A judge has ordered a Tulsa man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the bombing of a military recruiting station to be released from a prison hospital, where he has been receiving mental health treatment.
Chief U.S. District Judge John Dowdell ordered the conditional release of Benjamin Don Roden, 30, on Friday following assurances that the former Air Force senior airman no longer posed a risk to others or to property.
Dowdell said statements from the federal prison hospital warden and a doctor who examined Roden indicated that his mental condition had improved to “such an extent that his conditional release under the proposed prescribed regimen would no longer create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.”
Roden has been in the custody of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office since a nonjury trial in October resulted in Dowdell’s insanity finding.
Roden’s federal public defenders and the U.S. Attorney’s Office said they agreed with the conditions of release.
“Will you comply with those conditions, including taking your medications and engaging in mental health treatment?” Dowdell asked Roden, who appeared in Tulsa federal court via video conference from a federal Bureau of Prisons medical center in Butner, North Carolina.
“Yes, your honor,” he replied.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Litchfield said the government believes the conditions are sufficient to permit Roden’s release “with strict compliance to the admissions as set forth in the probation officer’s evaluation and recommendation.”
Roden has been in federal custody since his arrest following the after-hours pipe bombing of an unoccupied Air Force recruiting station at 10425 S. 82nd East Ave. in Bixby.
The former senior airman was arrested about 14 hours after the explosion at the recruiting station, which didn’t injure anyone but significantly damaged the front of the building. Authorities believe that a day earlier, Roden had slashed the tires of a government vehicle parked nearby and smashed its windows.
Investigators who searched his south Tulsa apartment reported finding two pipe bombs, a pistol and an AR-15. Litchfield said at the time that the bombs were sophisticated and designed “confidently” by Roden.
Before his trial, Roden underwent two court-ordered competency evaluations while in custody. Both examiners wrote that Roden had a mental disease or disorder “rendering him unable to appreciate the nature and consequences of the court proceedings.”
He was transferred to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons medical facility for treatment in September 2017 after a magistrate found him incompetent to stand trial.
Roden at the time asked not to be given antipsychotic drugs due to religious reasons and a constitutional right to be free from medication, but a federal judge ruled in February 2018 that government medical personnel could forcibly administer the medication to restore him to competency.
In August, the court found Roden competent to stand trial after medical staff declared he had regained competency, according to records. The defendant later filed an insanity defense and waived his right to a jury trial.
Roden was described in court records as a disgruntled veteran who “hated the military” and blamed the Air Force for preventing him from joining the Marine Corps, which rejected his request to join its ranks.
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