Mental examiners: Accused bank robber malingering

  • ANTHONY GOVER

For the 17th time, a man accused of robbing the Pahoa branch of First Hawaiian Bank at knifepoint on May 17, 2017, has refused to leave his jail cell to appear in court, records indicate.

On Thursday, three mental health examiners told Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura that Anthony Louis Gover has also refused to participate in a court-ordered mental exam. The examiners, psychiatrists Drs. Andrew Bisset and Henry Yang, and psychologist Dr. Frederic Manke, opined that Gover is malingering — which in this case means feigning or exaggerating mental illness — and his refusals to participate in court or to cooperate with their interviews are willful.

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All three testified, in Gover’s absence, that the 59-year-old Gover, who is charged with two counts of first-degree robbery, is fit to proceed for trial.

“I first attempted to interview the defendant in June of 2017 when the case was filed in District Court. At that time, he refused to participate. And again, on … Sept. 13 of 2018, I attempted to interview him and again he refused to participate, this time even refusing to come to the interview room,” Bisset testified. “… The notes in the (Hawaii Community Correctional Center) record noted his unwillingness to engage with mental health staff, at all.”

Bisset said in the absence of an interview with Gover, he went through the records of a mental evaluation conducted in Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, Oahu, which led to Gover being found fit to proceed by Hilo District Judge Peter Bresciani on Aug. 9, 2017.

Bisset added he also relied on notes taken by Dr. Sarah Feenstra at HCCC.

“Dr. Feenstra had written a note in April 2018 which indicated her concerns about malingering, and other notes indicated there was no evidence of psychosis or thought disorder.”

Under cross examination by court-appointed defense attorney Stanton Oshiro, Bisset acknowledged that in his first report, in June 2017, he had concluded Gover was impaired and not fit to proceed. Gover was ruled unfit by Hilo District Judge Diana Van De Car on June 27, 2017, which resulted in Gover being committed to the state mental hospital.

Bisset said that in June 2017, Gover didn’t allow him to finish his explanation of what the interview was about. He said Gover “interrupted me … and made statements that I considered to be evidence of psychosis. … And he left.”

Under direct examination by Deputy Prosecutor Suzanna Tiapula, Yang, who also originally found Gover unfit, presented similar testimony to the judge.

He said Gover, on June 12, 2017, “claimed that he was completely disoriented in regards to where he was” and “spontaneously told me ‘Who am I? Who are you? Where am I?’”

“As I attempted to explain the purpose of the examination and the court procedures, he, you know, decided that he did not want to participate and left the room,” Yang stated.

Yang said Gover “gave medical background to the nurses on his admission to HCCC and reported that he had a history of hypertension, hepatitis, HIV (and) heart disease … but he did not want to take any of the medications that were provided to him. He didn’t state any specific reasons.”

According to Yang, records from Gover’s four-month stay at the state hospital “indicated throughout this course of time … there was no evidence of psychotic or disorganized behavior.”

He said Gover continued to refuse medications but would sometimes take his cardiac medication “if he was given double portions of food.”

Hawaii State Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Anne Virnig “at the end of the four months of observation without any anti-psychotic medications diagnosed him with malingering and an antisocial personality disorder,” Yang said.

Oshiro asked if Gover’s unwillingness to cooperate with his own defense attorney could be “indicia of some sort of paranoia.”

“It’s a point to take into consideration,” Yang replied.

Manke, a Department of Health psychologist and the state’s designated examiner, said that in June 2017, he met with Gover at HCCC and “got his presentation where he said ‘Who am I and where am I and who are you?’”

“And then he got up of his own volition and exited the interview.”

According to Manke, he had previously interviewed Gover in January 2017 while Gover was facing an unrelated misdemeanor harassment charge and was free on his own recognizance, and he based much of his June 2017 report on the January interview.

“Although I considered him fit to proceed, he was found unfit and committed to state hospital,” Manke said of his June 2017 report. Manke added he later tried to interview Gover at HSH.

“When I introduced myself to him and told him why I was there, that’s when he sort of addressed me with a vulgarity and told me I could write what I wanted,” he said.

According to Manke, Esther Hsu, a nurse manager at the hospital told him about an interaction she’d had with Gover.

“I believe it had to do with a check that she had received that was addressed to Mr. Gover,” Manke recalled. “And in order for it to be deposited into his Hawaii State Hospital patient account, he had to endorse it. And I believe, as I wrote in my report, initially when she approached him on the matter, he claimed not to know who he was.

“And then, when she told him in order to get access to the money, he needed to be able to sign it — and she did not give him any cues like addressing him by his name — he then signed his name to it, and the check was subsequently deposited, and he subsequently inquired about access to his money.”

The judge, according to records, has discussed “using reasonable force and restraints” to bring Gover to court on at least two occasions.

On April 16, 2018, Nakamura informed the lawyers he would go forward with trial despite Gover’s absence, records state. Neither of those options have been exercised.

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And on June 6, 2018, Gover’s former attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeffrey Ng, stated in open court that Gover told him “the only way he would appear in court was in a body bag,” according to records.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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