Thursday, October 11, 2012
NASHUA – A prosecutor called a psychologist to the witness stand, asked the court to accept him as an expert and then proceeded to attack his testimony in a hearing to determine the competency of a woman accused of stealing nearly $200,000 from her sick, elderly mother.
The procedure was unusual, as typically a prosecutor or defense attorney calls an expert witness to support his case. However, little has been usual in the criminal case of Amy Gleneck, a case that spans two coasts and involves what a judge described as an entanglement of different versions of events.
Her frail mother is in treatment in California, where she lives with relatives, complicating the case. Gleneck was never arrested but was indicted on theft charges. The state alleges she transferred a large sum of money from her mother’s account into her personal account and may have used it to pay off her home in Hollis.
Dennis Becotte, a psychologist based in Nashua, was the sole witness called Tuesday at the competency hearing in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Becotte, a forensics consultant with more than 26 years of experience, evaluated Gleneck on June 21 and found her to be incompetent to stand trial because of anxiety and mood disorders. Gleneck also likely is delusional, Becotte testified.
Although Gleneck is intelligent and understands legal principles in hypothetical cases, she can’t think rationally about the case involving herself, Becotte said.
Under cross-examination by Gleneck’s attorney, Adam Bernstein, Becotte testified that Gleneck shuts down when the word “guilty” is posed related to her case. She couldn’t understand legal proceedings when a defense attorney, who represented her earlier, filed unsuccessful motions to have the case dismissed, Becotte testified under questioning from Bernstein.
Gleneck becomes emotional and irrational when asked about her case, Becotte testified.
“Do you believe Ms. Gleneck could testify and take the stand on her own behalf, and be subjected to cross-examination?” Bernstein asked.
“No,” Becotte responded.
“She’s not a faker,” he said, when the prosecutor asked whether Gleneck might have lied or tried to manipulate him during the evaluation.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance called Becotte to the stand and immediately tried to attack the findings of his report from the evaluation.
LaFrance asked Becotte if Gleneck could have lied in her self-report about her medical history and whether she might have intentionally skipped her anxiety medicine before the evaluation to exaggerate her disorder. LaFrance also argued that Gleneck has manipulated the psychologist and the court.
The issue of competency never arose until Gleneck lost her motions to dismiss the case, LaFrance argued.
“There is a pattern of her manipulating the system,” LaFrance said. “How can she steal $200,000 through a fax machine and not be competent?” LaFrance said.
Gleneck is accused of obtaining power of attorney over her ailing mother and then using that power to steal from her.
LaFrance asked the court to commit Gleneck civilly and to have her re-evaluated after it’s certain she’s taken prescribed anxiety medication.
Bernstein called LaFrance’s suggestion “preposterous” that Gleneck somehow pulled off some “grand fraud” to dupe the court and a psychologist who has conducted thousands of such evaluations. To pull it off, Gleneck would have had to be “the most manipulative, sociopathic client on the face of the planet,” Bernstein said.
He also argued the court had no standing to civilly commit a defendant charged with a nonviolent crime and free on personal recognizance bail. Becotte testified that Gleneck poses no physical danger to herself or to others.
Judge Jacqueline Colburn said she would rule later on the question of Gleneck’s competency. Colburn has said several times that facts of the case are difficult to determine because the victim is ailing and in California, and because of differing accounts over whether Gleneck had legal access to the money or not.