Steamboat Springs Twenty-six-year-old Sascha Karl Fischer sat at a defense table Tuesday listening to his attorney explain slowly and deliberately what could happen to him if he pleads insanity to a charge of illegally using a food-stamp debit card.
At the end of the hearing, Fischer decided to go with the insanity defense, despite the fact he maintains he is sane.
"I don't feel I'm insane, but I do have a mental deficiency," Fischer told District Judge Richard Doucette. "The insanity might come into play at the time the crime was committed."
Fischer is charged with felony theft for allegedly going on a $4,000 grocery shopping spree after his food-stamp debit card was mistakenly credited with more than $10,000.
After about an hour court proceeding Tuesday during which Fischer addressed the court a couple of times, a somewhat frustrated Judge Doucette accepted Fischer's insanity plea and ordered that he undergo mental evaluations.
Schurman told Doucette that he believes his client needs to be evaluated for competency because he has had trouble communicating with him.
"When I meet with Mr. Fischer, it is like going round in circles," said the veteran public defender. "We are not talking about the same thing. We can't communicate with each other. You're having problems understanding him. Those are the same problems I'm having."
Schurman also told the court that his client's behavior in jail has been "up and down."
"There have been some problems at the jail," Schurman said, referring to his client being placed in "lock down" on Monday for an undisclosed incident.
Schurman and Doucette each had to explain to Fischer that if he entered the insanity plea he would have to cooperate and any statements he makes during the evaluations could be used against him in court.
He also was told by both men that if he is found not guilty of the crimes by reason of insanity he would be turned over to a state mental health institution until he is deemed sane.
"There are consequences," Schurman said. "He just does not leave the courtroom free."
If he is found sane, Fischer faces two to six years in prison upon conviction.
Fischer allegedly bought thousands of dollars in groceries after he found out his food stamp account had been credited with $10,000. The balance was entered Jan. 30 when a county worker put the decimal point in the wrong place on a computer program. Fischer was supposed to receive $106 in food assistance.
Fischer, who has for six years has received a disability check and food stamps because of a head injury he suffered as a kick boxer, has claimed he thought the extra money was for "back pay."