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Forced Meds Are OK to Prosecute Threat Charges

(CN) - The government can continue to forcibly drug the man it says threatened to kill federal employees over a delusional asbestos cover-up, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.

Charles Lee Gillenwater II was charged in 2011 with sending threatening emails to employees of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the emails, Gillenwater allegedly threatened violence against the federal employees for failing to properly investigate his claims that asbestos had been illegally removed from the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas.

Prosecutors said Gillenwater believes he and thousands of others were exposed to asbestos while renovating the hotel, and that federal employees joined a conspiracy to cover this up.

U.S. District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson ordered a competency evaluation in Spokane, Wash., after which a psychologist pegged Gillenwater with a "delusional disorder, persecutory type."

Gillenwater appealed two of Peterson's orders to the 9th Circuit. The judge had found Gillenwater incompetent to stand trial in January 2012 and ordered that Gillenwater be involuntarily medicated later that year with haloperidol decanoate.

The first order to reach the federal appeals court ended with a three-judge panel finding in June 2013 that Gillenwater should have been allowed to testify at his competency hearing regardless of several disruptive outbursts.

On remand, the next judge to preside over Gillenwater's competency hearing also deemed him incompetent to stand trial and said he should be involuntarily medicated.

Gillenwater appealed this medication order as well, and the 9th Circuit consolidated with his pending challenge.

Finding that the government has a sufficiently compelling interest in restoring Gillenwater to competency and prosecuting him, the panel affirmed the medication orders Friday.

"Gillenwater is accused of making lurid and distressing threats against a bevy of government officials and employees," retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the court. "He allegedly threatened to, among other things, choke, rape, and kill people who serve our country. The threats allegedly continued for over a year, escalating in volume and violence. And the district court found that Gillenwater 'evidenced a possible intent and ability to carry out th[e] threats.' In prosecuting him, the government is seeking 'to protect through application of the criminal law the basic human need for security.' Indeed, the government is seeking to protect the very integrity of our system of government."

Gillenwater's attorney, Frank Cikutovich of Stiley & Cikutovich in Spokane, said in an email that his client was exposed to asbestos and was a "whistle-blower."

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