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Man charged in cop vehicle fire ordered to mental hospital

August 31, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — One of the two men accused of setting a Rhode Island police cruiser on fire last summer has been found not competent to stand trial for now, with a judge recommending Friday that he be treated at a hospital.

Two mental health professionals found that Luis Joel Sierra, 35, was not able to participate in his defense based on interviews and a review of his mental health history, the Providence Journal reported.

Sierra has been charged with one count of attempted malicious destruction of a vehicle by fire after a cruiser was set alight outside the Providence Place mall during a violent night in June.

The violence came amid nationwide protests after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, but Rhode Island authorities say the people in the crowd were not protesters but a destructive and violent “mob.”

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On Friday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond ordered Sierra into the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to be hospitalized for up to four months.

A forensic psychiatrist hired by prosecutors, Dr. Christopher Matkovic, told the judge he felt “forced” to find Sierra incompetent because of “his apparent inability to answer questions regarding legal proceedings.”

Prosecutors can file an objection to Almond’s ruling by Sept. 10. The U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. will ultimately decide whether to accept the finding.

Another man, Nicholas Scaglione, pleaded guilty to the same charge in March but has not yet been sentenced. The 31-year-old from Cranston could face up to 20 years in prison.

Both men were charged based in part on emails, telephone calls, text messages and video clips exchanged with others, prosecutors said.