Pueblo man charged with election tampering to undergo competency evaluation

A judge on Wednesday ordered a mental competency exam for the 31-year-old man accused of attempting to tamper with a voting station in Pueblo during the primary election in June.

Richard Patton, who is free on bond, will report for an outpatient mental competency evaluation, Pueblo District Court Judge William Alexander ordered during a brief hearing Wednesday. The evaluation must be completed within about 42 days, the judge ordered.

A competency evaluation considers whether a criminal defendant is mentally ill or developmentally disabled, and whether that mental illness impedes the defendant’s ability to understand the court process. It centers on two prongs — whether defendants have a factual and rational understanding of the proceedings, and whether defendants are able to consult with their attorneys and assist in their own defenses.

Competency refers only to a defendant’s current mental capacity and is distinct from an insanity defense, which focuses on the defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime.

Patton, a registered Democrat, is charged with felony election tampering and appeared in court Wednesday but did not speak. He is accused of “attempting to tamper with (a) voting station” in June and was arrested last week, then released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

Court records expected to detail the allegations against Patton were not immediately available Wednesday.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Alexander also agreed to put in place a gag order that will prohibit the attorneys and law enforcement agencies involved in the case from speaking publicly about it. The gag order was requested by Patton’s public defenders and opposed by prosecutors with the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, who said it was unnecessary and preemptive.

Alexander disagreed with prosecutors.

“There has been quite a bit of recent media attention, even at a national level, with regards to this case,” Alexander said as he agreed to the gag order.

Patton will return to court on Dec. 29.

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