YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Whether a Ridgewood physician found with explosive chemicals and firearms in his basement apartment nearly two years ago is mentally fit to stand trial remained an open question today after a state psychiatrist failed to show up for a final competency hearing in Hackensack.
Both the judge and attorneys for both sides waited 4½ hours before Richard Rivera was returned to the Bergen County Jail from a holding cell in the courthouse.
The hearing will be rescheduled once the judge can get a commitment from the psychiatrist for a new date.
Rivera’s legal representation also has to be decided.
He has insisted on defending himself, but Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi said she still hasn’t determined whether she will allow Rivera to go solo or require him to work in tandem with Public Defender Ian Silvera.
The prosecution of the 62-year-old Rivera following a November 2012 raid was temporarily delayed while the psychiatrist at the Anne Klein Forensic Center in West Trenton evaluated him for mental illness.
He returned to court in August for the first time in several months, when Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Martin Delaney asked Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian to have the psychiatrist testify.
“Whatever political beliefs he may have had, and whatever motives he may have had, have nothing to do with mental illness,” Delaney said at the time, reading from the forensic psychiatrist’s report.
“I have no reason to dispute this,” he said, “but neither have I seen all the documents she relied on in making her opinion.
“I want her to come in with all the documents, in person, for a competency hearing, for final determination — that he is indeed competent to proceed and was sane at the time of the alleged offense,” he told the judge.
Rivera — who previously spent time in a mental institution, according to an indictment — remained held on $1 million bail in the Bergen County Jail.
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported exclusively, authorities feared domestic terrorism after Rivera confided to someone that he was concerned what effect a power outage from Hurricane Sandy would have on explosive chemicals he’d allegedly been refrigerating.
Those concerns drew various members of the FBI, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, the Bergen County Police Bomb Squad and Hazardous Materials Team, Ridgewood police and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Identification to the Union Street two-family home, where Rivera lived in a converted basement.
They reported finding:
- a basement freezer containing 2.5 liters of nitric acid, which can be used to create explosive devices;
- attic containers that included hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, sulfuric acid, calcium hypochlorite, and potassium perchlorate, which can also be used to create bombs;
- 10 pounds of thermite, and 10 thermite lighters, which can be used to detonate bombs;
- several weapons, including two Cobray M11 assault pistols and a .40-caliber handgun, which weren’t registered and he wasn’t allowed to have;
- a Hellfire trigger mechanism that can allow a firearm to fire at an extremely high rate;
- several high-capacity magazines; a stun gun;
- assorted boxes of ammunition.
State authorities said the search also turned up folders marked “Revolution” and “Anarchism,” which they said included instructions for creating homemade explosives, a military improvised munitions manual and documents on how to convert firearms into fully-automatic machine guns.
Although he didn’t maintain a medical office here, Rivera was licensed to practice in New York and New Jersey, they said.
He also occasionally lived and worked out of his 2007 Nissan Xterra, from which he provided medical examinations on Long Island, Ridgewood police said at the time. The car contained bottles of medication, medical equipment, and prescription pads bearing Rivera’s name and New York license number, they said.
Also seized were various other chemicals, weapons and other items — including Mace, a wig, and fake sideburns.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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