Jonesville Man Extradited From The Philippines After Being Indicted For Sexual Exploitation Of Children And Possession Of Child Pornography
Evidence Shows Defendant Faking Incompetency
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Mark Totten for the Western District of Michigan today announced that U.S. Magistrate Judge Ray Kent found Gerald Bennett, 63, of Detroit, competent to stand trial for kidnapping a minor in 2018.
“Today’s ruling is an important step forward,” said U.S. Attorney Totten. “My office is prepared to prove these allegations against Mr. Bennett as we seek justice for the victim’s family.”
In August of 2022, a federal grand jury charged Bennett with kidnapping a minor in 2018. Bennett’s trial was subsequently delayed so he could undergo an evaluation for mental competency.
During today’s hearing, Judge Kent considered evidence prepared by Dr. Leticia Armstrong, a forensic psychologist from the Bureau of Prisons. Dr. Armstrong concluded that Bennett understood the nature of the proceedings against him and was able to participate in his own defense. The court noted Dr. Armstrong’s finding that, “there is evidence to suggest the defendant is feigning symptomology, or exaggerating, with the goal of being found incompetent to stand trial . . . .” As Dr. Armstrong explained in her report, Bennett’s “attempt to feign and exaggerate during the current evaluation evidenced higher ordered, complex thinking.” After considering this evidence, Judge Kent ruled that Bennett was competent.
The Court’s ruling allows the case to proceed to trial. If convicted of the offense, Bennett will face a minimum term of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison. If released from prison, Bennett must serve at least 5 years on supervised release and could spend the rest of his life under the court’s supervision.
The court’s ruling is the most recent event in a case that has been unfolding since 2017. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office charged Gerald Bennett and Quinn James with murder of the minor victim in a related case. James proceeded to trial and was convicted of both the rape and murder of the minor victim, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. After considering conflicting expert testimony, the judge presiding over the case found Bennett was mentally impaired and adjudicated him incompetent. Afterwards, Bennett’s state charges were dismissed, and he was freed without conditions in March of 2022.
The case was then referred to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for consideration of federal charges. In July 2022, Bennett was arrested on a federal criminal complaint for kidnapping a minor and was formally charged by a federal grand jury by indictment on August 9, 2022. The court will schedule Bennett’s arraignment, detention hearing, and trial at a later date.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Mekaru and Austin Hakes and investigated by the Grand Rapids Police Department and the FBI in cooperation with the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office.
The charges in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.