the court said.

But by last November, experts reported no progress, and Mikulich was declared not competent to stand trial. He now faces a May 7 hearing in federal court in Raleigh, North Carolina, to determine if he will stay indefinitely at a nearby prison that can provide special medical services.

"If he is committed, we won't see him in Detroit for a very long time, if at all," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy.

Mikulich's lawyers in Michigan and North Carolina did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The result so far "is absolutely unusual," said Karl Numinen, a lawyer not involved in the case. "It's rare that these incompetency determinations are actually made. More often there's a finding of malingering. Here we are four years later."

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