DC Disability Agency Accused of Ignoring Plight of Imprisoned Man

WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorneys for a man deemed to have the intellectual capacity of a seven year old claim in court that their client has languished in federal prison for nearly four years despite his never having been convicted of a crime.

In a federal complaint filed in the District of Columbia on Tuesday, lead attorney Donald Salzman says his client, Markelle Seth, in being held in prison in North Carolina and could remain there for the rest of his life due to the district’s Department of Disability Services ignoring an expert recommendation that he be placed under supervised care in his home city.

Seth was arrested in 2014 on charges that he allegedly engaged in sexual activity with two minors who lived in his home. Seth was 21 at the time, and according to the complaint, he was sent to federal prison in North Carolina where he was to be held until his criminal proceedings began.

Shortly after Seth’s arrest, Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey held a competency hearing for him and requested that psychological be performed to determined whether he posed a danger to others and could be released into a community-based residential care program.

The evaluation was performed by a Department of Disability Service’s expert, Dr. Stephen Hart, who, the complaint says, determined that Seth does not have any underlying psychopathic or predatory tendencies and that there was no evidence to suggest he would repeat any sexual crimes or crimes against children.

Hart reportedly concluded Seth’s alleged crime was the result of his “restricted opportunity for sexual contact with age appropriate peers, along with deficiencies in judgment and impulse control, and exacerbated by the lack of appropriate intervention and supervision.”

Psychologists further determined Seth’s IQ puts him at the bottom 1 percent of individuals in his age group.

According to the complaint, Harvey witnessed evidence of this first-hand.

Seth’s attorneys say that during hearing before the magistrate, their client was engrossed in coloring books, sticker books, word searches and dot-to-dot activities, and covered his ears when he heard testimony that he didn’t like.

They say the judge stated that “having him stand trial would be a kin to putting a seven year old in the court room and expecting them to understand the language, ideas and theories likely to be discussed.”

Judge Harvey determined Seth lacks any understanding of how to contribute to his own defense.

But the District of Columbia’s Department of Disability Services refused to petition for civil commitment. As a result, he has held in North Carolina ever since his arrest, occasionally being transferred to other facilities for evaluation.

Salzman says as a result, his client has endured damage to his mental and physical health during his incarceration and that the District of Columbia’s inaction has violated Seth’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Seth’s team of attorneys, which include lawyers with Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore, Maryland, the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University in Washington, and the Arc of the United States in Washington, seek declaratory and injunctive relief.

A representative of the District of Columbia’s Department of Disability Services did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

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