The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Township standoff defendant found competent again

Criminal responsibility still to be determined


July 31, 2018

BESSEMER — The case against an Ironwood Township man accused of being involved in a standoff with police in May 2017 may be proceeding, after he was recently found to be competent again.

While Leonard John Hellier, 48, was recently found competent to stand trial, Gogebic County Prosecutor Nick Jacobs said it still needed to be determined whether he bore criminal responsibility for his actions.

Competency and criminal responsibility are the two prongs of an insanity defense, according to Michigan law.

Competency determines whether the defendant is able to stand trial and assist with their own defense, while the criminal responsibility aspect tests whether a mental disease or defect prevents them from being held responsible for their actions when committing a crime.

Hellier was originally found to be ruled not competent to stand trial in August 2017. He was later sent to a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services facility in Ypsilanti in an effort to restore competency.

Jacobs said the parties in the case received a letter last week saying he was now considered competent, leading to a hearing Monday.

“Based on that finding, the law requires the judge conduct a hearing within five days of that letter,” Jacobs said.

According to Jacobs, both he and Hellier’s attorney, Jim McKenzie, agreed to the basic content of the report.

While the letter would normally mean Hellier would return to Gogebic County to face charges, Jacobs said the criminal responsibility prong of the defense hadn’t been examined yet.

He explained criminal responsibility is only examined if the defendant is ruled competent, and so the process must now wait for that examination before the case can move forward.

Hellier is facing five felony counts — two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent — in connection to the May 16, 2017 standoff at Hellier’s Vanderhagen Road property, north of Airport Road.

The roughly three-hour standoff began after Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to a report of an alleged dispute between Hellier and a neighbor.

The neighbor accused Hellier of shooting in the direction of the neighbor’s property, according to a press release from Gogebic County Sheriff Pete Matonich. The release alleged he also fired in the direction of responding deputies with what was believed to be a pellet gun.

He refused to cooperate with the additional officers responding to the scene, the release said, and an officer used a Taser on him before Hellier retreated into his residence and barricaded himself inside.

Following the breakdown of negotiations, officers and members of the Gogebic Iron SWAT team breached the residence.

Inside, they were allegedly met by the suspect wielding a hatchet, the release said. He was taken into custody following a struggle. No major injuries were sustained in the standoff.

Jacobs said he didn’t have a timeline for when the criminal responsibility exam would be completed, but he guessed it could be a month or longer before he receives the report.


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