Judge doesn’t rule on Richard Leibman’s mental capacity

LIHUE — A Kauai judge reserved declaring Richard Leibman unfit for trial Tuesday, giving lawyers on Oahu time to resolve a case there.

“I will not be making a finding on the record,” said Judge Kathleen Watanabe. “I want to see how the hearing in the First Circuit pans out. We’re at a critical junction here, and I want to do what is right, and not rush into a decision.”

Watanabe presided over a hearing concerning the restoration of fitness and dangerousness of Richard Leibman. He is facing burglary, assault on an officer and escape charges after he escaped through an unlocked door at Hawaii State Hospital and was later captured after a brief foot chase in January 2016.

He is facing an escape charge on Oahu for that incident, and the judge in that case is expected to make a decision on his fitness today.

His attorney, Kai Lawrence, asked that Watanabe make a ruling as to his restorability on the Kauai case.

“I’d rather reach a resolution today,” he said. “We have our own set of panel.”

In February 2016, Leibman, also known as the “Jesus Bandit,” failed to appear at a status hearing, and a bench warrant for $10,000 was issued for his arrest. Police later found him in a parking lot in Poipu. As he ran, Leibman, 39, allegedly kicked officers and tried to scale a wall before he was arrested.

Leibman, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and a personality disorder, has been found unfit to proceed to trial at least twice, and has refused treatment. He has also refused to participate in court proceedings since October 2015.

On Tuesday, he was supposed to appear before Watanabe via a telephone conference from HSH, but he did not want to participate.

During the proceedings Lawrence asked to schedule a hearing to interview the three doctors who determined whether Leibman is fit to proceed with trial and if he’s a danger to the community.

The doctors — Leonard Jacobs, Reneau Kennedy and Dennis Donovan — do not agree whether or not Leibman is fit to proceed with trial. Jacobs and Kennedy say that he is not. Donovan, a state designate, says he is fit to proceed.

However, the doctors at the Hawaii State Hospital have determined that Leibman is fit to proceed.

And while Jacobs and Kennedy agree he will not be restored to mental capacity, they have a difference in opinion about whether Leibman is dangerous.

“With likelihood of regaining fitness, Dr. Kennedy said he is not likely to be restored or be dangerous to himself, others or property,” Lawrence said. “Jacobs said he’s not dangerous while in the hospital, but could be dangerous if he’s out.”

Lawrence said he stipulates to Kennedy and Jacobs’ findings that his client is not restoreable.

Leibman has a history of fleeing law enforcement.

In 2013, he was scheduled to fly to Texas with his mother on the condition that he seek outpatient mental health care when he left the airport. Leibman had been released from Kauai Community Correctional Center by a Fifth Circuit Court judge to continue treatment. No charges were filed against him.

In March 2014, Leibman was arrested on a Princeville golf course and charged with second-degree criminal trespassing and third-degree assault.

He will return to court on Oct. 16.


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