June 21, 2018
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Fla. man who caused flight diversion found competent

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
Derek Stansberry. Image from facebook 4-28-2010.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge Wednesday found a Florida man, who was taken off a plane that was diverted to Bangor last month, competent to participate in his own defense. Derek Stansberry’s court-ordered conversations with psychologists, however, probably aren’t over.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk continued a bail hearing for Stansberry, 27, of Riverview, Fla., until Friday afternoon at the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Torresen. She attempted Wednesday to make a motion that Stansberry be held without bail and observed by doctors for 45 days at a medical facility run by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Kravchuk told Torresen it was too early in the process for her to consider it. The federal prosecutor most likely will renew that motion on Friday.

Also on Friday, an officer with U.S. Probation and Pre-trial Services will indicate that Stansberry can be released if certain conditions are met, Federal Public Defender Virginia Villa said after Wednesday’s proceeding.

Defendants without criminal records have been released on bail from federal court in Bangor into the custody of a third party and outfitted with electronic monitoring devices. Villa did not say what conditions the probation officer might recommend to Kravchuk.

The defense attorney also did not say which, if any, third-party custodian might be willing to take responsibility for Stansberry. His girlfriend, Jillian Krause, age and address unknown, attended Wednesday’s court hearing but declined to speak to reporters.

Torresen also refused to comment. It is the practice of the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to talk with reporters about cases until they have been resolved.

Prosecutors allege that on April 27 Stansberry passed a note to a member of the flight crew that said he had a fake passport. When questioned by federal air marshals, he told them he had dynamite in a laptop in his backpack, according to court documents. The Paris-to-Atlanta flight ended up landing at Bangor International Air-port.

Stansberry’s travel papers were in order, and there was no dynamite, according to court documents. He has been charged with false information and threats and interfering with a flight crew.

The former intelligence specialist who left the U.S. Air Force with an honorable discharge had been working for a defense contractor in Africa and was returning to his home in Riverview, Fla.

Stansberry first appeared in U.S. District Court in Bangor on April 28. At that hearing, public defender Villa asked that Stansberry undergo a psychological examination to determine his competence.

Bruce Kerr, a clinical psychologist based in Kennebunk, told the court Wednesday by conference call that he examined Stansberry on April 30 for about an hour. At that time, he concluded Stansberry was not competent.

Kerr said that Stansberry appeared to be delusional, suffering from psychosis and exhibiting symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, believing that jail staff had injected him with drugs.

The psychologist also said that to diagnose Stansberry with a mental illness or disorder, he would have to examine him again. Kerr agreed with Torresen that a diagnosis most likely could be determined if Stansberry spent 45 days under observation at a federal medical facility run by the Bureau of Prisons.

The psychologist, who met with the defendant only once, said Stansberry told him he was intent on making sure his defense attorney made no reference in court to the “classified information” that he possessed. He told Kerr that he wanted to prevent others from “connecting the dots.”

Since then, however, Stansberry’s mental state has turned around, Villa told the judge. Her client now is lucid and rational, willing to share information and able to assist in his defense, she said.

In court Wednesday, Stansberry appeared alert. He answered Judge Kravchuk’s questions with, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, ma’am,” and “Yes, your honor,” or “No, your honor.”

Stansberry told the judge that he understood the charges against him and was willing to cooperate with Villa in explaining his actions on the plane. He said he would be willing to allow his attorney to bring up his explanation of the alleged “classified information.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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