News & Politics

Alen Salerian Declared Unfit to Stand Trial

The Bethesda psychiatrist accused of supplying pills to addicts and dealers in southwest Virginia may be committed.

Alen Salerian. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Alen Salerian, the psychiatrist whose downfall was chronicled in Washingtonian’s February issue (“The Spectacular Unraveling of Washington’s Favorite Shrink”), has been found unfit to stand trial.

A federal judge in southwestern Virginia last Friday declared Salerian “mentally incompetent” to assist in his own defense and indefinitely postponed his trial on felony charges of distributing narcotic painkillers to people with no legitimate need for them. According to the judge’s ruling, Salerian’s own lawyers at Katten Muchin Rosenman concurred with a court-appointed forensic psychologist’s opinion that Salerian is unable to properly aid his attorneys. They asked the judge for seven days to come up with recommendations for possible hospitalization and treatment, according to the ruling.

At a hearing last week, Salerian objected “at length” to the psychologist’s report, but judge Pamela Meade Sargent wrote that his “presentation” only lent further credence to the psychologist’s findings.

Salerian’s jury trial on 144 drug-related charges had been scheduled to begin on February 10. But questions about the Bethesda psychiatrist’s mental health that arose in response to Washingtonian’s story prompted prosecutors to ask the court for an independent psychological evaluation. Salerian, a chief psychiatrist to the FBI’s employee assistance program in the 1990s whose patient list once included heiresses, actors, and politicians, has denied any wrongdoing and has cast himself as a pioneering pharmacologist unfairly persecuted by the government. He remains free on bond.