Original Story by Rafael Olmeda/Sun Sentinel

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. — The man accused of swinging a live bearded dragon lizard at employees of his Deerfield Beach reptile shop may not be competent to stand trial on animal cruelty charges, his lawyer said Wednesday.Benjamin Siegel, 40, was deemed “incompetent to proceed” by psychologist Michael Brannon, who was hired by the defense to examine him last week. According to an arrest report, Siegel placed the bearded dragon in his mouth, threw it, swung it and used it to strike two employees.

Siegel was arrested Jan. 2 and charged with animal cruelty, a felony, and two counts of battery.

Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes ordered another psychological evaluation for a routine second opinion, required before a defendant can be deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Haimes also ordered the case to be moved to the county’s mental health court.

A finding that Siegel is incompetent to stand trial could stall his case for as long as his mental health does not improve. The case would resume once psychologists determine that his competency is restored.

In asking the court for the second evaluation, defense lawyer Ken Padowitz said he “has interviewed

[the] defendant and defendant’s immediate family and has reason to believe [he] does not possess the mental capacity to proceed with this case,” according to a motion filed with the court.

Padowitz said he is “unable to communicate with [the] defendant regarding the pertinent facts of the case and has serious doubts as to [the] defendant’s ability to understand the nature of the proceedings and stand trial.”