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Mental exam ordered for spy suspect


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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2009

A federal judge has ordered a mental fitness exam for a Maui man accused of selling secrets about the B-2 stealth bomber to China.

Noshir Gowadia, 65, was supposed to stand trial next month on charges of helping the Chinese government design a cruise missile that can evade infrared detection, trying to sell military secrets to other countries, making false statements and money laundering.

Even if government experts determine Gowadia is mentally competent, the trial will be delayed four to five months, said Ken Sorenson, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case. He said that puts the government at a disadvantage.

“;The delay doesn't help us,”; he said.

Sorenson told U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor military officials he had lined up as witnesses may be on overseas deployment when the trial is rescheduled and replacement witnesses will require security clearances.

Sorenson had asked Gillmor to appoint an expert in Hawaii to examine Gowadia. But he and Gowadia's lawyers could not agree on an expert.

According to an April 1 report by Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist Gowadia's lawyers hired to examine their client, Gowadia is not competent to stand trial because he suffers from a mental disease or defect. However, Stewart said he is not able to identify the problem.

Stewart examined Gowadia March 29 and 30, according to his report. He said any number of medical factors could be affecting Gowadia's inability to rationally understand the proceedings against him, including a blood enzyme deficiency Gowadia says he suffers from.

Sorenson said Gowadia has reported to prison officials that he suffers from the condition. But he said prison officials have not confirmed it. He said prison medical officials on the mainland should be able to test Gowadia and determine whether it can affect his mental competency.

The defense lawyers said they hired Stewart because of growing concerns of Gowadia's ability to assist them in his legal defense.

Gowadia worked as an engineer for Northrop Corp. when he worked on developing the stealth bomber. He was living on Maui when arrested in 2005.