An appellate court judge Friday issued an emergency order to keep authorities from sending an AIDS victim accused of fraud to a federal prison hospital in Missouri for four months of diagnostic tests that the suspect claims would constitute a "death sentence."
Judge Alfred T. Goodwin of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the emergency order after U.S. District Judge A. Andrew Hauk refused to rescind an order placing Sheldon L. Block of Malibu in federal custody for tests to determine whether brain damage caused by acquired immune deficiency syndrome has made him mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Block was taken Friday night to St. Mary's Hospital in Long Beach, where he will remain in the custody of federal marshals, until a three-judge appellate panel can more fully consider the issues raised by his bid to avoid trial.
Block, 36, who was diagnosed as having AIDS last July, had asked Hauk to drop or indefinitely postpone his trial on charges that he used a telephone "boiler room" sales operation to sell overpriced or undelivered office equipment to businesses across the country. Block claimed that he was physically and mentally incapable of undergoing trial.
Hauk indefinitely delayed Block's trial, which had been scheduled to begin Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court. But Hauk said federal statutes dealing with the mental competence of defendants required him to immediately commit Block for competency tests.