HAMMOND — A doctor said Friday she believed Monique Bowling was “malingering” — a federal prosecutor called it "faking" — an alleged illness that struck her mute, evidence which may allow prosecutors to bring the woman to trial on allegations she stole more than 1,000 tablet computers from the city of Gary.
Dr. Amor Correa, a forensic psychologist for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, appeared Friday through video conference to testify in U.S. District Court about her evaluation of the 46-year-old Merrillville woman, who was sent this summer to a federal medical center in Texas for an in-custody mental health examination.
Defense attorney Jeffrey P. Schlesinger requested the evaluation of Bowling in January after informing the court his client had gone mute, refusing to speak with him or anyone else.
Bowling pleaded not guilty to federal theft charges in November 2016 on allegations she stole more than 1,000 Apple iPads while employed with the city of Gary's information technology department. Bowling also is accused of cashing the pension checks of a former roommate after he died in September 2010.
Correa told the court Friday she determined from a battery of psychological tests Bowling was “very likely” malingering her muteness. She said the test results were supported by staff observations.
Bowling has also previously been identified in court records as Monique Bowling-Boyd, or Monique Boyd.
Correa said Bowling communicated through writing with staff members and doctors at the Texas facility. Bowling also attempted to activate a phone account at the facility and convinced another patient she befriended to send detailed emails to Bowling's family members.
Correa said staff members came to the conclusion Bowling could communicate when it was in her self-interest, such as informing a doctor of her prescriptions, and her writing did not seem hindered at all.
Correa said Bowling and her husband also told staff members at a federal medical facility in Chicago she became mute after a stroke. The doctor reviewed medical records for Bowling from Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus and found there was no medical basis for her silence.
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U.S. Assistant Attorney Gary Bell used the word “faking” interchangeably with “malingering” several times while questioning Correa, but corrected himself after defense attorney Jeffrey P. Schlesinger asked him to use the terminology contained in Correa's 11-page medical report. Malingering was defined in the report as “the intentional production of symptoms because of external incentives.”
Bowling appeared listless at Friday's court hearing. She often listened to testimony with her eyes closed and lips pursed.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Gary Bell told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Martin the examination supported “100 percent” a finding of mental competency.
“All the evidence in this case supports malingering,” Bell said, adding later. “This is a big game.”
Schlesinger declined to offer a statement on competency, but told the judge Bowling has not communicated with him or even made eye contact.
Martin took the evidence under advisement and said he would make a determination by Nov. 15 on whether Bowling was mentally competent. A status hearing is scheduled for that date.
The prosecution of Bowling would continue if she is ruled competent for trial.