Final Analysis

Over the past six months, someone allegedly has committed a string of burglaries at the Monument home of state senator Charles Duke, making off with Duke's pocketknife, part of his 1996 tax file, a single component from his laser printer and a "tie-clip" microphone the legislator had used to bug his own home.

Duke is no stranger to intrigue; he's a veteran of high-profile incidents ranging from his use of state telephones to gab with patriot groups to his stint last June as a go-between in the standoff between the FBI and Montana's separatist Freemen. But following the alleged burglaries at his home, Duke appeared to descend even further into a cloak-and-dagger world. Last week the Denver Post reported that the esteemed senator suspected U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former education secretary Bill Bennett and the US West telephone company of being behind the string of "break-ins," some of which occurred while Duke was sleeping.

Charles Duke has seemed, um, odd for years. But perhaps that's just because he's a state legislator. It's not like he's a textbook headcase, right? Well, here's what the textbooks say. You decide.

The essential feature of Delusional Disorder is the presence of one or more nonbizarre delusions that persist for at least one month...Nonbizarre delusions involve situations that can conceivably occur in real life (e.g., being followed, poisoned, infected, or loved at a distance).

--Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition

"The names of Speaker Gingrich and Mr. Bennett were told to a sheriff's deputy in response to a direct question as to who may have been responsible for the break-ins of my home. I told the deputy explicitly that I did not know who could be responsible. I also said one possibility might be from an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting that I attended in Washington, D.C., in December of 1994. At that meeting, Speaker Gingrich told the entire group of legislators that, 'We must find a way to stop the state sovereignty movement.' Mr. Bennett then subsequently stated, to the same group that same evening, 'We must nip this state sovereignty movement in the bud.' Inasmuch as I was the perceived leader of the movement at the time, I considered both these remarks as a direct threat against me personally."

--Charles Duke, in a written statement issued in response to the Post story.

Auditory or visual hallucinations, if present, are not prominent.

"When you're down there debating, if you listen real close, if you really turn up your sensitivity, you can feel the evil that flows through the body when they pass one of those bills. I guarantee you can feel it...If you think you are a sensitive person, you come down to that legislature when you know we're going to be debating one of those bills, and you can hear cackling in the ceiling, you can hear the smiles of the beast as it's trying to force its puppets to do its bidding--and it is successful at it."

--Duke, quoted in The Colorado Statesman, August 5, 1994.

Psychosocial functioning is variable. Some individuals may appear to be relatively unimpaired in their interpersonal and occupational roles...Apart from the direct impact of the delusions, psychosocial functioning is not markedly impaired, and behavior is neither obviously odd nor bizarre.


The senator gave scores of interviews during the Freemen standoff last summer in which he appeared to be a calming force. At one point, he even told reporters, "The Freemen are using the Constitution as a facade to prevent their incarceration for illegal activities."

Persecutory Type. This subtype applies when the central theme of the delusion involves the person's belief that he or she is being conspired against, cheated, spied on, followed, poisoned or drugged, maliciously maligned, harassed, or obstructed in the pursuit of long-term goals.


Duke confirmed at a news conference last week that he believes his life is in danger in part because of a campaign sponsored by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. He told a reporter more than two years ago that his house is bugged by spies working for the federal government.

The focus of the delusion is often on some injustice that must be remedied by legal action ("querulous paranoia"), and the affected person may engage in repeated attempts to obtain satisfaction by appeal to the courts and other government agencies.


In addition to reports made to local law enforcement that date back to 1992, the senator told the Post last week that he had recently filed complaints of an unspecified nature with the FBI and the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Especially with the Persecutory and Jealous Types, marked anger and violent behavior can occur.


"We need some ability to get some firepower to protect the citizens."
--Duke, to a Kansas militia group called the Constitutionists in 1994.

In the general population, the incidence of delusions is often difficult to assess because of reticence of clients to admit delusions in professional interviews.

--The Encyclopedia of Psychology

"When I am asked by the media, 'Tell me about your contacts with the militia,' I say, 'I don't even know anybody in the militia.' So you're going to hear me say that. You're going to hear me deny that you exist or that you're a problem or any of those things."

--Duke, in taped remarks to a group of Texas militia members in October 1995.

Precise information about the population prevalence of Delusional Disorder is lacking, but the best estimate is around 0.03 percent.


In February 1996 Duke told a reporter from Tulsa that about 10 percent of Coloradans could be defined as "patriots."

Psychodynamically oriented authors have stressed the importance of the therapist not becoming preoccupied with the details of the patient's delusional system, rather focusing more on interpersonal relationships and frustrations.

--The Encyclopedia of Psychology

The El Paso County sheriff has decided not to investigate the "break-ins" at Duke's home because of a lack of any evidence.

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Scott C. Yates