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Ex-Marine guilty of threatening to kill 2 federal judges [Updated]

October 29, 2010 |  2:45 pm

A former Marine has been convicted in Los Angeles federal court of threatening to assault or kill two federal judges over a dispute involving his care at a Veterans Affairs hospital.

The jury convicted Terry Lee Steward, 45, of Palmdale of making threats against U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz and U.S. Magistrate Judge Oswald Parada. The two jurists had overseen Steward's lawsuits against the VA alleging medical malpractice for surgery to remove a tumor from the base of his skull.

Matz presided over a bench trial in 2006 and awarded Steward $75,000. Steward then filed a second lawsuit but it was dismissed by Parada.

In court filings, Steward referred to the possible killing of the two judges, according to court documents. He was arrested in November 2006. He will be sentenced in February.

During the two-day trial, Steward testified that he had served in Iraq. Federal judges and prosecutors in Los Angeles recused themselves from the case.

The judge, Michael R. Hogan, was from the Oregon court. The prosecutor, Robert Huie, was from the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego.

[Updated at 3:29 p.m.: Steward's lawyer, Errol H. Stambler, described his client as a man with deep psychiatric problems who became increasingly frustrated with the legal and medical systems after his surgery at the VA. He said multiple psychiatrists have diagnosed Steward as paranoid and schizophrenic.

"Every psychiatrist who has ever interviewed him -- and we're talking a bunch -- has concluded that he is not a danger to the community," Stambler said.

The references in the legal papers that prosecutors pointed to as threats were Biblical references that Steward thought were significant, Stambler said. He said that he hopes the judge gives his client a sentence of time-served.

"There is no evidence that he ever had intention of harming anyone," Stambler said. "He was just a very frustrated man."

Steward has been incarcerated since his arrest in 2006, including time in a federal hospital where he was given drugs to make him competent to stand trial, Stambler said.

"We fought that but lost," he said.

Despite his client's testimony to the contrary, Stambler said he believes Steward never deployed to Iraq.]

-- Tony Perry in San Diego