Montwheeler competency hearing delayed

Anthony Montwheeler leaves Malheur County Circuit Court Friday morning after a judge ruled to push his competency hearing to Sept. 21. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – He came into the courtroom in a wheelchair and later accused the lawyers and the judge of being “shysters” but in the end Anthony Montwheeler’s long standing judicial case was delayed yet again Friday in Malheur County Circuit Court.

A hearing to determine whether Montwheeler is mentally fit to stand trial was postponed by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan. Ryan set aside the week of Sept. 17 for the competency hearing.

The hearing is crucial to determining what happens next in the prosecution of Montwheeler.

Montwheeler, 50, faces murder and kidnapping charges in the kidnapping and killing of an ex-wife, Annita Harmon, outside an Ontario gas station and the death of Vale resident, David Bates, in a head-on collision during a police pursuit in January 2017.

The competency hearing will focus on a report from the Oregon State Hospital regarding whether Montwheeler is fit to stand trial. The report, sealed by Ryan, reportedly concludes he is not able to help his attorneys or understanding court proceedings.

Ryan will have to determine whether to suspend the criminal case to Montwheeler can undergo treatment at the state hospital.

Montwheeler has yet to enter a plea to the charges.

Montwheeler’s attorney, David Falls of West Linn, requested the delay in the competency hearing. Falls said he hasn’t been able to “work closely” with Montwheeler since March because he was representing a client in another murder trial.

Recently Montwheeler sent several letters to the court implying that he wants to dismiss his defense team and Ryan asked him about that issue Friday morning.

After a long pause, where Ryan asked if Montwheeler could hear him, the former Nampa resident replied that “we wrote the letters, yes.”

Ryan then asked who “we” was.

“Yes, we wrote the letters. We told you what we wanted in the letters,” Montwheeler replied, who appeared in court instead of by video conference as has happened in earlier hearings.

Then he launched into a diatribe.

“You are all shysters. All you want is control,” Montwheeler said.

Then Montwheeler said, “You are not the mind police.”

“They know about the blocking and unblocking and the blocking. We know everything. The lies and the deceit, yeah we know,” Montwheeler said.

Ryan said Montwheeler’s comments were “repetitive and rambling” and didn’t provide a basis to dismiss Montwheeler’s counsel.

“I’m frustrated on behalf of the victims but I understand procedure when it has to happen,” David Goldthorpe, Malheur County district attorney said after the Friday morning hearing.