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Alleged scientist spy fit to stand trial


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Maui man accused of selling military secrets to China has been found competent to stand trial.

Noshir Gowadia is accused of providing data on making cruise missiles and other aircraft less visible to radar or heat-seeking devices.

His personality might make him a difficult defendant, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin S.C. Chang said in a ruling issued late Friday, several hours after Gowadia's competency hearing ended. But the defendant's unwillingness to thoroughly consult with his lawyers does not mean an inability to do so, Chang said.

Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway can accept or reject Chang's recommendation.

There was no immediate comment from Gowadia's lawyer, Birney Bervar, on whether he intends to challenge Chang's decision.

Gowadia has pleaded not guilty to charges that he communicated national defense information to a foreign government and to unauthorized persons; conspiracy; exporting controlled military information without a license; filing a false tax return; and other counts.

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The prosecution and the defense portrayed Gowadia as a brilliant if conceited scientist who has contributed to many military projects while working for defense contractor Northrop Corp., now Northrop Grumman Corp. Some of the projects were widely known, such as the B-2 stealth bomber. Others remain classified.

Both sides agreed that Gowadia is aware of his legal circumstances — one of two requirements to be found competent. They diverged on whether he can adequately assist in his own defense, the other requirement.

Expert witnesses for both sides examined Gowadia earlier this year. One defense and one prosecution witness testified that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. A second defense witness said his limited testing led him to believe Gowadia probably has the condition.

But in his ruling, Chang questioned the testimony of the two defense witnesses — Richard Rogers, a forensic psychology professor at the University of North Texas, and Pablo Stewart, a psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Francisco — calling them not credible.

“;The court questions the believability of Dr. Rogers, and gives little or no weight to his conclusions and opinions that defendant has a severe impairment in his capacity to consult with counsel,”; the magistrate judge wrote.

The prosecution's expert, federal Bureau of Prisons forensic psychologist Lisa Hope, was more persuasive in part because she relied on more information than did the defense experts, Chang said.

Chang concluded Gowadia is a “;high-functioning, very intelligent individual”; who does not suffer from a mental defect or disease.

Gowadia has demonstrated he is able to work with Bervar and his other lawyers, such as during a separate civil procedure that resulted in the sale of his Maui home, Chang said.

The defendant is frustrated by his relationship with his attorneys “;due to his belief that he possesses superior knowledge compared to his counsel,”; Chang acknowledged.

But that challenging relationship cannot and does not provide the basis to find the defendant incompetent, Chang added.

Gowadia has been in custody since his 2005 arrest.