On the morning that her trial on theft and misconduct charges was scheduled to start, Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean was taken in handcuffs to a hospital emergency room to be involuntarily committed as a state mental patient, her lawyers said.
"The inevitable has happened," her attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., said this morning, renewing his complaint that a Baltimore Circuit Court judge was rushing Mrs. McLean to trial.
Mr. Murphy told Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe that the 50-year-old comptroller was taken this morning on the order of her psychiatrist to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Towson. The psychiatrist, Dr. Dennis Kutzer, was filing a petition to have Mrs. McLean involuntarily committed after she threatened to kill herself.
Later this morning Judge Bothe called a recess to gather more information on the situation before deciding how to proceed.
A hospital spokeswoman confirmed this morning that Mrs. McLean was at St. Joseph's, but declined to provide any other information, citing patient confidentiality laws. Mr. Murphy could not provide further details on her condition.
Baltimore County police were dispatched to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital at 7:34 a.m. today after receiving a call for assistance to transport a suicidal patient, according to a police spokesman. She was taken to nearby St. Joseph's for observation by doctors.
Mrs. McLean had returned from a lengthy court hearing last night to the Weinberg House, a halfway house on the grounds of Sheppard Pratt. The comptroller, who is on an unpaid leave, has been under voluntary treatment for depression at the Towson psychiatric hospital for nearly five months.
Mrs. McLean has been charged with stealing more than $25,000 in public funds and with trying to arrange for a $1 million city lease of the former headquarters of her travel agency.
After a seven-hour hearing that featured fist-banging and countless testy exchanges between Judge Bothe and Mrs. McLean's lawyers, the judge ordered last night that the indicted comptroller's trial begin today.
The ruling comes after a court psychiatrist who interviewed Mrs. McLean yesterday testified that the rigors of a trial would not affect her treatment for depression.
While Judge Bothe turned down Mrs. McLean's second attempt to put off the trial on psychiatric grounds, defense lawyer M. Cristina Gutierrez vowed to raise a number of motions that could delay its start.
The judge said she was not convinced that Mrs. McLean, who has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized for depression for months, should receive a postponement to allow her to receive additional psychiatric treatment.
"On the contrary, there is some evidence . . . that it might well be an asset to the mental health of the defendant to get this matter resolved at this time rather than remaining in limbo at the hospital," Judge Bothe said.
Among the courses of action Ms. Gutierrez intends to pursue is a bid to have Judge Bothe disqualified from the case. The judge said she has rejected that demand and that the issue is settled, but the lawyer said she will continue to press it in another forum.
"The stress of going to trial is not going to make a difference in the long-term treatment of Miss McLean and, indeed, she is capable of going through the trial situation," Thomas Oglesby, a court psychiatrist, testified. "Is this stress going to be any different from the stress of sitting in the hospital waiting for trial? . . . I don't see it as being any different."
Dr. Oglesby said he found no evidence that Mrs. McLean is malingering.
Lawyers for Mrs. McLean had asked that the trial be postponed for three months because her severe depression is life-threatening and she may need to pursue a new course of treatment -- revealed yesterday to be electroshock therapy. Although another judge rejected the request Monday, Judge Bothe had said she would revisit the issue if Mrs. McLean agreed to be interviewed by a court psychiatrist.
Mrs. McLean, who previously had declined to be interviewed by the court psychiatrist, met for an hour yesterday morning with Dr. Oglesby.
In January, Mrs. McLean was admitted to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for psychiatric treatment as a grand jury considered the case against her.
Two months after her indictment, on the night of April 14, she attempted suicide with an overdose of anti-depressant drugs and alcohol.
Since emerging from six months of seclusion to appear in court over the past two days, Mrs. McLean has appeared drawn and unsteady, meek and frightened.
Her trial, which had been scheduled to begin Wednesday, did not get under way because her principal attorney, Ms. Gutierrez, was in court in Montgomery County. The comptroller was represented at Wednesday's hearing by Ms. Gutierrez' law partner, Mr. Murphy.
During Wednesday's hearing, Mrs. McLean was rushed out of the courtroom after suffering what her lawyers termed a "panic attack."
Mrs. McLean began yesterday in court again yesterday. After consulting with her lawyers, she chose to leave the courtroom while Dr. Oglesby testified.
The court psychiatrist took the witness stand over the objection of Ms. Gutierrez, who arrived in court at 3 p.m. after the Montgomery County trial ended.
She complained that she had not had time to prepare to question Dr. Oglesby. But Judge Bothe said the matter was going to be resolved before the court recessed for the night.