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Kevin White bribery case co-defendant faces competency exam

TAMPA — The co-defendant in the bribery trial of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White was taken into custody Friday for an examination to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial.

George Hondrellis, owner of Tampa City Towing, has been found incompetent by a local psychiatrist, according to a report to a federal judge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson said at a court hearing Hondrellis is a violent paranoid schizophrenic, explaining why he needed to be taken into custody.

The decision to give Hondrellis a 30-day evaluation means he cannot be tried with White as scheduled on Sept. 26. It is unclear whether the trial of both will be postponed. But U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill said he is prepared to move forward with trying White alone.

White's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., could not be reached.

Wilson refused to declare Hondrellis incompetent based only on a report by the local psychiatrist, as his lawyers had requested. Wilson recommended that Hondrellis be examined in a federal facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

Hondrellis' attorneys say in court filings that he "suffers from a significant mental disease or defect" that "has manifested itself in significant delusional thinking and thought process disorder which has been increasingly bizarre."

White has pleaded not guilty to 10 felony charges, including bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and lying to an FBI agent. Hondrellis, who also has pleaded not guilty, faces identical charges, except for lying to the FBI.

Prosecutors say White and his late father schemed to collect $8,000 in bribes and a 2003 Lincoln Navigator while White served as a county representative on the Public Transportation Commission before losing a re-election bid in November. The commission regulates tow truck drivers and cars for hire.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Kevin White bribery case co-defendant faces competency exam 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 11:29pm]
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