A federal appeals court panel has overturned the conviction of a man for sending threatening emails to two top North Las Vegas officials after his car was repossessed.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered a new trial for Eric Christian, who was found guilty of threatening then-Police Chief Joseph Forti and then-Chief Deputy City Attorney Michael Davidson.
Christian argued U.S. District Judge James Mahan was wrong in not allowing him to call psychologist Charles Colosimo to testify about Christian’s mental capacity.
Colosimo evaluated Christian in an unrelated case and found him not competent to stand trial. Christian’s lawyer, Jess Marchese, has said his client “clearly had some mental issues.”
The federal court panel concluded Colosimo’s prior diagnosis “would have been relevant and helpful to the jury in evaluating Christian’s diminished capacity.”
Christian maintained he had no specific intent to harm the two city officials, who later left their posts. He was upset about his car being sent to an impound lot several months before.
One of his emails to the police chief said, “I will have to kill to retrieve my stolen (car) and items if you do not retrieve them.” He sent a threatening email to Davidson three days later.
Forti and Davidson testified at trial that they took the threats seriously and took steps to protect themselves.
Mahan sentenced Christian to 13 months in prison and ordered him to undergo mental health treatment. The judge gave him credit for 33 months spent behind bars since he was charged.
Christian was 37 when he was indicted on two federal felony counts in July 2009.