Stipe Heading To Missouri Prison Hospital

Friday, September 7th 2007, 2:35 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Arrangements are being made to transport former state Sen. Gene Stipe to a federal prison hospital in Missouri for a mental competency evaluation, now that he has lost a legal bid to avoid the trip, his attorney said Friday.

An appeals court on Thursday ordered Stipe to report to the hospital by noon Monday. Clark Brewster, Stipe's attorney, said the 250-mile trip from McAlester to Springfield, Mo., will be coordinated with the U.S. Probation Office.

He said he assumed Stipe would not be reporting until Monday. He said the ex-senator's poor health will require medical assistance for him to make the trip.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected a request from Stipe's attorney that it overturn an order from a district judge, who delayed Stipe's parole revocation hearing and ruled that the longtime legislator's mental state should be evaluated.

The Denver court stayed the judge's order Thursday, while it considered the matter, and then lifted the stay later in the day.

``The 10th Circuit granted a stay, reviewed the pleadings and found that the judge in the district court had the discretion to make this order,'' Brewster said.

Brewster had argued Stipe's health could suffer if he was forced to stay at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield for the mental competency evaluation. He said that if such an evaluation was necessary, it could be done locally.

The appeals court ruled that Stipe's attorney failed to show he would be harmed by a stay at the prison hospital.

The appeals court action followed an order by U.S. District Judge Ronald White last week that Stipe undergo mental competency testing.

White said Stipe appeared to be drugged or under hypnosis during an Aug. 28 hearing.

Stipe's attorneys argued that sending the ailing 80-year-old to a prison hospital would have ``catastrophic medical consequences.''

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said the appeals court ruling was proper.

``I think the 10th Circuit got it right, just as the district judge did,'' he said.

Stipe is on probation for felony convictions related to a campaign fraud scandal. Stipe pleaded guilty in 2003 to using ``straw donors'' to exceed contribution limits in the 1998 congressional campaign of Walt Roberts.

Federal prosecutors say Stipe's probation should be revoked on grounds he engaged in a similar ``straw donor'' campaign finance scandal shortly after his sentencing in 2004 and that he continued to associate with another convicted felon, Steve Covington, after they were ordered not to associate with each other.