Suspect in Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting to appear in court

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FILE – In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo, Robert Lewis Dear, middle, talks during a court appearance in Colorado Springs, Colo. Dear, who acknowledges killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic idolized an abortion foe who killed a Florida doctor more than two decades earlier, court documents show.

DENVER |  A man accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in 2015 is set to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday on new charges that were filed after his murder case in state court stalled.

Ahead of the hearing in Denver, federal prosecutors filed a request for a judge to order a new mental evaluation for Robert Dear, who was previously ruled to be incompetent to stand trial in state court.

Prosecutors cited “notable problems” with the state’s tests in their motion for a mental evaluation, but they did not elaborate. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Prosecutors noted that the state court’s incompetence ruling isn’t binding in the federal case and said Dear didn’t appear to be incompetent during his hearing Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nina Wang. But, they added, the state court’s ruling warrants a fresh evaluation in the new case.

“Mr. Dear told Judge Wang that he is competent, and the government does not believe that Mr. Dear’s behavior in federal court suggests otherwise,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rajiv Mohan wrote in the motion. “But the government is aware that the Court must take into consideration the fact that Mr. Dear was previously found incompetent in the State court proceedings against him.”

Prosecutors say Dear held police at bay for more than five hours during the November 2015 attack in Colorado Springs that sent hundreds of holiday shoppers scrambling for safety.

A police officer from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and two people who were accompanying friends to the clinic separately were killed in the rampage. Nine others were injured.

Dear, 61, has previously declared in courtroom outbursts that he is guilty and called himself a “warrior for babies.” He faces 179 charges in state court, including murder and attempted murder, but that case has languished since he was deemed incompetent to stand trial in 2016. His mental health status has been reviewed every 90 days without change.

U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn announced a federal grand jury indictment on Monday related to the shooting. Dunn cited the delay on the state level as a factor in pursuing the federal case and said he had consulted with local prosecutors.

Dear is facing 68 counts in the federal case, including use of a firearm during a crime resulting in death and violating a law ensuring access to clinic entrances.

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate clinic patients or employees, includes a five-year statute of limitations.

Dear appeared in federal court Monday, but the judge postponed the hearing until Friday after he insisted on being allowed to represent himself.

“I’m not crazy. I’m just a religious zealot,” Dear declared.

Federal prosecutors have hired Dr. Park Dietz to evaluate Dear. The psychiatrist has participated in numerous high-profile cases, including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s.