Military police check identifications at an entry gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Military police check identifications at an entry gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. (Gary Warner/Stars and Stripes)

A former Army intelligence sergeant at Joint Base Lewis-McChord charged with trying to sell secrets to the Chinese has been judged unfit to stand trial, according to federal court documents.

Joseph Daniel Schmidt, 30, was ordered transferred to an unspecified federal psychiatric hospital facility following a May 4 decision by Federal District Judge John C. Coughenour of the U.S. District Court of Western Washington.

“The defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense,” Coughenour wrote in his order.

The mental competency and restoration order was included in Schmidt’s trial docket. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg and Assistant Federal Public Defender Dennis Carroll jointly submitted the report. Neither could be reached for additional comment on Wednesday.

Coughenour’s order included an unspecified delay in Schmidt’s trial, which was scheduled to begin in early 2025.

Schmidt was a team leader in the human intelligence section of the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion at Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted Schmidt on Oct. 4, 2023, on two felony counts of attempting to deliver national defense information and retaining national defense information.

Each carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI arrested Schmidt on Oct. 6, 2023, when he arrived in San Francisco on a flight from Hong Kong. Schmidt was transferred by court order to a federal prison near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

An FBI report in support of the indictment alleged after leaving the Army in 2020, Schmidt spent much of the next three years attempting to convince Chinese agents in Istanbul, Hong Kong, and Beijing that he could turn over significant materials on American forces and strategy in the region.

Schmidt also sought employment or affiliation with the Chinese as a self-described expert on espionage and interrogation. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In the May 4 order, Coughenour stated Schmidt be turned over to the U.S. Attorney General, who “shall hospitalize the defendant for treatment in a suitable facility to determine whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future, the defendant will attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward and, if appropriate, to undergo competency restoration treatment, which may include, as necessary, individual therapy.”

Under the court order, Schmidt can be held at the psychiatric facility for no more than four months. Government-appointed psychiatric experts will then test the defendant’s mental capacity to stand trial and submit a report to the judge. The report will also be shown to Schmidt, as well as prosecution and defense attorneys.

Coughenour could then order Schmidt to stand trial or extend his psychiatric stay.

author picture
Gary Warner covers the Pacific Northwest for Stars and Stripes. He’s reported from East Germany, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and across the U.S. He has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now