- Associated Press - Monday, June 4, 2012

MANASSAS, Va. — Lawyers for the man accused by authorities of being the East Coast Rapist allegedly responsible for 17 sexual assaults over a decade say their client is making it difficult to enter an insanity plea for him.

In a court motion first reported Monday by radio station WTOP, Aaron Thomas’s attorneys gave formal notice of plans for an insanity defense. But Mr. Thomas is refusing to meet with mental health evaluators, according to court documents, and prosecutors say he cannot plead insanity unless he does so.

A hearing on Mr. Thomas‘ competency is scheduled for Friday. An earlier evaluation concluded Mr. Thomas is feigning mental illness, and a judge found him competent to stand trial.

Defense attorneys say Mr. Thomas is mutilating himself and hallucinating. They say that when they have tried to meet with him, he hides under a blanket.

“Defense Counsel has been unable to advise Aaron Thomas that his refusal to meet with the mental health evaluator could preclude him from presenting a sanity defense at trial,” defense lawyer Jennifer Zary wrote.

Mr. Thomas is accused in Prince William County of raping two teenage girls and attacking another on Halloween 2009. Authorities believe he also attacked women in Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert has filed a motion seeking to bar an insanity defense if Thomas refuses to cooperate with the mental health assessments. Virginia law states that defendants who refuse to cooperate with court-appointed evaluators can be barred from presenting testimony about sanity at trial.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Ebert acknowledged that Mr. Thomas is “acting peculiar” but said that the only mental health evaluator who was able to meet with Thomas and reach a conclusion found that he was feigning symptoms.

In previous court filings, Mr. Thomas‘ lawyers said their client was a patient at Georgetown University Psychiatric Hospital as an adolescent. He also “complained of an alternate personality named Erwin, active at the time of the alleged offenses.” A judge first ordered a sanity evaluation back in April.

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