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Arson Suspect Ruled Too Ill to Stand Trial

The man accused of setting fires at five houses of worship in Encino this spring is mentally incompetent, a judge decides.

October 04, 2003|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

A man accused of setting fire to five houses of worship in Encino earlier this year was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial Friday, putting his criminal case on indefinite hold.

Judge Fred J. Fujioka ordered Farshid Tehrani to be sent to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, where he will be treated and will undergo periodic psychiatric evaluations. The judge's ruling was made after several reports, which were presented by both the prosecutor and the defense attorney, questioned Tehrani's mental competence.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Millington said he hoped that Tehrani would receive treatment and eventually be able to be tried on the charges.

Tehrani's attorney, Lazier Gould, told a judge in July that his client had a history of mental problems and had been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Gould said Friday that he was pleased that his client would receive the treatment he needs, but said he was frustrated that a long waiting list at the hospital could prevent Tehrani from being sent there for at least a few more months.

Tehrani, an Encino resident, was charged with arson, terrorism and hate crimes connected with the fires, which were set in April and May.

The first fire was set early April 26 at the First Presbyterian Church of Encino, causing between $75,000 and $100,000 in damage. On May 5, a blaze caused minor damage at the Bahai Faith Community Center on Genesta Avenue, and a second one burned the roof of a small Iranian synagogue on Ventura Boulevard.

The next day, a window was shattered at the Da'at Torah Educational Center, a small storefront temple at a Ventura Boulevard mini-mall. The fifth incident occurred on May 7, when an apparently homemade fire bomb was tossed into the sanctuary of the Valley Beth Shalom synagogue.

Tehrani, 40, was arrested May 9 by Los Angeles police officers.

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