Alice Boland was in a Columbia mental health facility Friday as she pleaded not guilty to federal firearms charges, and she was ordered for the second time in her life to undergo a psychiatric exam at a prison hospital.
The Beaufort woman’s public defender stood in Boland’s stead as she was arraigned in a downtown courtroom on four counts connected with a case that has inspired legislation that could make it more difficult for people like her to buy a gun.
Boland, 28, whose history of forced committal for schizophrenia didn’t stop her from getting a pistol last month, is charged with making false statements to purchase a firearm, illegally possessing a firearm because of mental incompetence, possessing a firearm in a school zone and attempting to discharge a firearm in a school zone.
She is accused of buying a .22-caliber handgun Feb. 1 and using it three days later to threaten officials at the Ashley Hall school. On the state level, Boland also faces charges of attempted murder and pointing a firearm.
The federal counts resulted from a grand jury indictment this month.
During Friday’s proceeding, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant ordered Boland to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at Federal Medical Center Butner, a prison hospital in North Carolina. It will be Boland’s second appearance in such a facility in connection with a federal indictment.
“The defendant may presently suffer from a mental disease or defect which would render her mentally incompetent” to understand the accusations, Marchant’s order stated. “(The evaluation also will) determine the existence of insanity at the time of the offense.”
In 2005, a judge sent her to a Texas prison, where doctors deemed that she was incompetent to stand trial on a charge of threatening to shoot the president. She was forcefully injected with drugs and later pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The charge eventually was dropped, and Boland fell out of treatment.
This time, the magistrate ordered Boland to be transferred soon to the North Carolina hospital. After the evaluation, she will return to the S.C. Department of Mental Health in Columbia.
She is expected to stay in custody until the federal case is tried. She also remains held in lieu of a $900,000 bail on the state charges.
Boland was absent from the courthouse, outside of which actors and camera crews filmed a CBS television show called “Reckless.” The only people who stood in front of the magistrate were Boland’s court-appointed attorney, Ann Walsh, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Kittrell.
A federal probation officer and a reporter sat in the gallery. Officials from the downtown private school were invited, but they did not appear.
After the arraignment, both attorneys declined to discuss the case.
“The case is still proceeding toward trial,” Kittrell said. “Other than that, we don’t usually comment to protect the defendant’s rights.”
For now, Boland’s federal case is headed in the same direction as the 2005 charge.
State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, hopes that a bill now gathering steam in the S.C. House will stop her from purchasing a gun from a retailer in the future.
The legislation would require state courts to report findings of mental incompetency to a national database for firearms background checks. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill in Washington also would bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System so that mentally ill people are halted from making such a purchase.
Stavrinakis’ bill unanimously passed through a subcommittee Thursday. It is expected to garner approval in the full Judiciary Committee in a few weeks and later on the House floor.
“My hope is that we’re going to pass this thing with large margins,” he said.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414.
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