GONZALES — A state district judge found Monday that an Orlando, Florida, man is competent to stand trial in the January 2015 shooting injury of an Ascension Parish sheriff's deputy.
Judge Jessie LeBlanc of the 23rd Judicial District made the ruling after Chadwik Schwender, 30, agreed to accept the written findings of three mental health professionals that he understood the charges against him and could assist in his defense.
Prosecutors have accused Schwender, 3217 Sutton Drive, of shooting then-Deputy James Atkins II on Jan. 20, 2015, after the deputy pulled over a stolen car that Schwender and two others were riding in.
Atkins, who was shot in the hand and survived his wounds, suspected Schwender and the others of stealing bullets from the Walmart in Donaldsonville minutes earlier, sheriff's deputies have said.
At the time of the shooting, Schwender's two co-defendants were on the run from an attempted murder in Florida days earlier. They had picked up Schwender on their way to Louisiana, prosecutors have alleged.
Prosecutors charged Schwender and his co-defendants with attempted second-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated burglary, being convicted felons in possession of firearms and other counts. One of the co-defendants, Jennifer McGhee, 30, no address, agreed to testify against Schwender and another man as part of a guilty plea May 15 to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. She was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
Schwender had the option on Monday of requesting a hearing on the written findings of the three medical professionals but he agreed to have LeBlanc rule based solely on their reports to the court. After ruling, she filed the reports under seal.
LeBlanc had appointed the sanity commission in November at the request of Schwender's former public defender. That attorney brought up Schwender's history as a special education student with learning disabilities and also noted he has a substance abuse history and had no memory of the facts surrounding his arrest in Ascension.
While LeBlanc found Schwender competent to stand trial, she did not rule on whether Schwender was sane at the time of the shooting. LeBlanc said that while one medical professional found Schwender was at that time, a second gave no opinion and a third needed more information.
Schwender's current public defender, attorney Tiffany Myles Crosby, told LeBlanc her client may want to raise issues of intoxication but may do it as a defense at trial rather than as the basis of changing his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.
Leblanc set a hearing for July 25 when the third co-defendant, John McMullen, 37, is expected to argue on motions as well. He has pleaded not guilty the charges.