An ex-Transportation Security Administration screener accused of making threats directed at LAX terminals on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks should not have been forcibly medicated with an anti-psychotic drug, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena determined that Nna Alpha Onuoha’s medical treatment was not appropriate based on the dosage and administration of the drug.
The appellate panel reversed a lower court order authorizing the Bureau of Prisons to forcibly medicate the defendant to restore his competency to stand trial, and remanded the case back to a Los Angeles courtroom for further proceedings.
Onuoha, 32, faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of three federal counts each of false information and hoaxes, and making telephonic threats.
In May 2014, after reviewing a doctor’s evaluation and hearing from the defendant, U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell ruled that Onuoha was not competent to stand trial and ordered him sent to a mental hospital for treatment.
O’Connell determined that Onuoha was “presently suffering from a mental disorder” and could not assist in his own defense.
Earlier, Onuoha, a Nigerian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, had offered a rambling, incoherent statement to the court.
“God gave me a message and I delivered that message,” he said. “God is not a disease. I delivered a message to obey God and I was arrested. I shared the message with the world. I gave my testimony to the world.”
O’Connell ordered the defendant into treatment “forthwith.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said at a previous hearing that Onuoha “appeared to be living a perfectly normal life” until around the time the threats began.
Onuoha was arrested around midnight on Sept. 10, 2013, shortly after he resigned his TSA job at Los Angeles International Airport.
According to the indictment, Onuoha returned to LAX shortly after he resigned and left an eight-page letter addressed to a TSA manager, then placed threatening calls to airport officials, demanding the airport be evacuated.
In a call to a TSA checkpoint, Onuoha allegedly stated that the airport should be evacuated immediately, starting with Terminal 2, and that he would be watching to make sure his orders were followed.
At about the same time, Onuoha allegedly called LAX police dispatch and warned that the entire airport should be evacuated immediately, because he was going to “deliver a message to America and to the world.”
Prosecutors also allege that Onuoha — who had served in Kosovo with the National Guard — telephoned the TSA manager to whom he had addressed the eight-page letter and warned that “TSA was running out of time.”
At the time of his arrest, Onuoha was unemployed, homeless and $15,000 in debt, prosecutors said.
Onuoha had been forced to resign from his TSA job earlier in the day of his arrest, following a recent suspension for criticizing a 15-year-old girl’s wardrobe as too skimpy, according to the FBI.
The run-in with the teen made headlines when her father publicized it on his blog.
— Wire reports