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Woman accused of Obama threat to be evaluated

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 13, 2012

Woman accused of Obama threat to be evaluated

By: Denise M. Champagne//March 13, 2012

A mental health evaluation will be scheduled for a Rochester woman accused of threatening to kill President Barack Obama after complaining about child custody laws.

Federal Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman ordered the evaluation Tuesday after making the motion himself in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, based on pre-trial records he had received on Christine Wright-Darrisaw, 36.

Wright-Darrisaw is accused of threatening to kill the president during a Feb. 24 telephone call to a White House comments line. According to the complaint, filed by a Secret Service special agent, an angry-sounding woman called and during the 150-second call, said “I am going to … and kill Obama.” The missing word is blacked out in the redacted copy of the complaint.

Subpoenaed phone records, according to the complaint, showed the number documented as the caller’s was registered to a Rochester man with the current occupant listed as “Christine Wright.”

Wright-Darrisaw, who has been in federal custody since her arrest late last week, was escorted into the courtroom for what was scheduled to be a detention hearing, but Judge Feldman said it was not going to happen.

Instead, he cited U.S. Code Title 18, Section 4241, which allows the court to make a motion regarding the determination of mental competency to stand trial or undergo post-release proceedings.

According to the section, any time after prosecution has begun, prior to sentencing, the defendant or the attorney for the government may file a motion for a hearing to determine the mental competency of the defendant.

“The court shall grant the motion, or shall order such a hearing on its own motion, if there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense,” the statute says.

Judge Feldman asked the respective attorneys if they objected. Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig R. Gestring and Assistant Federal Public Defender Robert G. Smith said they did not.

Judge Feldman said the evaluation would be ordered as soon as possible.

Wright-Darrisaw asked if she could be released, noting she had been in a cell for five days. Judge Feldman told her she would be moved to a federal medical hospital facility.

Wright-Darrisaw also asked for a new attorney, but Judge Feldman told her it would be better to wait until after the competency proceeding, although he would “be happy to consider” her request, but would not make a decision then.

On her way into the courtroom, Wright-Darrisaw, clad in red prison garb, waved to a woman seated in the public section who later identified herself as Bishop Minnie Pearl Wright, an aunt who had adopted Wright-Darrisaw.

“I feel she should have been released to the family,” Wright said. “She’s not really a bad person like she’s being portrayed to be.”

Wright was accompanied by Bishop Steven Pittman.

As part of their investigation, federal officers called the number that had been identified as that of the threatening caller and left a message to contact the Rochester Secret Service Office regarding a Feb. 24 phone call.

Wright-Darrisaw, according to the complaint, returned the call, allegedly telling an administrator she had just gotten out of court and that multiple people use her phone.

It is further alleged, she later admitted calling the White House to voice displeasure with child custody laws.

The White House operator said she recognized the caller’s voice “because she is always calling the White House with regard to child custody issues.”

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