Judge: Boland's mental illness poses safety threat

Alice Boland

Alice Boland, the woman who pointed a pistol at Ashley Hall school officials last year and pulled the trigger, will be committed for an "indefinite duration" to a federal prison hospital because her mental illness poses a threat to others, the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina said Thursday.

Boland, 30, of Beaufort will stay at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where doctors had been evaluating her mental health for the past year.

The results of that evaluation were not publicized, but a recent order by a federal judge in Texas will keep her in the women's prison facility that tends to psychiatric patients until her condition changes, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a statement.

The judge found "clear and convincing evidence that she is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect" and that "her release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to property of another," Nettles said in a statement.

The case had played out for more than a year, but many of the motions filed in federal court had been sealed from public view. The judge, though, allowed federal prosecutors to release "limited information" about the results of a recent hearing that determined Boland's fate, Nettles said.

Boland showed up in February 2013 at the all-girls private school in downtown Charleston with a .22-caliber pistol she had purchased despite her history of mental illness. She aimed the gun at a school administrator, but it didn't go off because she had loaded it incorrectly, authorities said.

As a result, she faced several state and federal charges related to the gun purchase and the episode at Ashley Hall. Those counts will remain pending unless a court finds that she no longer suffers a mental illness, Nettles said.

It's not the first time Boland has been forcibly treated for mental health problems.

She was arrested and indicted on federal charges after the Secret Service said she threatened to kill the president in 2005. But she was found mentally incompetent to face those charges in a courtroom, and she was later freed after being forcibly treated for schizophrenia.

Her case inspired federal and state legislation designed to prevent people like her from buying firearms.

The federal effort failed, but a state law now requires courts in South Carolina to submit names of people deemed mentally incompetent to a national database of those prohibited from buying guns.

In its first year, the law has stopped 136 people from buying firearms and prompted the State Law Enforcement Division to revoke 132 concealed-weapons permits, according to a recent count.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.