By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
A federal judge overseeing the criminal embezzlement case against former Giuliani aide Russell Harding has ruled that the ex-city housing boss is psychologically unfit to stand trialfor the time being.
The March 19 ruling by Manhattan District Judge Lewis Kaplan followed nearly five months of examinations of Harding at a federal prison hospital in Waseca, Minnesota. Harding was imprisoned at the request of his own lawyer and parents after he threatened suicide last November on the eve of his trial for charges of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city's Housing Development Corporation, as well as possessing child porn.
Kaplan's ruling quoted from a detailed psychological report by prison doctors that found Harding "is suffering from depression that renders him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to assist properly in his defense at this time." The judge ordered that Harding be held at another federal prison facility in Butner, North Carolina, for up to four more months for additional observation. Doctors will then advise the court whether Harding is able to go to trial on the charges.
"This is obviously a delicate matter and any comment would be inappropriate," said Harding's lawyer, Gerald Shargel.