A man accused of kidnapping charges stemming from a New Year’s Eve standoff with Kalispell police changed his plea last week.
Thomas Mulligan, 36, was charged with felony kidnapping and criminal endangerment after his arrest last December. Mulligan originally pleaded not guilty, but entered a guilty plea by way of Alford plea in Flathead District Court on Oct. 27, which means he does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict him.
As part of a plea deal with the Flathead County Attorney’s office, the criminal endangerment charge will be dropped and the prosecution will recommend a 10-year sentence in the Montana State Prison for the kidnapping felony.
Also, by changing his plea in Montana, federal charges and charges in Idaho would be dropped.
Court records state that on Dec. 31, 2010 the Kalispell Police Department received a request to help locate Mulligan, who had a felony warrant for violating parole in Oregon.
A missing 17-year-old boy was last seen with Mulligan in a car allegedly stolen from the boy’s grandmother, records state. After officers located the vehicle at the Super 8 Motel in south Kalispell, they could not get into Mulligan’s room.
Mulligan allegedly yelled that he had a gun and would kill himself and the boy rather than go to jail. Officers reported that they could hear the boy asking to be released, and Mulligan refusing each request.
Eventually, officers used a battering ram to break down the door and flash grenades to subdue him. Mulligan allegedly said he told officers about the gun to prolong the standoff.
Mulligan was scheduled to change his plea in August, but instead requested a psychological evaluation, which District Judge Stewart Stadler granted.
During his Oct. 27 hearing, Mulligan was visibly agitated in his blue jail uniform as he spoke to Stadler. The psychological evaluation concluded that Mulligan has the competence to assist in his own defense and stand trial, Stadler said, though the judge noted that Mulligan does have mental issues to work through.
The judge asked Mulligan at least three times if he understood the proceedings, to which Mulligan replied he did. Stadler also asked him about a series of letters he had sent regarding his plea.
The letters gave the impression that Mulligan was unsure about whether to change his plea, Stadler said.
Mulligan was still vacillating about the plea deal at the beginning of the hearing, saying, “I know it’s in my best interest, but I’m having reservations.”
He eventually changed his plea, though Mulligan also expressed fear of going to prison, noting that he has spent his term in the Flathead County Detention Center in isolation.
“If I can’t even survive in a county jail, prison’s not going to work,” Mulligan said.
Stadler told Mulligan that the prison had an obligation to place him somewhere he will not be at risk of harm. Mulligan’s attorney, Glen Neier, said he hoped Stadler would recommend mental health treatment for Mulligan during his term in prison.
Stadler also remarked that Neier had spent over 70 hours working with Mulligan for this hearing, which the judge said is “a lot of time for a change of plea case.”
Mulligan is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 29. A kidnapping felony carries a prison term of up to 10 years.
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