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Sterner is ruled competent for trial

TAMPA — The quadriplegic man dumped from his wheelchair at the Hillsborough County jail is mentally competent to face charges in a criminal case, a judge ruled at a Monday hearing.

Three doctors have examined Brian Sterner, 32, of Riverview and all found him competent, reports his attorney, Michael Maddux.

Sterner said he also had been examined for any physical injuries from the wheelchair incident.

"I've seen one medical doctor," he said. "It seems like my left shoulder might be shot."

The competency issue surfaced as part of the criminal traffic charges against Sterner that first led to his arrest.

He was originally represented by Largo attorney John Trevena, who raised concerns that Sterner was not mentally competent to face the charges.

As evidence, Trevena filed a time line compiled by Sterner's parents, which showed he had been hospitalized four times since September for mental health problems.

Trevena also shared his own observations. He said Sterner refused to be examined by any doctor in Florida because he felt all of them were incompetent. During a meeting with prosecutors, Sterner demanded cash and a helicopter ride to a treatment center.

Sterner declined to comment on the specific allegations Monday, other than to say that he wasn't the one who wrote the time line.

At Monday's hearing, Dr. Walter Afield told the judge he had examined Sterner and found him competent to proceed with the criminal case, but he added that Sterner may need further care.

Sterner was arrested Jan. 29, accused of fleeing and eluding police during a traffic stop, jail records show.

After his arrest, Sterner was brought into the Orient Road Jail's Central Booking area. A video shows Detention Deputy Charlette Marshall-Jones tipping Sterner out of his wheelchair onto the floor of the booking area.

The incident drew national attention and prompted a public apology from Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee. Marshall-Jones resigned. She was arrested on a charge of abuse of a disabled adult. No hearing has been set in her case, according to her attorney, Norman Cannella.

The release of the video sparked others to come forward, alleging abuse by jail employees. An independent commission was set up to review policies at the jail and to recommend improvements. The commission's next meeting is Friday.

The next hearing in Sterner's fleeing and eluding case is May 13.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or 813-226-3373.

Sterner is ruled competent for trial 03/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 3:14pm]
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