Judge deems Cordell competent to stand trial
by Shaka S. Lias
May 31, 2011 | 4516 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Cartersville mayoral candidate Howard Gregory Cordell is competent to stand trial, according to findings presented in U.S. District Court in Rome on May 23.

Last December, Judge Charles Pannell Jr. delayed the start of Cordell's trial and ordered him to undergo a competency evaluation.

Cordell was transferred to a Chicago Bureau of Prisons facility for the competency evaluation on Dec. 17 and remained at the facility until February.

According to court documents, Dr. Ron Nieberding, a licensed clinical psychologist employed by the BOP, released a forensic report on Cordell, stating he does not suffer from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to an extent that he is unable to stand trial.

On May 2, Nieberding testified via video that he conducted multiple interviews with Cordell, lasting about four hours.

"Mr. Cordell understood what the possible outcomes of a trial would be -- either exoneration or incarceration, and he could engage in plea bargaining with the government instead of going to trial."

With regard to Cordell's ability to assist his attorneys, Nieberding testified Cordell asserted a three-fold expectation of his trial counsel: file motions, enter evidence he deemed important or appropriate, and not agree to anything without counsel.

Nieberding reported Cordell appeared to be straightforward and honest about working with trial counsel.

He also added that, compared with most defendants, Cordell is more knowledgeable about the legal system due to his prior involvement in litigation.

The psychologist described Cordell as strong-willed, opinionated and likely to take an active role in trial strategy. However, he said it did not rise to the level of a mental disease or defect.

The order was signed and filed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson on May 23.

Johnson wrote, "A preponderance of the evidence shows that Mr. Cordell has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyers with a reasonable degree of understanding and a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."

A trial date has not been set. A secretary in Pannell's office said a foreseeable date is not near.