FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait to check-in at the United Airlines ticket counter at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix April 8, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine if a man was mentally competent to face trial after prosecutors said he tried to open an emergency exit door on a recent Boston-bound United Airlines flight and then attacked a flight attendant.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein in Boston granted a request by prosecutors for Francisco Severo Torres, 33, to be committed to a facility for a psychiatric evaluation, saying there was reason to believe he was mentally incompetent.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elianna Nuzum said a review of Torres’ past involvement with police and the courts showed a history of “fantastical” statements and concerns about his mental health.
She cited a passenger’s video from the Sunday flight to Boston from Los Angeles showing Torres saying he was “waiting for them to point the gun at me so I can show everybody that I won’t die,” and saying, “They’re going to have to shoot me down today.”
Torres later told law enforcement he would not die if stabbed in the heart or shot in the chest and could come back to life, Nuzum said. He has also attacked a jail guard, she said.
Joshua Hanye, Nuzum’s court-appointed lawyer, said his client objected to any evaluation. As the hearing ended, Torres shouted as guards led him out of the courtroom: “My name is still Balthazar, renamed by God.”
In the Christian religion, Balthazar is the name of one of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus in the Bible.
According to prosecutors, about 45 minutes before the flight landed in Boston, the flight crew received an alarm in the cockpit that a door between the first class and coach sections had been disarmed.
After Torres was confronted about whether he tampered with it, he tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a broken metal spoon. Passengers then tackled him and the flight crew restrained him.
Torres was charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon and faces up to life in prison if convicted.