Thursday, February 15, 2001

Pickett's mental competence questioned

U.S. prosecutors ask for psychiatric tests

By Maureen Groppe
Gannett News Service

        WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors argued Wednesday the Indiana accountant shot by authorities after he waved a gun outside the White House should immediately be sent to a psychiatric hospital to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

        When court-appointed attorneys for Robert Pickett objected, U.S. Magistrate Alan Kay set a hearing for Feb. 20 to determine whether to send Mr. Pickett for a psychiatric evaluation.

        Mr. Pickett, who was released from the hospital Tuesday night, is being held without bond. The government requested that he be placed under a suicide watch.

[photo] Robert W. Pickett, an Evansville, Ind., man shot by the Secret Service outside the White House, is being held without bond.
(Associated Press photo)
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        Mr. Pickett, a former Internal Revenue Service employee from Evansville, Ind., is charged with assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon during a Feb. 7 altercation in front of the White House. If convicted, he could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

        Mr. Pickett, who was shot in the knee by a Secret Service officer, entered the courtroom on crutches, a cast on his right leg.

        Mr. Pickett, 47, first placed his .38-caliber revolver in his mouth, then pointed it at the officers, police said. He was shot after an officer heard the gun click, according to an affidavit.

        Police negotiators on the scene later said Mr. Pickett appeared to want either to shoot himself or to force officers to shoot him.

        No one else was hurt.

        Mr. Pickett was fired from the IRS in the mid-1980s for a series of unexcused absences. He unsuccessfully fought his dismissal in court, arguing he was treated unfairly because of depression.

        Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Walutes cited Mr. Pickett's history of mental illness — including previous suicide attempts, psychiatric care and use of psychiatric drugs — to argue that he probably is not competent to stand trial.

        Mr. Walutes asked the court to send Mr. Pickett to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Butner, N.C., for evaluation.

        That is the same hospital that is caring for Russell Eugene Weston, the man accused of fatally shooting two U.S. Capitol Police officers in 1998.

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