Man's overdose was attempt to delay court

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published October. 3, 2006, 8:38 a.m.)

Despite taking a potentially lethal dose of anti-depressant medication the day his trial started, Larry A. Piatek showed no signs that the proceedings should be delayed, Walworth County Judge Robert Kennedy ruled Thursday.

Piatek, who in 2004 was convicted of beating two police officers, stealing a squad car and fleeing police, filed a motion stating he received an unfair trial.

On April 19, 2004, Piatek, formerly of Janesville, took an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 milligrams of Trazodone he obtained from another inmate in the Walworth County Jail. He was hospitalized overnight, and the start of his trial was delayed one day. His stomach was pumped and he returned to court April 20.

Appellate attorney Margaret Maroney argued that Kennedy was biased because he did not delay the proceedings and hold a mental competency exam.

Dr. John Pankiewicz, forensic psychiatrist, testified at a hearing Thursday that Piatek's medically altered condition would have made him unfit to assist his lawyer so soon after overdosing on the medication.

Piatek likely would not have been fully alert, Pankiewicz said.

Sheriff's department Sgt. Tom Hausner testified that Piatek seemed OK.

"He was not as friendly that day until the end, but he was still alert and the Mr. Piatek as I knew him," Hausner said.

Kennedy saw the same.

"Nothing the court saw ... suggested the defendant was under the influence of Trazodone and prohibited him from participating in the trial," Kennedy said.

The judge felt the overdose was not a result of mental instability but another attempt to delay court proceedings. He referenced other instances where Piatek tried to stall, including his refusal to seek representation.

Maroney said Piatek will appeal Kennedy's ruling.

Piatek, 49, is serving a 26-year-prison sentence.

He filed several lawsuits against Walworth County alleging he received poor medical treatment in jail but has since withdrawn all the suits.






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