Eleven months after Shiva Ashkani was found guilty on eight counts, including fraud and assault, after pretending to be a registered nurse and administering Botox and fillers to three women in 2015 causing injuries, there is an unusual twist in the case.
The 43-year-old walked into Superior Court for a sentencing hearing, and was facing jail time. But instead, Justice Al O’Marra told the court he will be ordering Ashkani to undergo a 30-day fitness assessment, after her amicus, a court-appointed lawyer, argued she has serious concerns about Ashkani’s mental health.
Maureen Addie, her court-appointed lawyer, called forensic psychiatrist Dr. Derek Pallandi to the witness stand and asked him about a four-hour meeting he had with Ashkani in August 2018.
Pallandi testified that he was engaged by Addie to examine Ashkani’s criminal responsibility and also make observations about her fitness. “At the beginning, she talked virtually non-stop. Much of it paranoid ideas, visibly agitated.”
Pallandi went on to say that after the first hour, Ashkani became calm and settled and said they had a much more rational discussion.
“I raised concerns about fitness. But ultimately, on the day I examined her, she met the threshold of being fit to stand trial from a psychiatrist’s perspective,” Pallandi told the court.
But Pallandi said her behaviour before the proceedings began concerned him. “She began engaging members of the public, the press I presume, in inappropriate ways. She was disinhibited. I think her conduct in the courtroom this morning caused me the most significant concerns.”
Just minutes before O’Marra entered the courtroom, Ashkani had turned toward the public gallery, said “Catherine,” and started defending herself and insulting a Global News reporter. Her amicus advised her to stop talking but Ashkani continued talking in a loud voice.
Pallandi told the court that given the gravity of the sentence Ashkani is facing, he believes she should have a 30-day fitness hearing so he can evaluate her fitness over time and make sure she is on the proper medication for her mental illness. Pallandi testified she has a long history and suffers from bipolar disorder and may also suffer from borderline personality disorder. He also testified Ashkani had been prescribed medication prior to his meeting with her in August, but couldn’t say if she’s taking her medication.
When asked by crown attorney Cheryl Blondell if Ashkani could be malingering, Pallandi said yes, but added it is not likely. “Psychiatrists who work in the legal field tend to be quite sensitive to issues of malingering or deception. Unfitness delays legal proceedings, it does not remove criminal responsibility.”
O’Marra said he would not order a 30-day inpatient fitness assessment until Nov. 15 to give the amicus time to find a bed in a psychiatric facility for Ashkani.
Addie was asked outside court why a fitness assessment had never been ordered before. Addie said she couldn’t speak to the case prior to this January when she was appointed by the court to represent Ashkani
Ashkani left the court with a young woman, offering no comment on the day’s proceedings.
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