A 31-year-old Batavia resident with multiple prior arrests will be evaluated for his mental capability to understand the charges against him before he's allowed to plead guilty to felonies stemming from an incident in October.
Interim Genesee County Court Judge Micheal Pietruszka wasn't satisfied with the explanation of attorney Lisa Kroemer, of the Public Defender's office, that Matthew D. Derrick could competently understand the legal proceedings today, even though Kroemer needed to rephrase what Pietruszka was telling the defendant.
The problem started as soon as Pietruszka asked Derrick if he was ready to plead guilty to the document in front of him, called a Superior Court Information (or SCI).
Kroemer turned to Derrick, pointed to the document and told Derrick, "this is what we discussed earlier."
Pietruszka stopped the proceedings immediately and wanted to know what was going on.
Kroemer tried to explain how she was helping her client and Pietruszka wondered why there was a problem. Kroemer tried to explain there was a language barrier and Pietruszka wanted to know if Derrick spoke English. He does, and Kroemer tried to explain that he needed help understanding what he was being told, so Pietruszka wondered if a there should be a forensic evaluation.
When it looked like Pietruszka wasn't going to continue with the proceeding, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman asked if the attorneys could approach the bench.
The attorneys and judge then held a conversation audible in the courtroom about Derrick's ability to understand the legal process.
Kroemer told Pietruszka that her client couldn't process the judge's spoken words quickly and that he needed to be shown the documents in front of him to make the connection between what Pietruszka was asking and what she had explained to him just an hour before his appearance in court.
She tried to explain that Derrick did understand the legal system and could process the information, he just needed help with the language of the system.
"You're the judge and if you don't feel comfortable with that, well, we've got to find a different way," Kroemer said.
"The questions are as simple as I can get them," Pietruszka said.
The Batavian reported on arrests of Derrick in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Kroemer told Pietruszka she has represented him previously and that he could understand what was going on in court.
She told Pietruszka, "he understands the legal process," and Pietruszka replied, "I'm not seeing that."
The attorneys returned to their tables and Pietruszka again asked Derrick if he understood the SCI (a SCI is much like a grand jury indictment, but is used when a defendant has waived a grand jury hearing and agreed to plead guilty as part of a plea agreement).
Derrick nodded his head yes and Pietruszka told him he needed to provide an audible answer. Derrick didn't move.
Kroemer asked him if he needed Pietruszka to repeat the question and Derrick said, "No, your honor."
At that point, Pietruszka ordered Derrick to undergo a forensic evaluation to determine his competency to understand the proceedings.
Derrick was arrested in October on charges of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree menacing,endangering the welfare of a child, and second-degree harassment.
On Oct. 8 at 10:30 a.m., Batavia Police responded to 335 Bank St. for the report of a male with a knife threatening to harm other people. Upon arrival, Derrick was taken into custody. Further investigation revealed that Derrick allegedly possessed a corkscrew and threatened a 14-year-old male with the corkscrew.