Judge weighs defendant’s competency to stand trial

A judge said Friday he will decide next week whether a man who was disruptive in court is competent to stand trial for a vicious attack on a woman in October.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes intends to mull the evidence presented in a 21/2-day hearing to determine whether Anthony Phillip Viscussi, 26, understands the legal proceeding and can assist his defense lawyer.

Downes plans to announce his ruling Wednesday.

If Viscussi is not competent, he would be sent to Western State Hospital to see if he can be helped.

Viscussi was disruptive during several brief appearances in court this week. Downes said he wanted to give the defendant every chance to remain in the courtroom while psychiatrists and psychologists testified about his mental condition.

The interruptions continued, and Viscussi was banished to a jail holding cell adjacent to the courtroom. From there he was able to watch the proceeding over a video channel. In the courtroom, he could still be faintly heard yelling from the holding cell .

The judge also ordered custodial staff to equip Viscussi with a mask to prevent the defendant from spitting.

Public defender Brice Howard argued that the evidence shows that Viscussi neither fully understands his jeopardy nor is able to help in his defense.

Deputy prosecutor Helene Blume argued that her witnesses said Viscussi understands the proceedings and can cooperate if faced with consequences.

For example, he once cooperated with custody officers when being threatened with pepper spray. That, Blume said, shows he can control his behavior if he wants to do so.

Blume wants him found competent so he can go to trial on second-degree assault charges for allegedly beating a woman with a metal bar. The unprovoked attack sent the woman to the hospital.

If convicted, Viscussi would go to prison for the rest of his life because he has previous convictions of violent offenses.

His father, Phil Viscussi, sat through the hearing and expressed sadness because people funneled into the courtroom “to see this crazy guy.”

He hopes the judge will send his son to Western to at least try to help him settle down “so they can talk to my son – not the man they saw in there.”

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or haley@heraldnet.com.

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