Montgomery Again Found Competent To Stand Trial

June trial date for suspect in stabbing death of Deoni Jones, a transgender woman, stands despite defense objections

The Northeast D.C. man accused of killing transgender woman Deoni Jones last year by stabbing her in the face as she waited at a Northeast bus stop has been ruled competent to stand trial for the second time in a year, based on findings of a mental observation report by staff at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, despite objections from the suspect’s defense team.

Gary Niles Montgomery, 56, faces a charge of first-degree murder while armed for Jones’s murder on the evening of Feb. 2, 2012. Montgomery was previously found competent to stand trial in March 2012, but that trial was delayed by the government’s failure to obtain an indictment until November 2012. In addition, Montgomery had switched defense lawyers in mid-2012, adding further delay prior to his indictment.

Following the indictment, Montgomery was scheduled to go to trial June 10, 2013. In January, however, his defense attorneys raised questions about whether he was competent to stand trial. Based on the report of a court psychiatrist, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin then ordered Montgomery to undergo follow-up mental evaluations and scheduled an April 5 mental-observation hearing to review that assessment.

It was those delays in prosecuting Montgomery, as well as the failure of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia to pursue bias enhancement charges against him, that led Jones’s parents, Alvin Bethea and Judean Jones, to announce at a vigil marking the one-year anniversary of Jones’s death that they were going to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for being ”derelict” in prosecuting the homicide ”to the fullest extent” of the law.

At the April 5 mental-observation hearing, Morin reviewed the report from St. Elizabeth’s and the D.C. Department of Mental Health and found Montgomery competent to stand trial, over the objections of Montgomery’s lawyers, Anthony Matthews and Colle Latin.

According to the report, Montgomery was found to comprehend various details about the charges against him, the degree of severity of the charges, the possible sentence he could face if found guilty, among other points, and even demonstrated an ability to modify his legal strategy and plea option when faced with some hypothetical scenarios that could arise during trial.

”Mr. Montgomery was able to cooperate with this evaluation without difficulty and would likely be able to behave appropriately in the courtroom,” the report details. ”He did not demonstrate any signs of mental illness during this evaluation such as being distracted by hallucinations or responding to internal stimuli. … Mr. Montgomery demonstrated an adequate factual and rational understanding of the proceedings against him, and has exhibited a sufficient present ability to assist his attorney in crafting a defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding. It is therefore opined that Mr. Montgomery is competent to stand trial.”

According to the report, Montgomery has been diagnosed with ”Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” and ”Hallucinogen Abuse,” but also noted he is being prescribed psychiatric medication to treat his symptoms. The authors of the report, Patrick Canavan, the chief executive officer of St. Elizabeth’s, and KyleeAnn Stevens, the director of forensic services at St. Elizabeth’s, recommended Montgomery continue to take his medication, but ruled that it was not necessary for him to remain at St. Elizabeth’s and asked the court to make arrangements for Montgomery to be taken into custody. He is currently being held without bond in the D.C. Jail.

Montgomery is scheduled to appear for a pre-trial status hearing on May 9. His trial date of June 10 remains in effect.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com