Muslim lawmaker faces attack suspect in court; mental evaluation ordered
A Muslim state lawmaker, attacked outside a prayer service, faced the suspect in court for the first time on Thursday.
A judge ordered Andrey Desmond, 30, to undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
"A PAINFUL PROCESS"
Desmond is accused of attacking state Rep. Maryam Khan (D-Windsor) outside an Eid al-Adha prayer service at Hartford's XL Center in June. The next month, prosecutors upgraded Desmond's charges to six felonies including attempted sexual assault and strangulation.
"It's a painful process," Khan told reporters outside Hartford Superior Court. "It's been a painful and traumatic process for my family and I."
According to a police report, Desmond walked up to Khan and made sexual advances toward her – as well as her teenage daughter. He then allegedly slapped the lawmaker and put her in a choke hold, before slamming her to the ground.
Several bystanders captured Desmond a few blocks away, Hartford Police said. One of them, Jason Spencer, is charged with assaulting Desmond.
Investigators do not believe Khan was targeted because of her religion, and prosecutors declined to file hate crime charges.
MENTAL HEALTH HISTORY
In court, Desmond appeared confused, even trying to read Judge David Gold a letter.
"Can I read something I wrote, your honor?" he asked.
Gold ordered a mental evaluation at Whiting Forensic Hospital.
"His lawyer believes he doesn't understand the proceedings – that he just doesn't have the awareness and capacity to understand that he's in a courtroom, that he understands he has a lawyer, that he understands what a judge is," said Aaron Romano, Khan's attorney. "So now he's going to a hospital for evaluation because there's a belief that he currently cannot stand trial."
Desmond has a long history of arrests, mental health issues and schizophrenia. According to the New York Times, he left a Bronx housing program one month before the incident. In the weeks that followed, the Times interviewed Desmond several times.
"I think people are raping me in my sleep and touching me with their brains," the newspaper reported Desmond saying in a phone call. "They think things are going to turn out well? If this country puts me out on the street?"
The newspaper reported that Desmond's mother raised alarm bells about his increasingly unstable behavior just two days before the alleged attack. But Lynsey Desmond claimed a nonprofit contractor in charge of monitoring her son ignored her calls.
"Somebody got my text messages," she told the newspaper. "But they did nothing to help him or to alert authorities – to move him off the streets before he hurt somebody else or himself."
Khan hopes to introduce legislation to improve Connecticut's safety net.
"Our mental health system in this country is very broken," she said. "It has encouraged me to really look at our system in Connecticut and to make sure that we're doing the best we can to support those that need it, so that others are not in danger."
Desmond will return to court Feb. 1, where Gold will determine whether he's competent to stand trial. If not, Desmond will remain in custody while doctors attempt to return him to competency.
If convicted of all charges, Desmond faces up to 56 years in prison. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, Desmond could still be committed to a psychiatric hospital for that period.