HAMMOND | A judge on Wednesday denied a federal prosecutor's request for a hearing to determine whether "The Nose Doctor" should face a mental competency evaluation.
Former international fugitive Mark Weinberger, 46, asked Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry to deny Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Berkowitz's request for a competency hearing. Cherry declined Berkowitz's request after Weinberger answered questions on his mental abilities. Cherry asked Weinberger if he had any plans for an insanity defense against charges he billed patients at his former Merrillville clinic for surgeries he did not perform.
"No, your honor," Weinberger said.
Weinberger declined to say Wednesday whether he has ever been treated for mental health problems. He did tell the judge he takes an antidepressant medication.
Weinberger's lawyer, Adam Tavitas, said he has no reason to think Weinberger can't assist in his own defense, the standard for mental competency.
"I've seen Dr. Weinberger nine, if not 10 times now," Tavitas said. "I have no doubt, your honor, that Dr. Weinberger ... will be able to assist in his defense in this matter."
Weinberger, clad in jailhouse orange and sporting a short crop of black hair, showed the caution that has been his hallmark in three court hearings thus far. Weinberger whispered with Tavitas before each answer.
Berkowitz told Cherry she requested the hearing to "clarify the record" called into question by Weinberger's post-arrest suicide attempt and his reticence to answer questions about his mental state at two prior hearings.
Tavitas noted Weinberger was without counsel at his first hearing. Tavitas said Weinberger was sleep-deprived at the second hearing.
Cherry said he would ask Judge Philip Simon's staff to plan for a two- to three-week jury trial in September or October.
Weinberger was captured on an Italian mountainside Dec. 15, 5 1/2 years after he disappeared on a family trip to Greece. He was taken to a hospital after he stabbed himself in the neck with a knife he had hidden while he was being arrested.
When Weinberger vanished in 2004, he left his Merrillville sinus clinic buried beneath about $7 million in debt. Weinberger still faces 357 civil malpractice claims, according to the Indiana Patients' Compensation Fund's website.
Weinberger faces severe potential civil damages, but it was the 22-count criminal indictment issued in Hammond federal court that led to his arrest. Federal grand jurors indicted Weinberger in December 2006 on charges he billed insurance companies for procedures he didn't perform.