Utah Veteran with History of Making Threats Arrested For Sending a Biological Toxin to Government

A Utah veteran with a history of making threats against government officials was arrested after he sent letters to the President, the Pentagon, and a Texas Senator containing a substance that tested positive for a biological toxin.

Disgruntled citizen

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39 year old William Clyde Allen III of Logan, Utah who is a former member of the United States Navy was arrested on multiple federal charges after he sent envelopes containing crushed up castor beans, the source of the biological toxin ricin, to government and state officials. Allen also claimed to have sent similar letters to top officials in other countries as well. This wasn’t Allen’s first threat against the government. Within the last four years, Allen has also made death threats against the President and a threat of mass destruction against a military base in Texas. During the most recent incident involving the mailed substance, Allen undeniably went too far and is now facing federal charges of threatening to use a biological toxin.

Biological weapons

While Allen’s previous threats turned out to be nothing more than him taking a troubling approach to expressing frustration, they have now escalated from verbal and written intimidation to threats accompanied by a deliberate action to cause injury or death. 18 U.S. Code § 175 states “Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, or attempts, threatens, or conspires to do the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years or both.”

Lack of mental clarity

While Allen could be facing life in federal prison for his biological attack, some question Allen’s mental awareness and whether or not he fully understands the gravity of the situation. For starters, he didn’t actually obtain the poison ricin. What he had was castor beans that he bought off the internet and sloppily ground up and distributed to random government officials. Accompanying the chunky powder substance, which wasn’t harmful in its current state, were notes that appeared to make a nod toward the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk. Additionally, Allen seemed more upset at missing his weekend plans than he did to spending his life in federal prison. His behavior doesn’t necessarily reflect someone who intended the worst with a biological weapon. Hopefully the penalty for this outlandish scheme includes a mental health evaluation and the necessary psychological help he so obviously needs.

Homeless Woman Arrested For Making Threat of Terrorism Against Hospital

A homeless woman was arrested after she made a threat of terrorism against a local Utah hospital while refusing to leave the property.

Trespassing at hospital

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22 year old Zoe Michelle Snow was arrested last week for threatening to blow up Utah Valley Hospital after hospital staff made it known that her presence was not wanted on the property. Snow was told repeatedly to leave and was even offered a cab ride away from the hospital but refused to go. She allegedly told workers at the hospital that she would blow up the building if they made her leave. Officers were called to the scene where Snow was behaving in a non-compliant and even combative manner with police. She was arrested for multiple charges including making a threat of terrorism.

Threat of Terrorism

Threatening to blow up an occupied building such as a hospital is considered to be a threat of terrorism according to Utah Code 76-5-107.3. That section reads: “A person commits a threat of terrorism if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and . . . threatens the use of a weapon of mass destruction” whether or not the threat is a hoax. Threat of terrorism in this regard is considered a second degree felony and punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Questionable mental health

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Police reports do not state if Snow, who is homeless at the age of 22 and facing more than a decade in prison for wanting to stay at the hospital had previously been a patient at Utah Valley , but her behavior may display a need for a mental health facility instead.

Pleading Guilty with a Mental Illness

When a person is suffering from a mental illness, it can drastically reduce their ability to determine right from wrong, leading some to commit offenses they may have not been predisposed to commit had they been of sound mind. When this occurs, they may think it is best to plead guilty with a mental illness. Since pleading guilty with a mental illness is still pleading guilty, this is something that is best discussed with a qualified attorney prior to the initial appearance or preliminary hearing.

Prevalence of mental illness nationwide

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Mental illnesses are experiences by millions throughout the nation. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 5 adults, or more than 40 million Americans suffer from a mental illness each year. Nearly 10 million of those suffer from severe, and often debilitating cases of mental illness. Mental illness can affect an individuals ability to hold down a job, maintain healthy relationships, and overall dramatically reduce the quality of life for the sufferer. Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia can decrease a person’s ability to understand the gravity of situations and many believe they could lead a person to exhibit criminal behavior outside their control.

Pleading guilty with a mental illness at the time of the offense

Some individuals may realize that they have committed a serious offense, yet felt they were not in a healthy state of mind when the event occurred. If the evidence is stacked against them, they may choose to claim guilty with a mental illness at the time of the offense. According to Utah Code 76-2-305, “it is a defense to a prosecution under any statute or ordinance that the defendant, as a result of mental illness, lacked the mental state required as an element of the offense charged. “This section defines mental illness as “a mental disease or defect that substantially impairs a person’s mental, emotional, or behavioral functioning. A mental defect may be a congenital condition, the result of injury, or a residual effect of a physical or mental disease and includes, but is not limited to, intellectual disability.”

Sentencing with or without treatment

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When someone is given a verdict of guilty with a mental illness, according to Utah Code 77—16a-104, a hearing will then be conducted to “determine the defendant’s present mental state”. If the person is found to still be suffering from a mental illness, the court would “impose any sentence that could be imposed under law upon a defendant who does not have a mental illness and who is convicted of the same offense and commit the defendant to the department.” The defendant would then be admitted to the Utah State Hospital. Once treatment is completed, the defendant would then be transferred to the UDC (Utah Department of Corrections) to complete their sentencing. Being found guilty with a mental illness it is not a get out of jail free card. It is more of a temporary adjustment as to where the defendant will be serving their sentence.

Still a guilty plea

Utah Code 77-16a-103 gives a note of caution to those pleading guilty with a mental illness, “If the defendant is later found not to have a current mental illness, that plea remains a valid plea of guilty with a mental illness at the time of the offense, and the defendant shall be sentenced as any other offender.” Pleading guilty is still considered admitting fault. This is not something that should be done without proper legal counsel. There are other options available such as pleading guilty to a lesser offense or pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. For anyone facing criminal charges, it is best to speak to a criminal defense attorney to discuss the options available to those suffering from a mental illness.