Prince William Co. arson, stalking case gets trial date but defense strategy unclear

Kashif Bashir, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2013 shooting of an Alexandria, Virginia, police officer, has again had his sanity examined, but it’s not clear if his attorney will argue Bashir is insane when he goes on trial for arson and stalking in Prince William County.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa Polinske told a judge a mental health expert has completed a thorough examination of Bashir, “and we’re now ready for trial.”

After reviewing a court-appointed mental health evaluation by a different doctor, a judge ruled Feb. 29 that Bashir was competent to stand trial on charges of stalking and setting fire to the home of a mental health provider. WTOP first reported the judge’s decision in April.

Outside the courtroom, WTOP asked co-counsel Taso Saunders about the findings of the evaluation, and whether he intended to offer an insanity defense. Saunders had no comment to either question.

Circuit Court Judge Carroll Weimer set a two-week trial, to begin Feb. 16, 2021, but warned lawyers the date could be reset, since currently the county is not holding jury trials because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once jury trials resume, Weimer anticipates continued delays because of the challenges posed by social distancing in the confined parameters of a courthouse.

Bashir was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2014 for shooting and grievously wounding Alexandria motorcycle officer Peter Laboy. In 2018, an Alexandria judge released Bashir from a mental hospital, with conditions.

Eight months later, Bashir was charged in Prince William County with starting a fire and trying to set another at the home of two mental health providers.

Elizabeth Dugan, a supervisor at the local agency responsible for reporting whether Bashir was complying with his conditional release, had been seeing him five days a week, under a court order.

Bashir has been indicted on felony counts of arson, attempted arson and making a false statement on a consent form to purchase a firearm, as well as nine counts of misdemeanor stalking, unauthorized use of an electronic tracking device and possession of a firearm by a person acquitted by reason of insanity.

After he was arrested in Prince William County, Alexandria’s prosecutor filed a motion to revoke Bashir’s conditional release. That motion remains on hold as the arson and stalking case progresses.

If convicted of the most serious charge — arson — Bashir could face life in prison.

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