Aspen man’s mental illness stymies cases
October 12, 2017
A thorny decision involving two long-pending criminal cases against a mentally ill local man who's been in custody nearly two years may be coming to a head Monday.
A lawyer for William Hallisey, 61, wants the cases against him dismissed because he's allegedly permanently incompetent and his Constitutional rights to a speedy trial in the two cases have been violated because he's been in custody so long, according to court filings.
The prosecutor in the case, however, disagreed with that theory but hedged her stance by saying that if a District Court judge grants the dismissal, he shouldn't do so without a plan to protect both Hallisey and the community at large.
Hallisey, meanwhile, has been found incompetent three times since May 2015 by state mental-health professionals, and restored to competency each time through forced medication, according to a motion to dismiss filed by his public defender, Molly Owens. However, once he is no longer forced to take the psychotropic drugs, he becomes incompetent again, the motion states.
In July, another psychiatrist filed a report finding him "incompetent to proceed and that there is a substantial probability that he will not be restored to competency in the foreseeable future," according to Owens' motion
"Under the unique circumstance of Mr. Hallisey's case, outright dismissal of the criminal cases is the most appropriate step," Owens wrote in the motion.
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Hallisey was first arrested in March 2015 after he admitted to breaking into a neighbor's home, damaging items inside and stealing others, including the man's car, according to a motion filed by prosecutor Sarah Oszczakiewicz objecting to dismissing the cases against Hallisey.
The next day, Hallisey entered the man's home when the man's son was home alone, the motion states. The son told him to leave and physically tried to force him out of the house, but Hallisey pushed past him, entered the son's bedroom and stole his guitar, according to the motion. When the neighbor confronted Hallisey, he told the neighbor he "was a prophet and was told to take the car," the prosecutor's motion states.
After he was medically restored to competency the first time, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to probation in September 2015.
Less than a month later, he was arrested again for allegedly breaking into one home in Old Snowmass while drinking hard liquor and beer and trying to break into another, where a woman was home with her daughter. That incident also provoked a probation violation against Hallisey because of the earlier case.
"The allegations in the present cases demonstrate the harm that (Hallisey) poses to himself," Oszczakiewicz wrote in her motion. "(He) could have been hurt by someone protecting their own safety or property and he could have seriously hurt or killed himself by driving while intoxicated."
Further, he is a danger to residents of the Aspen-area community, she said.
"As it relates to others, (Hallisey's) irrational and bizarre thinking causes him to violate the personal and property rights of other people in the community," the prosecutor's motion states. "Moreover, (Hallisey's) inability or refusal to control his mental illness and substance abuse issues places countless individuals in harm's way should he continue to drive a vehicle or have access to any of the weapons that he admitted to possessing when he was arrested (in March 2015).
"None of (Hallisey's) neighbors or community members should be placed, needlessly, in such a position."
If District Judge Chris Seldin chooses to dismiss the case, Oszczakiewicz strongly urged him not to do so without a supervision plan.
"(Hallisey) is not an individual that the court should release into the community without supervision," according to her motion. "If the court determines that release from custody is appropriate … the People implore this court to delay (Hallisey's) release until an Adult Protective Services plan can be instituted."
Owens' motion mentions nothing about such a plan should Hallisey be released back into the community. However, she characterized the allegations against him as "nonviolent" and pointed out that he's been in custody for more than 22 months on the latest charges and more than 28 months total in the first case, according to her motion.
The most serious charge against Hallisey — second-degree burglary — is a Class 3 felony, though she noted that Seldin called that charge "a close call" when he bound it over for trial after a preliminary hearing, according to Owens' motion. The remaining two charges against him in that case are lower-level felonies for which Hallisey "has already served vastly more time in custody on these cases than most would for such counts," the motion states.
Hallisey's case is scheduled as part of Monday's regular felony criminal court docket. He has refused to attend court for the past year. Before that, he often wore an eye patch to court proceedings and frequently yelled at lawyers and judges.