Judge says Richard Falcone can't defend himself in court

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008

Richard Falcone was stripped of his constitutional right to represent himself in Superior Court against allegations he was drunk in a bar, after a Juneau judge ruled he was not fit to act as defense at trial next week.

Over Falcone's objection, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg on Tuesday ruled that the Florida state resident was not capable of representing himself in a case that includes charges of resisting arrest and criminal mischief.

"I'm trying to do the best I can to get you a fair trial," Pallenberg said.

"I do not waive my right to self-representation," Falcone said. "If I represent myself the truth will come out."

Previously, a court-ordered state psychiatric examination determined that Falcone was indeed competent to defend himself in accordance with rights afforded to Americans.

Falcone said he suffers no mental illness, but does suffer from insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from a fishing boat accident off the coast of Rhode Island.

Falcone said he did nothing other than get drunk and enjoy the heat of a local bar after three days in his unheated apartment. The charges of criminal mischief and resisting arrested are cooked, he said.

Falcone originally faced misdemeanor charges, but now faces a felony for damaging property valued at more than $500. He said the state increased the charges after he refused a plea bargain with the state.

"The prosecutor encouraged police to bring as many charges as they can," Falcone said. "The prosecutor encouraged them to lie in front of the grand jury."

District Attorney Doug Gardner said he could not comment on the case.

The Juneau office of the Alaska Public Defender Agency fully supports Falcone's right to defend himself and refuse the help of a state-appointed lawyer.

"We totally support his right," said David Seid, public defender.

Seid filed a brief supporting the defender's office motion to withdraw as counsel and said the state often grants more protection to individual rights than its federal counterpart.

The Juneau District Attorney's office opposes Falcone's self-defense for efficiency reasons. Assistant District Attorney David Brower said that Falcone couldn't defend himself in a "coherent and rational manor."

In his opposition motion, Brower wrote that Falcone's demonstrated grasp of criminal law "is less than minimal."

Brower based his opposition on Falcone's constant references to commercial codes, "numerous filings," and "frequent outbursts" threatening to sue various judges.

Falcone has filed complaints against at least two judges and his own public defender. He denies the court's jurisdiction, saying he stands on "common law."

"The defendant in this case would waste the court's time and the state's time and most likely, ultimately, the jury's time," Brower said.

Seid, however, saw it differently.

"The issue of judicial economy and convenience of the court should not override an individual's constitutional right," Seid said. "For better or for worse, Mr. Falcone has the right to represent himself and should be allowed to exercise that right."

• Contact reporter Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or e-mail greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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