Judge must say whether Obama threat suspect can be forcibly medicated
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 07, 2013
2/07/13 at 7:43 AM
A federal judge is considering whether a schizophrenic man who is accused of threatening the president and first lady should be forcibly medicated in a bid to restore him to mental competency.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Woodward told U.S. Magistrate Lane Wilson during a hearing Wednesday that a decision on whether to give Mark Dee Gragg anti-psychotic medication against his will would be as significant and "profound" a decision as the court would ever make.
Woodward said the court is being asked to weigh society's interest in enforcing the law and protecting its citizens - including the president - against an individual's right "not to have chemistry imposed on them."
Gragg, 49, was indicted a year ago by a Tulsa federal grand jury.
An affidavit alleges that he made numerous after-hours phone calls to the Secret Service in which he "continually" threatened President Barack Obama.
He also said he would pay $500 for someone to harm first lady Michelle Obama, the document alleges.
Gragg was mentally evaluated at U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities before being returned to the Tulsa Jail in August.
Attorney J. Lance Hopkins, representing Gragg, told the court that his client has been in custody since January 2012.
He said that if Gragg had been convicted of the charges, which are still pending, the sentencing guidelines would have called for a punishment range of no more than 15 to 21 months and that forcing Gragg to be medicated would add as much as an additional year in custody.
He questioned whether that was necessary in a case in which no attempt was made to carry out the alleged threats.
Two U.S. Bureau of Prisons doctors who testified Wednesday said there is a 70 percent to 95 percent chance that Gragg could be restored to competency with medication.
Wilson decided Dec. 12 that Gragg could be released to the 12&12 facility for mental-health and substance-abuse treatment in Tulsa while the charges are pending. However, that decision was appealed to U.S. District Judge James Payne, and Gragg has remained in the Tulsa Jail.
Wilson did not say Wednesday how soon he might rule on whether Gragg should be forcibly medicated.
Original Print Headline: Forcible drugging weighed
David Harper 918-581-8359
Mark Dee Gragg: His attorney says no attempt was made to carry out the alleged threats.