United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER (DOCKET NO. 74)
J. KOPPE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is the United States' motion for
psychiatric treatment. Docket No. 74. The Court has
considered the United States' motion, the United
States' sealed proposed treatment plan, Defendant's
response, and Defendant's sealed psychiatric examination
and evaluation. Docket Nos. 74, 75, 83, 84. The United States
did not file a reply, and the time to do so has now expired.
See Docket. The Court finds the motion properly
resolved without a hearing.
November 30, 2016, a federal grand jury sitting in Las Vegas,
Nevada, issued an indictment charging Defendant Mirko
Zeppellini with four counts of wire fraud, in violation of
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343, and three counts
of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States
Code, Sections 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and 2. Docket No. 1.
Defendant was arrested on December 8, 2016, and made his
initial appearance on the same date. Docket Nos. 5, 12. After
a detention hearing, Defendant was ordered detained pending
trial. Docket Nos. 5, 11.
February 17, 2017, after a hearing with Defendant and his
then-counsel, the Court found that it had reasonable cause to
believe Defendant may be suffering from a mental disease or
defect that rendered unable to understand the nature of the
proceedings against him or properly assist his defense. The
Court therefore ordered a mental competency evaluation of
Defendant. See Docket No. 23. On May 8, 2017, after
receiving the forensic evaluation of Defendant, the Court
found Defendant currently incompetent to stand trial and
ordered him placed in a facility for competency restoration.
Docket Nos. 43, 46.
November 27, 2017, the Court held a status conference
regarding Defendant's competency. Docket No. 64. See
also Docket No. 65. The United States submitted that,
based on Defendant's failure to obtain competency, it
would ask for involuntary medication to restore his
competency. Docket No. 64. The United States has now moved
the Court to order involuntary medication with antipsychotics
under Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166
criminal defendant “has a ‘significant'
constitutionally protected ‘liberty interest' in
‘avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic
drugs.'” Sell, 539 U.S. at 178 (quoting
Harper, 494 U.S. at 221). Antipsychotic medications
affect cognition, concentration, behavior, and demeanor, and
cause a personality change that, “if unwanted,
interferes with a person's self-autonomy, and can impair
his or her ability to function in particular contexts.”
United States v. Williams, 356 F.3d 1045, 1054 (9th
Cir. 2004). Additionally, these drugs “can have
serious, even fatal, side effects.” Id.
(quoting Harper, 494 U.S. at 229-230).
government is allowed to medicate a defendant involuntarily
for the purpose of rendering him competent to stand trial
only in rare circumstances.” United States v.
Ruix-Gaxiola, 623 F.3d 684, 687 (9th Cir. 2010).
“When the government seeks to medicate a defendant
involuntarily for competency purposes, it must establish by
clear and convincing evidence the four Sell
factors.” United States v. Gillenwater, 749
F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 2014). Those factors are: (1)
“that important governmental interests are at
stake[;]” (2) “that involuntary medication will
significantly further” those interests; (3) “that
involuntary medication is necessary to further those
interests[;]” and (4) “that administration of the
drugs is medically appropriate.” Sell, 539
U.S. at 180-81. The Sell factors “do not represent a
balancing test, but a set of independent requirements, each
of which must be found to be true before the forcible
administration of psychotropic drugs may be considered
constitutionally permissible.” Ruiz-Gaxiola,
623 F.3d 684 at 691.
authorizing involuntary medication pursuant to this standard
are ‘disfavored.'” Id. at 688
(quoting United States v. Rivera-Guerrero, 426 F.3d
1130, 1137 (9th Cir. 2005)). The Court has “refus[ed]
to permit involuntary medication except in highly-specific
factual and medical circumstances.”
Ruiz-Gaxiola, 623 F.3d at 691 (quoting
Rivera-Guerrero, 426 F.3d at 1136).
Court therefore analyzes each Sell factor in turn.
Important Governmental Interests
first factor of the Sell test requires the United
States to establish “that important
governmental interests are at stake.” Sell,
539 U.S. at 180. The government has an important
“interest in bringing to trial an individual accused of
a serious crime.” Id. “That is so
whether the offense is a serious crime against the person or
a serious crime against property.” Id. To
determine whether a crime is serious enough to satisfy the
first Sell factor, “the U.S. Sentencing
Guidelines range is ‘the appropriate starting
point' because it is the ‘best available predictor
of the length of a defendant's incarceration.'”
United States v. Onuoha, 820 F.3d 1049, 1044-1055
(9th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v.
Hernandez-Vasquez, 513 F.3d 908, 919 (9th Cir. 2007).
the Guidelines range is only the starting point in
determining whether the government has an important interest
in prosecution.” Onuoha, 820 F.3d at 1055
(internal citation omitted). In Sell, the Supreme
Court found that courts also “must consider the facts
of the individual case in evaluating the Government's
interest in prosecution.” 539 U.S. at 180. Therefore,
the Sentencing Guidelines range is not “the only factor
that should be considered” because it does “not
reflect the full universe of relevant circumstances.”
Hernandez-Vasquez, 513 F.3d at 919. Other relevant
circumstances can “include the time a defendant has
served while awaiting trial and the possibility of future
civil confinement” and, if a defendant has prior
convictions, “the predatory nature of those offenses[ ]
and the closeness in time of the prior offenses to the
current prosecution.” Id. Additionally, courts
have considered the specific facts of the alleged crime.
Onuoha, 820 F.3d at 1055. See Id. (despite
low Guidelines range and lack of criminal history,
defendant's charged conduct of phoning airport officials
urging evacuation on the anniversary of the September 11th
attacks threatened “the basic human need for
security” and therefore satisfied the first
Sell factor); Gillenwater, 749 F.3d at 1101
(defendant's threats to choke, ...