Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa father found competent for trial in Cuba kidnapping case

TAMPA — Joshua Hakken, the Tampa engineer who, along with his wife, is accused of kidnapping their children and fleeing to Cuba, is competent to stand trial, defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed on Thursday.

That conclusion comes after more than a year of debate about Hakken's mental state. Arrested in April 2013, Hakken told his attorneys that after a court terminated his and his wife's parental rights, he decided that the U.S. government had put their two young sons in danger. Operating on antigovernment paranoia, the couple took their 2- and 4-year-old boys and the family dog on a voyage of more than 300 miles to Cuba to seek asylum.

"We were subjected to multiple attacks from our own government," the Hakkens wrote in a letter to the Cuban government. "These attacks included surveillance by the National Security Agency, hacking of our personal computers, microwave radiation weapons attacks, drugging of our food, false imprisonments and the kidnapping of our two small children."

Caught not far from Havana, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken were flown back to the United States and charged with kidnapping and other offenses. At the time, two of the three doctors who examined Josh Hakken pronounced him mentally competent to stand trial, meaning he was able to understand court proceedings. One doctor disagreed.

The case plodded along until January, when it became evident that a majority of doctors had found Hakken competent. But most of the doctors also believed that he was insane when he kidnapped his children, making it likely that he would be treated in a mental hospital rather than standing trial. Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Chet Tharpe said he planned to order Hakken into treatment within weeks.

The finding put Sharyn Hakken's future in question, as her attorney awaited word of whether the state would agree to a plea deal or proceed to trial.

But prosecutors surprised defense attorneys and the judge by announcing at a March hearing that they would take both Hakkens to trial.

Citing new information, Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters said then that Joshua Hakken was faking insanity to avoid prison time and that the State Attorney's Office would not agree to an insanity determination.

To date, the State Attorney's Office has not disclosed any evidence suggesting that he was acting. The cache of documents they have released includes evidence that Joshua Hakken believed he was being persecuted for uncovering a secret U.S. government plot to poison Americans with chemicals dropped from airplanes.

In June, Tharpe postponed the couple's trial until Oct. 6 and ordered another psychiatric evaluation of Joshua Hakken by the same doctor who found him incompetent to stand trial a year ago.

"Competency is something that changes over time," Justin Jacobson, an attorney for Joshua Hakken, said Thursday. "The question the judge had is whether it's possible he was incompetent back then and he's competent now."

The answer appears to be yes. All three doctors who examined Joshua Hakken now agree that he is mentally competent for trial, a finding that his attorneys are not challenging. They can still mount an insanity defense at trial, arguing that Hakken could not distinguish right from wrong at the time of the kidnapping.

The case of Sharyn Hakken, who was allegedly abused by her husband and says she was an unwilling participant in the kidnapping plot, will also go to trial. The couple are being tried together.

Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354. Follow her @annamphillips.

Comments
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 2 hours ago

nationResearchers work to avoid another 1918 super-flu The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after on...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

LOS ANGELES — The Western-inspired revenge tale Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri swept the female-focused and led Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday with wins for best ensemble, best actress for Frances McDormand and best supporting actor for...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Shutdown opens week

Shutdown opens week

Associated PressWASHINGTON — The government shutdown will extend into the workweek as the Senate appeared to inch closer to ending a partisan stalemate late Sunday but fell short of agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was released late Friday by the Florida Department of Correctio...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Oxfam highlights sharp inequality as Davos elite gather

DAVOS, Switzerland — A CEO from one of the world’s top five global fashion brands has to work for just four days to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh will earn in an entire lifetime, campaigning group Oxfam International said Monday. In advanc...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Amazon opens cashier-less store in Seattle

SEATTLE — Amazon employees have been testing it, but is the public ready for a cashier-less store? More than a year after it introduced the concept, Amazon is opening its artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store today in downtown Seattle. The ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on

At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on "what we can do"

ST. PETERSBURGNear Mirror Lake, as protesters posed for pictures, hung signs on their dogs and distributed chant scripts just after noon Sunday, Linda Pair and her friend Beth Gavin arrived to march.Asked why she came out, Pair, 72, of Largo put it b...
Updated: 5 hours ago
USF women blow late lead, lose at Wichita State

USF women blow late lead, lose at Wichita State

WICHITA — USF led by eight points in the fourth quarter but went cold, and Wichita State pulled off the upset 64-56 Sunday afternoon in a potentially costly loss for the Bulls.USF (15-5, 5-2 American Athletic Conference) missed 14 of its last 15 fiel...
Updated: 6 hours ago