Stipe Won't Have To Go Immediately To Federal Medical Unit

Thursday, September 6th 2007, 9:07 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that former state Sen. Gene Stipe does not have to immediately report to a federal prison medical center for a mental competency evaluation.

The Denver-based court granted Stipe's request to stay a ruling from a district judge who delayed Stipe's parole revocation hearing and ordered that the longtime legislator's mental state be evaluated.

Judge Ronald White ordered Stipe to surrender Thursday at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.

Defense attorney Clark Brewster said that if a competency hearing is needed, it could be done locally and that the requirement that Stipe be held at the prison medical facility in Missouri could endanger Stipe's health. Stipe, 80, has a series of medical problems.

The appeals court stay will remain in effect until prosecutors file a response to defense concerns about the out-of-state competency evaluation and the court can further consider the issue.

``There is no belief among defense counsel that he's incompetent to go forward, but if the court is intent on ordering that, we can do it locally and it is done routinely in this area,'' Brewster said. ``There is no reason for him to be committed to a government prison for a competency evaluation.

``That is the worst possible place under these circumstances to take an 80-year-old man with serious medical conditions.''

Stipe's attorneys asked the federal appeals court to intervene after White denied a request Wednesday that he set aside the ordered competency exam or allow it to be done closer to Stipe's doctors.

``It's very encouraging to see the 10th grab hold of this and rule so fast,'' Brewster said. ``We are very pleased.''

Stipe is undergoing treatment for a variety of ailments, including prostate cancer, his attorneys said.

White said the Springfield prison is staffed by 20 physicians, nine to 11 physician's assistants and more than 100 nurses. Stipe was to be there a month or less.

``The court is not persuaded that brief detention contemplated will result in the parade of horribles'' cited by the defense, White wrote.

U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said he wasn't surprised Stipe was appealing the order ``though we believe the court's underlying (order) to be very well-reasoned.''

Stipe, who served more than 50 years in the Oklahoma Legislature, is accused of violating the terms of his probation by associating with convicted felon Steve Covington, a longtime friend.

Prosecutors also allege Stipe took part in an illegal fundraising scheme similar to the one that led to the ex-senator getting a five-year suspended sentence in 2004.

Stipe, a McAlester resident, was given five years of probation and a $735,000 fine after he admitted to illegally funneling $245,000 into a congressional campaign.

With two years left on his probation, he is accused of again using the names of fake donors to exceed campaign funding limits by putting more than $34,000 into the campaign of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla. Boren said he knew nothing about the illegal contributions and has given the money to charity.

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