Rivas

Ernesto Rivas appears in Skagit County Superior Court in January 2017.

MOUNT VERNON — The trial of a man accused of shooting a Mount Vernon police officer has been rescheduled for a 14th time, this time due to concerns about the man’s mental health.

Ernesto Lee Rivas, 47, faces charges related to a Dec. 15, 2016, standoff with law enforcement that left officer Michael “Mick” McClaughry blind after being shot in the head.

After concerns about Rivas’ competency were made by defense lawyer Jason Smith, Skagit County Superior Court Judge Brian Stiles granted Friday a request by Rivas’ defense team to have a mental health evaluation completed.

Rivas’ trial was scheduled to begin July 31.

Smith, who has been on Rivas’ defense team for about four months, said his concerns arose after a meeting last week between Rivas, Smith and one of the defense team’s expert witnesses.

“I believe my duty is if there’s a doubt to his competency I need to bring it forward,” Smith said.

Co-counsel Tammy Candler, who has been on Rivas’ case since the beginning, said that while she was not at last week’s meeting she supports a mental health evaluation based on the concerns of the expert witness, who the defense team brought in to testify about gangs.

Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich and Chief Deputy Criminal Prosecuting Attorney Rosemary Kaholokuka opposed the motion, stating that at no point during the past two and a half years had Rivas shown he was incapable to stand trial.

Stiles said all defendants have a right to be mentally sound during their trials, therefore he granted the motion.

Stiles said Rivas’ trial now could be as early as September, or as late as after the new year.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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