Judge orders release of mentally ill Aspen man after 2 years in jail
A local man whose mental health issues have stymied efforts to prosecute him during more than two years in jail was released from custody Monday after a District Court judge dismissed the criminal cases against him.
District Judge Chris Seldin freed William Hallisey, 61, from the Pitkin County Jail on Monday afternoon without a supervision plan that the District Attorney’s Office implored the judge to implement in a motion filed last month.
But in order for such a plan to be formed, civil commitment proceedings against Hallisey must begin. And for that process to start, a medical doctor must find Hallisey is a danger to himself, to others or is “gravely disabled,” said Ben Sollars, assistant district attorney. The DA’s Office has been trying to acquire that determination about Hallisey but hasn’t yet, Sollars said.
“He’s already been in custody for too long to justify continued efforts to restore him to competency,” Seldin said. “Pending completion of the court’s order, Mr. Hallisey will be released on his own recognizance effective today.”
A shirtless Hallisey was arrested Oct. 14, 2015, after allegedly breaking into one home in Old Snowmass while drinking beer and hard liquor and attempting to break into another where a woman was home alone with her daughter. The woman who was with her daughter told police she had to run through her home to lock a door just as Hallisey tried to open it.
Hallisey was charged with burglary, attempted burglary and attempted criminal trespassing in that case. All are felonies.
Seldin noted Monday that others charged with attempted burglary and attempted criminal trespassing have received short, probationary sentences, not two years in jail. The burglary charge is a higher degree felony, though Seldin noted that the evidence underlying that charge presented a preliminary hearing in May 2016 was “a close call.”
All charges — including a probation violation related to an earlier 2015 case when Hallisey was charged with breaking into his neighbor’s home — were dismissed Monday.
Hallisey has been restored to competence three times through forced medication. However, once he returned to Pitkin County, he was no longer forced to take medication and reverted to incompetence, according to court records. In July, a psychiatrist found him “incompetent to proceed” at the time and a “substantial probability that he will not be restored to competency in the foreseeable future,” court records state.
On Monday, Seldin called the charges against Hallisey “serious” and said that while they did not indicate violent behavior, they were problematic.
“(Hallisey’s) behavior is certainly alarming,” the judge said, noting that it is most likely to get him into dangerous situations. “The court is concerned that it will see Mr. Hallisey again.”
Hallisey has referred to himself as a “shaman” in court and said he can survive without food or water. He frequently wore an eye patch to court and repeatedly interrupted the judge.
Hallisey has refused to attend court for most of the past year and did not attend Monday’s hearing.
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