Judge orders civil commitment proceedings
A District Court judge allowed a prosecutor Monday to begin civil commitment proceedings for a mentally ill man who cannot be restored to competency in order to face criminal charges against him.
William Hallisey, 61, has been held at the Pitkin County Jail and in state psychiatric hospitals for about two years since he was arrested in October 2015 for allegedly breaking in or trying to break into two houses in Old Snowmass while shirtless and drinking beer.
Hallisey has been found incompetent and restored to competency through forcible medication three times. However, each time he has been returned to the Pitkin County Jail, where employees do not forcibly medicate inmates, and refused to continue taking medication and became incompetent again, said District Judge Chris Seldin.
It would have been helpful if doctors at the state hospital in Pueblo could have worked out a situation where Hallisey could have been forcibly medicated during a court trial or proceedings, but lack of funding and an overwhelming number of cases made that impossible, Seldin said.
“The time to restore competency has come and gone,” he said. “It’s unreasonable to assume he could be brought to competency at this point.”
Public defender Molly Owens had urged the judge to dismiss two low level felonies against Hallisey, as well as a more serious felony charge of second-degree burglary, on the grounds that his right to a speedy trial has been violated.
Prosecutor Sarah Oszczakiewicz, however, objected to that course of action and strongly advocated for some kind of supervision plan for Hallisey.
On Monday, Oszczakiewicz asked the judge for another competency evaluation based on information she received from the county jail director indicating that Hallisey wants to stay in jail to get a larger amount of money out of a civil lawsuit he plans to file. That behavior indicates he may be taking advantage of his mental-health diagnosis, she said.
Seldin said that based on his research of federal law and applicable law from other states — specifically New York and California — Hallisey must be released from custody or civil commitment proceedings must begin.
“The court finds he is not likely to be returned to competency,” Seldin said.
Therefore, he directed Oszczakiewicz to file a civil commitment petition for Hallisey by Nov. 6. If that isn’t done by then, Oszczakiewicz should be ready to argue why the case should not be dismissed, he said.
In other court news:
A prosecutor agreed Monday not to recommend a prison sentence for a local man who pleaded guilty to stealing another man’s credit card number and running up nearly $9,000 in charges.
Ronald Heffner, 31, pleaded guilty to attempted identity theft and check fraud — both felonies — as well as two misdemeanor counts of theft.
One of the theft counts relates to a 2016 case in which Heffner declined to return a rental car. The remaining charges stem from a 2017 case in which Heffner allegedly met a man online, spent the night with him at a local hotel and copied down the man’s American Express card number before leaving the hotel in the morning.
Heffner would have faced as many as four years in prison on the felony counts and as many as three years in the county jail for the misdemeanor pleas. However, Oszczakiewicz agreed not to recommend prison in the case and to cap any jail sentence at 90 days.
Heffner is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
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The steep Jail Trail that leads into downtown Aspen is getting a better grade to address safety concerns and make it easier for people to use.