Published On: Thu, Aug 13th, 2020

Michigan man accused of threatening to ‘hunt down’ Trump whistleblower’s lawyer ruled fit for trial

BAY CITY, MI — A Gladwin County man accused of making death threats against the attorney for a whistleblower who sparked President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment has been found psychologically fit for his federal trial.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris on Aug. 3 signed an order finding Brittan J. Atkinson, 52, competent to participate in court proceedings against him. She based her findings on a psychiatric examination results of a forensic psychologist.

Morris had previously ordered Atkinson undergo psychological evaluation after he had been indicted on Feb. 12 on a charge of making interstate communications threats. The charge is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Dr. Dawn Graney submitted her evaluation of Atkinson to the court on July 14, with Morris presiding over a competency hearing on July 31. At the hearing, Atkinson did not contest his own competency at the hearing.

“Mr. Atkinson demonstrated a good rational and factual understanding of courtroom personnel, court proceedings, the charges against him, and possible penalties,” Graney summarized in her report, which is itself cited in Morris’ order.

Graney wrote that Atkinson has a history of angry outbursts and impulsive acting-out behavior, which are often fleeting. Atkinson also described improvements in physical pain and clearer thinking over the course of his detainment, Graney wrote.

These improvements resulted from changes to Atkinson’s daily routine, such as “not consuming substances that may have exacerbated some of his physical and mental issues, sleeping better, etc.,” Graney wrote. Atkinson also complied with psychiatric medication treatment throughout the evaluation period.

Prosecutors have alleged that Atkinson on Nov. 7 sent a threatening email to attorney Mark S. Zaid, who represented the intelligence official who blew the whistle on Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine to investigate former vice president and current rival Joe Biden.

The House of Representatives subsequently approved articles of impeachment but Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate.

In the email, Atkinson threatened to “”hunt down and bleed out” the attorney, prosecutors contend.

During a Feb. 24 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet L. Parker asked Morris to have Atkinson detained pending trial, arguing he’s a risk to the public and could fail to appear for future proceedings.

Atkinson has convictions of domestic violence, assault and battery, attempted assaulting, resisting, or obstructing police, and malicious destruction of property, though none of these are felonies.

Defense attorney Stevens J. Jacobs has said when law enforcement searched Atkinson’s home, they found no weapons aside from a bow and a half-assembled musket.

Atkinson remains in custody pending trial, the date of which is pending.

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