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Crime & Courts

Trial date set as prosecutor suggests Hakken faking insanity

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Published:   |   Updated: March 4, 2014 at 05:40 PM

TAMPA — Prosecutors no longer are willing to concede that Joshua Hakken is mentally incompetent to stand trial in the abduction of his young sons, who were taken aboard a boat to Cuba.

In January, Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe said doctors agreed Joshua Hakken was insane. The judge planned to decide Tuesday where he would send Hakken for treatment and also receive a doctors’ report on Hakken’s wife, Sharyn, who also is charged in the abduction.

But Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters told Tharpe that she is no longer prepared to stipulate that Joshua Hakken is incompetent to stand trial. She said after doctors were questioned in depositions about their examinations, she learned of evidence that “might indicate that Mr. Hakken is feigning his insanity and has been planning that to avoid a prison sentence.”

She didn’t elaborate, except to say the evidence involves recordings of jail conversations and correspondence.

Peters said she was preparing copies for defense attorneys and planned to provide the evidence to the doctors who examined Hakken. The evidence was not made public.

The couple had been scheduled to go on trial in January but that was put off following the determination about Joshua Hakken’s mental state. Tharpe said the new trial date of June 16 won’t be changed, “barring some extreme emergency.” Lawyers told the judge they expect the trial to last two weeks.

Authorities said the Hakkens kidnapped their young sons from Sharyn Hakken’s parents in North Tampa after they lost custody of them following run-ins with police in Louisiana. The Hakkens sailed out of Madeira Beach to Cuba, were apprehended by U.S. authorities and sent back to Tampa.

Before and during the hearing on Tuesday, laughed and talked with another inmate who sat next to her in court. Later in the hearing, she began weeping.

Joshua Hakken, who was seated away from his wife, didn’t interact with others.

Investigation documents released in the case in September showed that friends of the couple regarded them as paranoid and delusional even before the alleged abductions.

The documents painted a picture of a disturbed couple who had latched onto grandiose antigovernment, apocalyptic ideas with conflicting political beliefs.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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