Mentally Ill Man Arrested after Counselor Reported Patient’s Plan to Commit Murder

A mentally ill man was arrested in Utah after his counselor reported the patient’s plan to commit murder.

On a deadly assignment

25 year old Joseph Terrill Bonnell-Hall who is listed as a resident of Plummer Idaho within the boundaries of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Reservation was arrested in Utah while allegedly en route to Albuquerque New Mexico to murder four people. Bonnell-Hall’s counselor at a treatment center on the reservation alerted authorities that Bonnell-Hall was mentally ill and had left the facility with plans to murder people. According to the information put out by a dispatcher in Utah, Bonnell-Hall suffers from schizophrenia and told his psychologist the voices in his head were telling him to kill people in New Mexico who were using magic to hurt him. Law enforcement in Utah located Bonnell-Hall outside a grocery store in Spanish Fork with weapons and ammunition in his vehicle.

Attempted murder from 500 miles away

Bonnell-Hall was arrested and booked into the Utah county jail for multiple charges including:

• Possession of a deadly weapon with criminal intent, a class A misdemeanor according to Utah Code 76-10-507; and

• Four counts of attempted murder, each a first degree felony despite the fact that Bonnell-Hall was still over 500 miles away from those he allegedly planned on killing.

There is a possibility that Bonnell-Hall may face more charges including those on a federal level since his crime encompassed three different states. It is not known if the Tribal Police of the Coeur d’Alene reservation will be also add any additional charges at this time.

Substantial step toward the crime

While Bonnell-Hall still had nine hours of drive time left before his planned victims would have been in immediate physical danger, he voiced a threat of violence or death and made steps towards carrying out that threat such as already being halfway to his destination and crossing state lines while in possession of firearms and ammunition. Utah Code 76-4-101 states: “… a person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if he:

a) engages in conduct constituting a substantial step toward commission of the crime; and

b) (i) intends to commit the crime; or

(ii) when causing a particular result is an element of the crime, he acts with an awareness that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause that result.”

Doctor/patient confidentiality

While the general public is happy that someone who was a threat to others and possibly himself is off the street, the concern with the breach of doctor and patient privacy or the seeming disregard of HIPPA rules cannot be ignored. The easy answer to this breech of patient privacy could be due to the fact that the healthcare professional was on the tribal reservation, which falls out of state and federal jurisdiction and is therefore not expected to uphold to the same restrictions. Had that same healthcare professional been within Utah State jurisdiction however, surprisingly it would have been the same result.

Protect patient privacy unless…

Utah Code 58-61-602 begins by issuing strict guidelines protecting patient privacy. It reads: “A psychologist . . . may not disclose any confidential communication with a client or patient without the express consent of: the client or patient; the parent or legal guardian of a minor client or patient; or the authorized agent of a client or patient.” That same section goes on to note however that there are instances where “the psychologist is permitted or required by state or federal law, rule, regulation, or order to report or disclose any confidential communication . . . “. This includes when the information pertains to the “abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult”, “child abuse or neglect “, “communicable disease”, or if it falls under the “limitations of therapist’s duty to warn” found in 78B-3-502 which reads:

(1) A therapist has no duty to warn or take precautions to provide protection from any violent behavior of his client or patient, except when that client or patient communicated to the therapist an actual threat of physical violence against a clearly identified or reasonably identifiable victim. That duty shall be discharged if the therapist makes reasonable efforts to communicate the threat to the victim, and notifies a law enforcement officer or agency of the threat.”

That section protects a therapist for breeching privacy laws by stating:

(2) An action may not be brought against a therapist for breach of trust or privilege, or for disclosure of confidential information, based on a therapist’s communication of information to a third party in an effort to discharge his duty in accordance with Subsection 1. . .”

Since Bonnell-Hall told his counselor that he planned to kill specific people, the counselor then had enough information to alert the authorities in an effort to try and protect the potential victims. Although sessions with a counselor or psychologist should be private and even disturbing things said during that time are kept private, if the counselor feels there is a specific threat to a person or persons, they are obligated to report it. For more information on when doctor patient information can be used against a defendant in court, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Theft and Unlawful Use of Finance Cards

Credit and debit cards are an easy way for an individual to access the funds in their account when they need to make a purchase, however finance cards can also be easy targets for theft and unlawful use by others.

Increase in finance card theft

Photo by: Bryan Rosengrant

Viewing any county bookings report in Utah and it is apparent that theft and unlawful use of finance cards continues to be a growing trend among larcenist. Finance cards can be stolen out of lost wallets and purses, with the thief using the card until the victim realizes their card is missing and quickly cancels it. There are also ways individuals can have their finance card info stolen discreetly with the card never leaving their wallet. The individual may not realize their finance card information is stolen until they are contacted by their bank or by the police.

Theft of information

One way the discreet theft and use of finance cards takes place is by the use of credit card skimmers. Skimmers can be placed discretely in card readers such as those found at gas pumps. The small hand held skimmers can also be hidden in the pocket of a store cashier, waiter or waitress. The finance card is discretely swiped through the bugged card reader or through the skimmer and the card is handed back to the victim, who is none the wiser. Theft of finance cards can also take place without the thief ever handling the card itself. Information can be stolen online, through malware or collected through the use of shared personal information over the phone or online.

Type of fraud

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Theft or otherwise illegally obtaining another person’s finance card is considered a type of fraud according to Utah State law. According to Utah Code 76-6-506.3, “Any person is guilty of a third degree felony who:
(1) acquires a financial transaction card from another without the consent of the card holder or the issuer;
(2) receives a financial transaction card with intent to use [unlawfully] . . . ;
(3)sells or transfers a financial transaction card to another person with the knowledge that it will be used [illegally] . . . ;
(4) acquires a financial transaction card that the person knows was lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the identity or address of the card holder; . . .
(5) possesses, sells, or transfers any information necessary for the use of a financial transaction card, including the credit number of the card, the expiration date of the card, or the personal identification code related to the card [without the consent of knowledge of the cardholder].”

Unlawful use of card

Beyond felony charges for acquiring someone else’s finance card without their consent, there are other charges if that card is used to make purchases. Utah Code 76-6-506.2 warns that “It is unlawful for any person to:
(1) knowingly use a . . . stolen, or fraudulently obtained financial transaction card to obtain or attempt to obtain credit, goods, property, or services”.
Anyone found unlawfully using a card belonging to someone else will face additional charges depending on the monetary value of what the card was used for. Utah Code 76-7-506.5 notes “Any person found guilty of unlawful [use of a financial card] is guilty of:
(a) a class B misdemeanor when the value of the property, money, or thing obtained or sought to be obtained is less that $500;
(b) a class A misdemeanor when the value . . . is or exceeds $500 . . . ;
(c) a third degree felony when the value . . . is or exceeds $1,500 . . . ;
(d) a second degree felony when the value . . . is or exceeds $5,000.”

Not their lucky day

Photo by: Martin Cooper

Some individuals make an effort to steal another’s financial card information while others just happen upon the opportunity. When someone is going through rough financial times, they may see a lost finance card on the ground or an improperly addressed card in their mailbox and think their monetary luck has struck. Regardless of how the card was obtained, keeping and using a card that belongs to another person will end in criminal charges. For legal aid regarding charges for theft and unlawful use of a finance card, speak to a criminal defense attorney.

Theft of Pets in Utah

Theft of pets are on the rise in Utah and many residents are inquiring what the laws are regarding stealing someone else’s companion animal.

Pets are property

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Most people that own pets will say their fur-babies are family. According to Utah law however, pets are not children; they are considered property instead. Stealing a pet is not kidnapping or dognapping- it is theft. Theft of property such as a dog, cat, bike, or DVD player is punishable depending on the value of the property. Although pet owners would say it is impossible to put a dollar amount on a pet, many animals were either purchased or adopted for a fee which could be used to determine a monetary amount.

Monetary Value

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Domesticated pets such as small mammals and cats do not have a high monetary value but purebred dogs and specialty or exotic animals can range greatly in price and value. Birds such as large Cockatoos and Macaws can be worth thousands of dollars while purebred dogs can vary from $300 to as much as $14,000 depending on the type of dog, their lineage, and whether or not they come with papers. The punishment for theft of a pet depends on what that animal is worth. According to Utah Code 76-6-412:

• If the value of the pet is less than $500, the dog thief may face class B misdemeanor charges;
• If the pet is worth more than $500 but less than $1,500, it is a class A misdemeanor;
• Theft of a pet valued at more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 is a third degree felony;
• Stealing pricey animals that exceed the monetary value of $5,000 can result in second degree felonies.

These charges are enhanced if the offender has prior offenses related to theft, burglary, or robbery.

Reason for stealing an animal

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The majority of pet thefts occur for the purpose of making a dishonest profit by reselling the animal, however there are other reasons for stealing pets that could result in separate charges.

• Waiting for the reward. Many times when a pet goes missing, the family will offer a reward for the safe return of their furry family member. Some pets are stolen and then given back to the family once the reward is offered. Even if the plan is to return to pet, it is still considered theft or perhaps wrongful appropriation which is punishable one degree lower than theft according to Utah Code 76-6-404.5.

• Relocating a neighbor’s pet. Some pet thefts occur from a disgruntled neighbor getting rid of a nuance animal.There have been cases throughout Utah of animals being stolen and dropped off in remote areas or even let out of a fenced yard. Stealing a pet to abandon it or releasing it on the street could constitute cruelty to animals if the animal is left in what section 76-9-301 states to be a “situation where conditions present an immediate, direct, and serious threat to the life, safety, or health of the animal.” Charges for intentional abandonment of an animal can range from a class C to class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Stacy

• Fighting dogs. Sadly, some breeds that get a bad rap for being prone to dog aggression are often stolen based on that natural tendency. Pit bulls which are quickly becoming a beloved pet among families also have a history of violence towards other dogs and people if they are treated or raised poorly. This breed is known for being powerful while doing a lot of damage when they do attack and that may be why they are so popular in the illegal dog fighting ring. If dogs are stolen for use in dog fighting, the charges can include theft as well as third degree felony charge for training or causing a dog to fight as stated in Utah Code 76-9-301.1.

Missing or stolen

While there is an uptick of pet thefts throughout Utah, there are also many animals that go missing without any human involvement. Missing pets should be reported to animal control and posted on flyers as well as social media sources to get the word around. If someone truly feels their pet has been stolen, the owner should notify the authorities while also keeping an eye on resale sights such as Craigslist and Facebook yard sale sights. For anyone charged with stealing a pet whether to make a quick buck, get back at a neighbor, or commit another crime involving the pet, it is important to speak to an attorney about the charges prior to admitting fault to police.