By Richard Stephens – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
Despite few specifics from his attorney on why he needs a mental evaluation, Perry Allison Hood is headed for Lakes Crossing in Sparks to receive one.
The 69-year-old former Nye County School District psychologist is facing child pornography charges and his attorney, Christopher Arabia, asked for a hearing in Fifth Judicial District Court in Tonopah on Tuesday to determine if a mental evaluation should be conducted.
Judge Robert Lane began the hearing by asking Arabia the nature of his concerns for Hood’s mental health.
Arabia said he wasn’t comfortable discussing his specific concerns because of attorney/client privilege. He said he was concerned about Hood’s ability to assist in his own defense and to understand the charges against him.
“Because of the gravity of the charges,” Arabia said the court should “err on the side of caution” and grant the mental evaluation.
Lane cited a brief filed by Deputy District Attorney John Friel, which stated there was little to oppose because Arabia’s reasons for the evaluation were generally vague.
Arabia said he did not state specifics like substance abuse or Alzheimer’s disease as reasons for seeking the evaluation but said he was “befuddled by some of the exchanges” he has had with his client.
Hood attempted to speak over his attorney but the judge admonished that it was in the defendant’s own best interests to let his attorney do the talking.
Friel indicated that there was “no down-side” for the state if the matter was continued for a mental health check and said he would prefer the evaluation to going forward with trial and having the defendant’s mental state become an issue later.
“Given the gravity of the case, we will submit it,” Friel said in indicating he had no motion to oppose Arabia’s request.
Lane explained in his earlier legal career as a prosecutor, mental health evaluations were somewhat standard and seldom opposed.
But he said as a judge, he was concerned about the expense such evaluations cost the county. He added that it would not be a “perfunctory” decision for him to order the evaluation.
Arabia said he was willing to continue the hearing until a later “law and motion day” at which time he would try to have more specifics for the judge’s consideration.
He said he would be willing “to take another shot at it. ” A delay would allow him to confer with others on what could and could not be presented from his discussions with his client.
Friel indicated he did not sense the defense was seeking to delay the trial and Lane noted there is little likelihood that a trial would take place within six months.
“If he wants more time, it is OK with me,” Friel said of the defense.
As the hearing approached the 15-minute mark, Lane said the decision was to grant Arabia more time to prepare specifics for the hearing or to send Hood straight to Lakes Crossing.
“It is your choice,” the judge told Arabia, who indicated he wanted the mental health evaluation immediately.
“Alright, it is done,” Lane concluded.
Technically, Hood was sent to Lakes Crossing because “a person may not be tried or adjudged to punishment for a public offense while incompetent,” according to Nevada Revised Statutes.
Under Nevada law, “incompetent” means the person does not have the ability to understand the nature of the criminal charges against them, understand the nature and purpose of the court proceedings or aid and assist their counsel in the defense at any time during the proceedings with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.
There was no indication of when Hood would leave for Sparks.
Once his evaluation is completed, he will return to District Court where a judge will decide if a trial will take place or the defendant is to be committed.
Hood was arrested in January after Peoria, Ariz. officers alerted local authorities about an Arizona case which might have ties to Tonopah.
Subsequently, Hood’s residence on Bryan Avenue in Tonopah was searched.
Photographs and other items were seized during the search, according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office and Hood was charged with 21 counts of possession of child pornography.
Those counts were reviewed by the Nye County District Attorney’s office in Tonopah and consolidated into one count of use of a minor in producing pornography or as subject of sexual portrayal in performance and four counts of possession of child pornography.
Bail was set at $1 million and Hood has remained in custody since his arrest.
A Tonopah Justice Court hearing was held Feb. 6 at which time Arabia filed a motion to conditionally waive Hood’s right to a preliminary hearing and asking that he be bound over to District Court so that a psychiatric evaluation could be sought.