A man accused of stealing ballots from a San Francisco polling station will remain in jail indefinitely after refusing to talk to doctors who were appointed to determine his mental competency, a judge ruled Monday. Karl Bradfield Nicholas, 51, could likely have been out of jail more than a month ago, but a series of bizarre court appearances have kept him in custody beyond the sentence he had agreed to as part of a plea deal.
Nicholas is accused of taking about 75 ballots, a voter roster, and a memory box and access key to a ballot-counting machine on Knott Court in the city’s Crocker Amazon neighborhood where he was working as a voting station inspector on Nov. 2, 2010. Nicholas was arrested the next day, and the ballots were later found in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts. He has been in custody ever since. The memory box and access key have yet to be found.
He could likely have been set free last month since he pleaded guilty in December to felony counts of tampering with voting machines and ballots in exchange for a year in jail and other penalties, although he later tried to withdraw the plea, a motion denied by Judge James Collins.
With credit for time served, the one-year mark came on July 5, but after a series of odd hearings that began that day and included another one today, Nicholas will be in custody for at least 10 more days.
At the July 5 hearing, at which his defense attorney Stuart Blumstein had filed a motion to have him released from jail on his own recognizance, Nicholas was tackled by sheriff’s deputies after yelling at Collins and Blumstein.
Following the outburst, Collins denied the motion to have him released and had the case continued until his sentencing, which was to take place the following week.
During the scheduled sentencing, Nicholas then refused to talk to or acknowledge the questions of Judge Anne Boulianne, who was presiding over the hearing.
Instead of sentencing him, Boulianne ordered him held for two additional days for a mental health examination, and when Nicholas returned to court again, he again declined to speak to the judge or his attorney, so she called for the suspension of criminal proceedings.