Ike has to wait some more for judge to decide competency to stand trial
RENO – During his 20-fight pro-career former heavyweight title contender Ikemefula Ibeabuchi expeditiously learned judges’ decisions in the ring.
But the 28-year-old Ibeabuchi, a former Dallas resident, is discovering that judges don’t render decisions as quickly outside the ring.
At a competency hearing Thursday, a District Court judge delayed a ruling for a second time in a month on whether Ibeabuchi should be forced to take medication in order to stand trial.
Ibeabuchi, who has refused medication after taking three small doses last year, has been charged with sexual assault, first-degree kidnapping and battery with intent to commit a crime, stemming from an encounter with an escort dancer in a Las Vegas hotel room in July 1999.
Clark County District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure, who also presided over the Jan. 4 hearing in Las Vegas, will determine Ibeabuchi’s fate March 23 at the Clark County District Court. Bonaventure wanted additional time to pore over transcripts from the hearing.
Ibeabuchi’s attorney, Richard Wright said his client is incompetent to stand trial and hasn’t assisted in defending himself.
“I don’t fault the delay because he’s not competent. He insists he’s competent,” Wright said. “He can’t go to trial if he’s not competent. If he wasn’t dangerous and he’s not competent, then you release him until he regains competency. If you keep him in custody it is only for him to be treated to regain competency so he can go to trial.”
But Wright is upset at what he perceives as a lack of treatment for Ibeabuchi at the Northern Nevada Correctional Facility in Carson City.
“I was hoping he’d get some better treatment than he’s receiving. I don’t think he’s been treated in nine months,” Wright said. “I don’t think the answer is simply forced medication or forced drugging vs. unforced drugging. I think he should be treated like an innocent, accused person who is not competent at the present time instead of being incarcerated with no real treatment.”
Ibeabuchi has reportedly been confined to his cell 23 hours per day. He’s receiving food and messages through a small door slot.
“They treat him like an animal,” said Ibeabuchi’s mother, Patricia, who attended Thursday’s hearing. “Look at his hair and how dirty he is. He’s not being fed. You look at him and me, and he looks like he’s my grandfather.”
The close proximity of Thursday’s competency hearing to the Northern Nevada Correctional Center enabled Ibeabuchi to appear before the judge.
However, a unkept Ibeabuchi, who was handcuffed and wore leg shackles, appeared at times to want no part of the proceedings.
During a lengthy testimony by Reno psychiatrist Howard Henson, Ibeabuchi screeched, “Peace!”
Assistant district attorney Mary Kay Holthus thought she heard Ibeabuchi scream “Beast.” Ibeabuchi later corrected her interpretation.
Following a recess, Ibeabuchi declined to leave his holding cell and attend testimony given by the state’s “expert” psychiatrist Thomas Bittker of Reno. But Ibeabuchi later re-entered the court room and was given a chance to speak before the hearing ended.
“I just want to go home and receiver better care,” Ibeabuchi said. “I’m not ready to return to the ring at this time. I prefer people seeing that I have an injury and that would be the first step to (recovery).”
Wright and district attorneys Holthus and Christopher Lalli spent most of the hearing peppering the two psychiatrists’ with questions regarding the dangers and benefits if Ibeabuchi were to take medication willingly and orally as opposed to involuntary injections. In some instances, antipsychotic medication causes cardiac arrest and irreversible uncontrollable movements of involuntary muscles.
“I feel the benefits far outweigh the risks in this case,” Bittker said. “He’ll have decreased anxiety, rage episodes and have the ability to cooperate with counsel so we could come to a speedy trial.”
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