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Nevada County assault suspect awaits decision on competency

Paul Switzer

A Nevada County judge has shelved the case of a man accused of attacking his victim with an ax until a psychologist can pen a report on his competency to stand trial, attorneys said.

Paul Switzer, 51, faces felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism. Jailed since Jan. 3, Switzer is next scheduled to appear in Nevada County Superior Court on March 22, records state.

It’s expected a judge will examine a report on Switzer’s competency at that hearing before determining whether he can stand trial.

“Those evaluations take quite a while and he’s still in custody,” Deputy District Attorney Casey Ayer said.

Deputy Public Defender Tamara Zuromskis, who represents Switzer, said she declared a doubt to her client’s competency at a hearing last week. She added that she couldn’t discuss her reasons for that doubt.

Making the declaration suspended criminal proceedings against Switzer.

“You basically hit the ‘pause button’ on proceedings,” Zuromskis said.

If on March 22 the judge finds Switzer competent, the case against him resumes. If found incompetent, a psychiatrist would examine Switzer and determine if he needs medication administered involuntarily, Zuromskis said.

Defendants found incompetent have a handful of options. Zuromskis said most of her clients found incompetent are taken to a state hospital, which works toward restoring competency. Once restored a criminal case then resumes.

“If they never regain competence, that’s a whole other ball of wax,” Zuromskis said.

Authorities have said Switzer on Jan. 2 struck a man in the abdomen with an ax on Cherry Hill Place. The victim was taken to a hospital, treated and released. Officers arrested Switzer the next day.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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