Reports find Michael Bessigano doesn't meet legal standard for insanity.
BY JOYCE RUSSELL Times Staff Writer
Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2002
VALPARAISO -- The man accused of abusing and killing a chicken last year has been found competent to stand trial.
During a brief hearing Tuesday afternoon, Michael Bessigano, the Valparaiso man who had admitted to having sex with a chicken in a rented Valparaiso motel room, withdrew his defense of not guilty by reason of a mental disease or defect.
Porter Superior Court Judge Thomas Webber accepted the motion and continued the pre-trial hearing until Aug. 14, the date originally set for the beginning of Bessigano's bench trial on charges including cruelty to an animal, theft of an animal and being an habitual offender. The trial date most likely will be postponed.
Public Defender Dolores Aylesworth said the court appointed a psychologist and psychiatrist to assess her client. She hired a second psychiatrist for an independent assessment of Bessigano. The reports of those examinations were presented to Webber. They were sealed, only to be opened by a court order.
"The findings in those reports was that he is competent to stand trial," Aylesworth said, adding that Bessigano does not meet the legal definition of being "criminally insane." However, she added that doesn't mean a person not fitting the legal definition doesn't have mental health problems.
Aylesworth said there has not been a plea agreement reached in the case.
Bessigano's history of animal abuse
dates back to 1991 when he was arrested twice, once after being accused of breaking a rooster's neck and once after he was found in a neighbor's goose pen apparently attempting to abuse the birds.
He also was accused of abusing and killing a Rottweiler dog at a rural Crown Point ranch in 1992 and was imprisoned until 1994. A month after his release, he was arrested in connection with the attempted theft of a German shepherd
in St. John Township.
Joyce Russell can be reached at email@example.com
or (219) 762-4334.