WINCHESTER — A judge on Tuesday reversed course and said an agoraphobic man accused of accidentally firing a shot into his neighbor’s home can stand trial at home
If John Christopher Wiley is found to be mentally competent to stand trial, it would be the first-ever trial by video in Frederick County Circuit Court. Judge J. Howe Brown Jr. said he was wrong to have ruled on June 21 that John Christopher Wiley needed to come to court. Brown said Wiley’s agoraphobia — an irrational fear of leaving home or entering public spaces — is a mental disorder that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said Wiley can participate through Skype.
Wiley, 27, off the 100 block of Artillery Road in the county, is accused of accidentally shooting into his neighbor’s home on Dec. 11, 2017. He faces charges of discharging a firearm into a building and reckless use of a firearm.
Wiley told deputies he was conducting “ballistics tests” by firing a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol into a tree stump in his garage. A bullet ricocheted off the stump and went through a wall of the nearby home, striking the ceiling and landing in an upstairs bedroom, according to police.
The trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday, but the prosecution sought a delay because the deputy who investigated the shooting is in Japan serving in the Navy Reserves.
Defense attorney Robert D. Anderson told the judge he rejected an offer by the prosecution to pay for the cost of the Skype feed in exchange for Wiley stipulating that testimony by the deputy is accurate. Anderson said the prosecution is obligated to cover the Skype cost.
Anderson unsuccessfully sought to have the case dismissed. He said it had dragged on too long and noted that the prosecution became aware of Wiley’s agoraphobia in 2014 in an unrelated case. Anderson said after the hearing that the prosecution had planned to call Wiley as a witness in a drunken driving case five years ago, but he never showed up due to his fear of leaving home.
A hearing on the results of Wiley’s mental examination is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Nov. 14. If Wiley is found competent, a trial date will be set.