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.

New Arrest Links Suspect in Database For Decade Old Murder Case

A person new to the criminal database in Utah was linked to a decade old murder case in West Valley City.

Cold case

Photo by: Tom Britt

In January of 2007 Tri Phan, the owner of a billiards hall in West Valley City Utah was found murdered inside his business. Detectives on the case canvassed the area for clues and spoke with witnesses but were unable to determine a suspect in the case. A key piece of evidence was a single bloody fingerprint that led them nowhere since it was not in their database yet.

New arrest, new entry in database

Several years after the murder, a man was arrested for an unrelated crime and his information along with his fingerprints was entered into the criminal database for the first time. 37 year old Tien Truong Nguyen was then connected to the murder after detectives linked the fingerprints obtained from when he was booked into jail with the single bloody fingerprint left at the crime scene over ten years earlier. Nguyen was arrested for first degree murder over a decade after the crime was committed.

National Crime Information Center

Photo by: CPOA

According to FBI.gov, “the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, has been called the lifeline of law enforcement – an electronic clearinghouse of crime data that can be tapped into by virtually every criminal justice agency nationwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” They also state that “By the end of 2015, NCIC contained 12 million active records in 21 files.” Those records consist of stolen items, missing persons, as well as criminal records.

Forensic evidence and technological advances

As technology continues to advance, so do forensics. With this comes more information added to the criminal database such as fingerprint analysis and DNA profiling which could lead to arrests in other cold cases. For more information on charges related to cold cases and other charges stemming from forensic evidence, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Aggressive Driving Versus Road Rage

Many drivers are guilty of showing hostility to other drivers occasionally but when does aggressive driving escalate to road rage, and what difference does it make legally?

Utah drivers

Photo by: State Farm

Driving can be a stressful event when dealing with other drivers on the road that don’t always make the best decisions. Although bad drivers are literally everywhere, residents of the Beehive State seem to think that the majority of horrible drivers call Utah home. Many Utah drivers will encounter (or cause) at least one incident a day that shows inexperience, poor judgement, disregard for other drivers, or distraction on the road. When these events occur it can be upsetting and how drivers handle their annoyance or anger towards other drivers could make the difference between whether or not they face criminal charges.

Four vehicles – one life lost

Early last month, hundreds of vehicles heading north towards St. George, Utah on I-15 remained at a standstill for several hours, after authorities processed the scene of a road rage incident that claimed the life of innocent driver on the opposite side of the freeway. There is no information on what caused the road rage, but fellow drivers reported three vehicles that were headed southbound on I-15 were being driven aggressively when things quickly escalated. In an attempt to pass a car on the inside shoulder, one of the drivers involved lost control and struck a northbound vehicle, killing 69 year old Michael Prinaris of Henderson, Nevada instantly.

Aggressive driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” They state that an aggressive driver may display the following behaviors:

• “Following too closely,
• Driving at excessive speeds,
• Weaving through traffic, and
• Running red lights and signs, among other acts”.

Road rage

Photo by: Mike Kline

The NHTSA states, “aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder. ( . . . ) Road rage is the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.” The turning point between aggressive driving and road rage is someone can drive aggressively, possibly putting others on the road in danger while road rage is deliberate actions intended to do harm to another driver.

Aggressive driving a.k.a reckless driving

According to the NHTSA “an important distinction is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation, while road rage, aside from the yelling and gesticulating, is a criminal offence.” While it is true that more serious criminal consequences can occur from committing acts of road rage, the state of Utah actually punishes aggressive drivers as well. Utah Code 41-6a-528 defines reckless driving as when a person operating a vehicle does so “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or while committing three or more moving traffic violations ( . . . ) [within]three miles of less in total distance.” Utah’s definition of reckless driving sounds a lot like what can occur during aggressive driving and that can result in class B misdemeanor charges.

Misdemeanor charges for road rage

Road rage is punishable by whatever criminal act a person performed because they were angry at another driver. Beyond reckless driving charges, road rage can also produce charges of:

• Misdemeanor assault if one driver physically assaulted the other driver;
• Threat of violence; also a misdemeanor charge;
• Possession of deadly weapon (vehicle) with criminal intent, a class A misdemeanor.

Felony road rage charges

Photo by:Beau Giles

Unfortunately for many cases, Road rage can also result in felony charges such as:

• Aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, a third degree felony;
• Manslaughter, a second degree felony; or even
• Aggravated murder, a first degree felony.

Anyone facing charges related to an aggressive driving or road rage incident should seek the help of an attorney immediately.