Four years after authorities said she tried to shoot people at a Charleston private school, Alice Boland wants to plead guilty in her federal criminal case so she can walk free someday instead of face endless mental health treatment.
The Lady's Island resident charged in the February 2013 episode at Ashley Hall claimed in a motion this month she had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, hoping that one day she would get a doctor's all-clear and return to society.
But Boland, 32, said she later learned that's not going to happen, leaving her with no end in sight to her commitment at a federal prison hospital.
"I wish to overturn the insanity plea and go back and plead guilty," she said in a 31-page filing, the first public development in the case in three years.
"I will then receive a plea bargain, get credit for the time served and be eligible for parole," the document says. "Therefore, I will get a release date."
In truth, she pleaded not guilty at her arraignment and was ordered to undergo an evaluation.
But this is familiar territory for Boland. She had been indefinitely committed more than a decade ago after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to making threats against the president — only to be released four years later. She then bought a gun despite her past mental illness and took it to the all-girls school, authorities said. She tried to fire the weapon, but it didn't go off. No one was hurt.
Boland's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Ann Walsh, said she was "not at liberty" to discuss the motion.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Kittrell, the prosecutor assigned to the case, expects to file a response soon. Otherwise, court rules prevent him from addressing specifics of Boland's case because, he said, "we want to make sure her rights are protected."
"In a general sense,” he said, “until a defendant regains competency, they’re unable to appear in court."
Boland's case inspired a state law requiring the names of those deemed mentally ill by South Carolina courts to be sent to a federal database designed to halt purchases by people prohibited from having guns. From August 2013, when the law went into effect, to the end of 2016, 79,622 names have been sent to the system, resulting in 838 gun buy denials in South Carolina and 132 out of state, the State Law Enforcement Division said.
Release 'seems unlikely'
Boland was first arrested in 2005 on charges of threatening to kill then-President George W. Bush. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was later injected with drugs for schizophrenia.
In court hearings, she expressed the same disdain for authorities and rejected the label of mentally incompetent. During one appearance, she offered again to kill the president, members of Congress and everyone in the courtroom.
"I'm going to kill a lot of people," she said, according to a recently obtained transcript of the proceeding. "Should have already done it."
The case was dropped in 2009 after her treatment and she was set free. By federal law, such release can happen only after a judge's determination that the patient no longer poses a threat to the community.
Despite her past and the court order that bars Boland from legally possessing a gun, she bought one anyway at a Walterboro store.
Three days later, on Feb. 4, 2013, police said she went with the .22-caliber pistol to Ashley Hall, pointed it at a administrator outside and pulled the trigger. It didn’t go off because she hadn't loaded a round into the chamber.
She muttered to herself until Charleston police arrested her on charges of attempted murder and pointing a firearm.
A federal grand jury indicted her a month later on counts of making false statements to purchase a firearm, illegally possessing one because of mental incompetence, possessing a gun in a school zone and attempting to discharge the pistol in a school zone.
Boland was soon taken to Federal Medical Center Carswell near Fort Worth, Texas, where a judge in August 2014 ordered her indefinite commitment. Not long after, Charleston's 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson dropped the state's charges, citing the judge's ruling and saying the case could be refiled if necessary.
At the time, Kittrell explained the process to school administrators, who then issued a newsletter to parents.
"For any release to be considered, there would have to be a judicial finding that she has recovered from the mental disease or defect and is no longer dangerous," Kittrell wrote, according to the newsletter. "This seems unlikely."
'No such plan'
Authorities have released little information about the ongoing court case, citing the private nature of psychiatric commitments. Boland's motion on Jan. 4 was one of the few documents to be made public.
She is unhappy with her situation in Texas, it indicated.
The motion to vacate her plea consists mostly of legal arguments backed by court rulings. Inmates at Boland's prison facility have a right to access a law library, which contains a computer database loaded with legal precedents. Inmates can search it to find ones that back their arguments. They often file paperwork without a lawyer's aid.
She claimed that a forensic psychologist had "coerced (her) to plead not guilty by reason of insanity," a move prefaced with a promise of eventually coming up with a plan for her release. But, she later learned, "no such plan is possible under indefinite commitment," she wrote.
Her lawyer, she argued, was ineffective because the extent of their communication amounted to two telephone calls. She wants to subpoena the attorney and a psychologist to testify in her bid to plead guilty.
Boland was committed in the first place against her will, and a plea under her own volition is unlikely any time soon.
Her condition is periodically re-evaluated, and updates are sent to the federal judge, Margaret Seymour, overseeing her case. The last report came in June, and it further extended her stay in the mental health facility.