Powder-scare suspect deemed unfit for trial
PUNTA GORDA — Robert Theodore Chapman, the man arrested in connection with a fake biological-weapon scare in 2011, was found incompetent to stand trial by doctors in December and was committed to the custody of the Department of Children and Families for treatment at a state hospital, according to State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Samantha Syoen.
Syoen said Chapman could face a status hearing in six months to determine again whether he’s fit for trial, but will remain in the custody of the state while they treat him for an unspecified mental illness. He is still in custody at the Charlotte County Jail while awaiting transfer to one of three state hospitals.
Chapman, 60, of Punta Gorda, and John Ridge Emery, 67, of Englewood, were arrested in April 2011 after Chapman allegedly urged Emery to hand a fake powdery substance to Charlotte County Judge Paul Alessandroni, causing the evacuation of the Charlotte County Justice Center for several hours.
Emery later would tell authorities that Chapman had instructed him to give the envelope to the judge, after it had been mailed to Chapman as part of a government conspiracy. Tests of the envelope showed the substance was not hazardous, but authorities never named the substance.
Emery and Chapman were roommates in Englewood at the time of the incident, although Chapman is listed as having a Punta Gorda address, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
Emery later would plead no contest to a charge of assault. He paid court fines and was released from the Charlotte County Jail after being credited for time served. Emery spent 293 days in jail, according to the CCSO.
Meanwhile, Chapman was charged with manufacturing a hoax weapon, and he began flooding the court with motions aimed at his release, also claiming that 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Steve Russell, along with much of the CCSO, were conspiring to keep him incarcerated.
Chapman was found competent to stand trial in March 2012, after 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Nicholas Thompson found testimony by two psychiatrists to be contradictory.
According to court documents dated Dec. 14, three psychiatrists later examined Chapman and found him “incapable of surviving alone,” and that it was likely Chapman would “inflict serious bodily harm on himself or another person.” The documents also state there is a “substantial probability” that Chapman suffers from a mental illness.
DCF Communications Director Joe Follick said Chapman’s length of stay, when he does arrive at a state hospital, will be determined by both state and outside psychiatrists, who will be treating him.
Follick said the DCF has no bearing on whether prosecutors will continue to pursue the criminal charge against Chapman, and it was unknown when he would be transferred from Charlotte to one of the state facilities.
“Our role is to get this person competent,” Follick added.
Chapman’s Fort Myers-based attorney, Thomas Busatta, did not return phone calls for comment.