Psychiatrists Differ On Shooter's State A Witness Said The Prospect Park Man Knew What He Was Doing When He Fired At A Letter Carrier. He Claims Insanity.

Posted: May 17, 2000

Dominic Philiposian was not insane when he fired two sniper shots from his bedroom window that critically wounded Sharon Hill postal worker Theresa Ebinger, a psychiatrist for the prosecution testified yesterday.

"He was able, capable, of forming a specific intent to kill Ms. Ebinger," Robert L. Sadoff said at Philiposian's trial in U.S. District Court. "He did not have a mental disease or defect that would make him not appreciate the criminality of his behavior."

During cross-examination, defense lawyer Stuart Patchen questioned whether Sadoff had evaluated Philiposian properly and why his findings were in stark contrast to those of two other psychiatrists.

"How probing were your questions?" Patchen asked Sadoff.

Philiposian, 25, of Prospect Park, admitted to police that he opened fire at Ebinger, 42, with a high-power rifle from his third-story bedroom window on Jan. 12, 1999. Ebinger, a postal employee for more than 18 years, had just delivered his mail and was walking down the driveway of the home next door.

The issue in the nonjury trial, which began Monday, is not whether Philiposian shot Ebinger, but whether he was sane at the time. His court-appointed lawyers contend he was legally insane. Federal prosecutors say that while Philiposian may have been mentally ill, he understood what he was doing as well as the consequences.

Sadoff's testimony contradicted that of Raquel Gur, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist and expert on schizophrenia, who testified Monday for the defense that Philiposian might be schizophrenic and hence incapable of determining that what he did was unlawful.

On the morning of the shooting, he was "psychotic," she testified.

After firing two bullets that struck Ebinger in the left arm and the stomach, Philiposian fled from his apartment in the 600 block of 11th Avenue. When stopped by police, he said: "I did it, I did it, I admit. . . . I saw her, and I shot her," according to a police affidavit.

He was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and related charges. Later, authorities found a cache of guns in Philiposian's home. They said he shot Ebinger with a Chinese-made MAC-90 rifle.

Sadoff, who was one of the psychiatrists who examined John E. du Pont on behalf of the defense in du Pont's murder trial, testified that he believed Philiposian was suffering from chronic depression and other personality disorders but was not psychotic when he shot Ebinger.

Even if he was, that did not mean he was legally insane, Sadoff said.

Patchen interrogated Sadoff on why he had not interviewed Philiposian's relatives and why he did not agree with the other two psychiatrists, who found that Philiposian exhibited symptoms of psychotic behavior because he reported hearing voices and felt alienated by society.

"The psychotics I've seen doing things like this don't run away," replied Sadoff, referring to Philiposian's fleeing from the scene and then confessing. "They don't think they've done anything wrong."

Sudarsan Raghavan's e-mail address is raghavs@phillynews.com

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