HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Mohammed Taheri-azar shouted expletives and insulted his lawyer in the middle of a court hearing Monday, and it got him sent to Dorothea Dix Hospital for a mental examination.
Was the outburst a random tirade, or was it part of a plan by the man charged with driving an SUV into a crowd of students on the UNC Chapel Hill campus a year ago?
Letters Taheri-azar has written to the campus paper, The Daily Tar Heel, make it a reasonable thing to ask.
In the last year, Taheri-azar, 23, a UNC alumnus, has written nearly 100 letters to The Daily Tar Heel. In the last two weeks alone, newspaper staff members say, there have been nearly a dozen.
WRAL got a closer look at the letters Monday evening, and it seemed that just about everything Taheri-azar said in court Monday was already in them.
“Death to Israel,” Taheri-azar said Monday, along with yelling anti-Jewish remarks and calling his attorney incompetent.
Judge Ken Titus ordered that Taheri-azar be sent to the hospital to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. That evaluation could take anywhere from 28 to 60 days.
“I think the behavior you witnessed was the behavior of a severely ill and mentally disturbed person,” defense attorney James Williams, said Monday. It may not have been unplanned, however.
A hand-written recent written letter that Taheri-azar sent to UNC's school paper, The Daily Tar Heel, from Central Prison in Raleigh, struck a similar tone.
"He said, ‘I also consider the public defender, James E. William (sic) a vermonous dishonest scumbag, embosil, moron,’" quoted Sarah Gregory, a Daily Tar Heel reporter who is working on a story about the letters. The language and spelling are Taheri-azar’s.
That letter is dated Feb. 23. The similarities in that letter and others to the outburst Monday is notable.
"He goes back and forth about how he feels in the letters,” Gregory said. She added that the tone of the letters has changed, becoming more violent.
"Recently, we've gotten some that are weird diatribes: ‘I hate Jews and here's why,’" Daily Tar Heel Editor Joe Schwartz said.
“Everybody, I hate all Americans and all Jews, alright?" Taheri-azar said in court Monday.
Many of The Daily Tar Heel's letters from Taheri-azar have been subpoena for the trial. The paper says it will print a few of the exerts in upcoming articles.
Taheri-azar looked at Titus Monday and asked him what his name was and then asked him to spell it. Taheri-azar then looked at his attorney and said, "I don't know him."
Taheri-Azar was seen making obscene gestures and yelling profanities before entering the Orange County Courthouse. He was supposed to appear before the judge regarding letters he wrote within the past two weeks to Judge Carl Fox.
The content of the dozen letters is not known, and Titus ordered them sealed.
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