Mental Tests Ordered for Hallucinating Jim Bakker : He’s Led Sobbing to Hospital
A judge suspended Jim Bakker’s fraud and conspiracy trial today and ordered the PTL founder committed for psychiatric testing after he was told Bakker suffered hallucinations and was found cowering under a couch.
U.S. District Judge Robert Potter ordered Bakker, who was not in court at the time, to be taken to the Federal Corrections Facility in Butner to see if he is competent to stand trial.
A sobbing, disheveled Bakker was later brought to the courthouse, then taken away in handcuffs 90 minutes later to a psychiatric hospital that is part of the federal prison.
The fourth day of Bakker’s trial opened with his psychiatrist, Dr. Basil Jackson, testifying in a brief hearing without the jury that Bakker “was lying in the corner of his attorney’s office with his head under a couch, hiding. He was expressing thoughts that someone was going to hurt him.”
Jackson, who has been treating Bakker for nine months, said Bakker suffered hallucinations after breaking down Wednesday when a witness collapsed while being cross-examined. That witness, former PTL Vice President Steve Nelson, was back at the courthouse today, saying he felt much better.
“Mr. Bakker reported that when he left the courthouse, suddenly people outside took on the form of frightening animals which he felt were intent on destroying him, attacking him and hurting him,” said Jackson, a Milwaukee psychiatrist whom the prosecution dismissed as a “hired gun.”
Potter summoned the jurors and told them the trial was being delayed, without saying why.
Bakker was taken from his attorney’s office, put in a U.S. marshal’s car and transported to the federal courthouse. “Please don’t do this to me,” a disheveled Bakker sobbed as he was led to the car.
“Mr. Bakker, I’m going to have to ask you to sit up, please,” a deputy marshal said to Bakker after he curled up in a fetal position in the back seat of the car.
Jackson told the judge that he had not completed a formal diagnosis but that he believes Bakker suffers from acute depression and has episodes in which he “loses the ability to adequately judge and relate to reality.”
“Yesterday he was actively hallucinating,” Jackson told Potter. He estimated that Bakker would be unable to help in his defense for two weeks.
Jackson asked that Bakker be sent to an unidentified private hospital, but Potter instead ordered marshals to deliver Bakker to the Butner facility.
Jackson said Bakker had not agreed to be voluntarily committed.
It was not the first time that Bakker was described as emotionally distraught since the PTL scandal broke. His wife, Tammy Faye, said in a fund-raising letter to supporters last fall that he lay in a fetal position for hours after he was forced to leave the ministry in March, 1987.
Prosecutors say Bakker and other PTL executives diverted for their own use more than $4 million of the $158 million raised from PTL “partners.” In the “partnerships,” $1,000 contributors were guaranteed three nights’ free lodging each year for life at PTL’s Heritage USA.