Judge orders competency evaluation in Handy case

SUBLETTE COUNTY – A Pinedale man was ordered to undergo a second mental competency evaluation to see if he can participate in his own defense after he either refused to answer the judge’s questions or “spoke in a language other than English” at his Nov. 18 hearing in 9th District Court.

John E. Handy appeared before Judge Marv Tyler on Nov. 18 via videoconference after violating his probation by being arrested Oct. 12 for misdemeanor meth possession after reporting people were trying to kill him.

When Judge Tyler asked Handy if he was under any influences or had any ailment “that might prevent you from understanding what’s taking place in court this morning,” Handy answered his questions in a different language, according to the transcript.

“Do you understand my questions, Mr. Handy?” The judge asked. “Do you understand the English language in its written and spoken form? I can’t ascertain whether Mr. Handy is competent to proceed.”

Judge Tyler told public defender Rachel Weksler that he had informed Handy of his right to hire an attorney, represent himself or have counsel appointed but Handy did not indicate his preference or file a financial affidavit for a public defender. “... So I assume he’s intending to represent himself even though he has not demonstrated that he’s competent to proceed.”

Weksler said she would just listen in.

Judge Tyler suspended the petition revocation hearing and again ordered an evaluation. He remanded the previously enhanced possession felony charge to Circuit Court as a misdemeanor.

Handy was remanded into custody until he is considered competent to proceed or not.

On Dec. 3, he sent a handwritten letter not in English to Judge Tyler and on Dec. 15, he wrote another in English, this time asking for “the paperwork to denounce formally the termination of my citizenship and the cost to file said paperwork and also the paperwork to change my name and the cost of that to (sic).”

On July 15, Judge Tyler sentenced Handy to a split sentence of 30 days in jail and three years unsupervised probation after a plea agreement on felony drug charges. He was arrested again Oct. 12 while on unsupervised probation. Handy had called the sheriff’s office that afternoon to report he was hiding in his truck at Mill Street because 100 shooters were waiting to “sniper” him, according to court records.

When Handy was taken into custody, deputies found an uncapped, used syringe that tested presumptive positive for meth; he was charged on Oct. 28 with misdemeanor meth possession. Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson filed the charge and requested an arraignment in Circuit Court. Judge Curt Haws set bond at $20,000 cash only.

On Oct. 13, Crosson also filed a petition to revoke Handy’s unsupervised probation. That led to the Nov. 18 hearing before Judge Tyler that ended with his request for Handy’s competency evaluation.

Handy’s original charges went back to January 2020 for two felonies of delivering a controlled substance, THC wax oil dabs, one of felony conspiracy and one misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

When Handy appeared in Circuit Court on Feb. 5, Judge Curt Haws asked him if he could understand the government’s charges against him. Handy said he lives under “God’s precepts, ordinances and statutes,” not the government’s. Judge Haws requested an evaluation and Handy’s case was bound over to 9th District Court.

There, his public defender Rachel Weksler worked unsuccessfully to get digital transcripts printed out at the county’s cost so he could participate in his own defense. His March 8 trial was rescheduled for July 19 and vacated after the plea agreement was reached.

Handy pleaded no contest in 9th District Court to the delivery felony and possession misdemeanor. Other charges were dismissed and Judge Tyler sentenced Handy to five to seven years in prison – suspended for a 30-day jail sentence and three years unsupervised probation.

Under state law, Handy cannot participate in a court hearing unless he is deemed competent. Whether or not that will happen is unforeseeable. As Handy told Judge Tyler at an earlier hearing, he has no place to go so staying in jail is “fine” with him, but in this part of the judicial process, that is not a realistic solution.