A federal judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation for the UVa-Wise student accused of calling 911 with a fake report of a gunman on campus last month.
Bryant Alexander Hairston’s attorney requested the competency evaluation at a hearing on Feb. 8, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.
Federal Magistrate Judge Pamela Sargent ordered the evaluation to be done at an outpatient facility at Hairston’s expense, records show. Prosecutors agreed to the screening as long as it is done by a government-approved expert.
Hairston, 20, of Martinsville, was due to be arraigned on Feb. 15. That hearing was postponed until after the evaluation, which must be completed by March 11.
The sophomore psychology major was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond at a Jan. 28 hearing at which Sargent “noted on the record that she has some concerns as to [the] defendant’s mental condition,” court records show.
The FBI charges Hairston with “knowingly making materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations.” Investigators say he phoned in the hoax on Jan. 23 to better his standing in an unrelated assault and battery case in which he’s accused.
The fictitious report of a gunman shut down UVa-Wise for nearly two hours as several police agencies searched campus.
If convicted of the federal charge, Hairston could be fined and/or face up to five years in prison.
Federal officials have not publicly said why they’ve taken an interest in Hairston’s case, other than noting in court records that it happened on a public college campus.
FBI spokeswoman Dee Rybiski declined to comment, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer, the government’s prosecutor in the case, did not return requests for comment.
Yenli Yeh, an associate professor of administration of justice and sociology at UVa-Wise, said the case highlights the seriousness of allegedly falsely reporting crimes, especially in this day and age.
“I have told students in my classes since [September 11, 2001], that false report incidents such as ‘there is a bomb in downtown Wise,’ ‘there is a gunman in the dorm’, etc will bring you serious consequences,” Yeh said. “People joke about certain things, but [falsely reporting a] crime is a crime instead of a joke.”