CEDAR CITY — A Cedar City man won’t be doing any hard time in the Utah State Prison for his role in an attempted murder three years ago – he’s going home, a 5th District Judge ruled Friday.
Judge Wallace Lee stayed the maximum prison sentence of three years to life that Nicholas Scott Anthony could possibly serve for a first-degree felony, opting instead to give him credit for the three years he has served in the Iron County Jail.
Anthony will be released to his parents, who will return him to his home state of Indiana once an interstate compact with Utah is signed by authorities there. Until that compact is signed, Anthony will remain in jail.
Once Anthony is back in Indiana, Lee ordered him to enter a residential mental health treatment center and complete 36 months of probation. Anthony was also ordered to pay a $950 fine, to receive a mental health evaluation and reimburse the jail for the costs incurred by his incarceration and all financial retribution for the victims.
The sentence is contingent upon Indiana’s willingness to agree to the interstate compact with Utah that would allow Anthony to serve probation there. If authorities in Indiana elect not to accept Lee’s sentence the judge will have to reevaluate his ruling at that time.
Lee also agreed to dismiss eight of the nine charges Anthony originally faced, keeping only the one first-degree felony of attempted murder.
The charges dismissed included: another count of attempted murder, a first-degree felony; failure to stop or respond at command of a police officer, a third-degree felony; two Class A misdemeanors for criminal mischief with intent to damage and destroy property and reckless endangerment; and four class B misdemeanors for driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, reckless driving, possession or consuming alcohol by a minor in measurable amounts and an accident involving property damage.
The judge made his ruling despite pleas from Deputy Iron County Attorney Mike Edwards who maintained Anthony was a threat to himself and others.
Edwards argued Anthony’s actions on Feb. 27, 2013, when he was arrested for randomly firing a gun from inside his vehicle down Main Street, should warrant prison time. Even more than that, he said, the defendant’s desire to harm others, which he has since expressed on numerous occasions, “should give the court reason to pause.”
“I think it’s imperative to not only protect the people of this community but wherever else this defendant may live in the future,” Edwards said. “The court needs to protect society from an individual who is unpredictable and expressed a desire to hurt people.”
Cedar City Police arrested Anthony following an incident where the defendant, while driving, fired shots from a 9 mm High Point handgun from his car in an attempt to kill a driver and passenger inside another vehicle.
The incident led to a high-speed chase between Anthony and police. It eventually ended when Anthony crashed into another vehicle, ultimately disabling his car and allowing law enforcement to arrest him.
The defendant admitted to police at the time his motive in firing the weapon was to kill innocent people. He also said he was suicidal.
Police found a full box of ammunition in Anthony’s pocket and several shell casings in the car and on Main and Center streets that matched the gun in the defendant’s possession.
According to the charging documents, Anthony told authorities that when he gets out of jail he plans to “take the lives of those that have offended him, and then take his own.” He also stated he had no empathy towards others.
“Nicholas is most definitely a danger to himself and the community,” CCPD Officer Jason Thomas wrote in his statement. “It didn’t bother him that he had attempted to take the lives of two innocent people tonight. Nicholas stated that he was looking for a ‘thrill’ and he was upset that he didn’t succeed in taking lives tonight.”
Thomas continued, “Even after Nicholas sobered, he had the same desires to take the lives of others.”
Since that incident, Edwards said Anthony has made statements saying he would it do the same thing again but “next time with explosives.” He has also “consistently expressed a desire to hurt other people,” Edwards continued.
“I think the court should take him at his word,” Edwards said imploring the judge to send the defendant to prison.
Anthony’s attorney, Lamar Winward argued his client was a candidate for mental health treatment and did not belong in prison.
“I believe that type of structure (residential treatment facility) creates a much better outcome for society, Mr. Anthony, for his family and for the residents of our state and others,” Winward said. “Will housing him in the Utah State Prison keep people safe? Sure. Will it provide the treatment and the progress that will help make Mr. Anthony more productive when he gets out? I believe it would be a much slower process than if we actually give him professional help. Mr. Anthony needs professional assistance, not the prison sentence.”
Winward also motioned the judge to consider reducing the charge from a first-degree to a second-degree felony for sentencing purposes. However, Lee denied the attorney’s motion stating he felt the charge was fair under the circumstances.
In an emotional appeal to the court, Anthony’s parents, who had traveled from Indiana, begged the judge to allow their son to go to treatment rather than jail.
“We are hopeful you show leniency towards Nicholas and allow us to remove him from Utah and get him into a facility near our home where we can get him the care and support that he requires to lead a respectful life and become a responsible person,” Anthony’s father said. “He has learned from this episode and understands this is not normal thinking. He guarantees us that he will be communicating with us and his therapist on a continual basis.”
Anthony’s mother reiterated her husband’s sentiments, again asking the judge to consider residential treatment.
“He has been incarcerated for three years and I hope that is sufficient punishment for my son,” Anthony’s mom said.
The judge asked the parents, considering the statements made by Edwards, if they had any fear in taking their son into their home. Lee expressed his own concern for their safety and others.
Anthony’s father said he believed some of statements made by his son were prior to when he started medicating and seeing the therapist.
Reading from a prepared letter to the court Anthony also pleaded with the judge to allow him an opportunity to go home, promising the same incident will never happen again.
“I first want to say I got caught early and I’m able to face my problems. I’m ashamed of myself. I wish I could go back and undo what I’ve done,” Anthony said. “I was in a poor state of mind and I attempted suicide. I accept full responsibility for the charge of attempted murder. I am very sorry for what I did.”
Edwards told the judge Anthony’s remorse is no different than many other defendants who express guilt once they are caught.
“If an apology was all that was needed to get out of prison we wouldn’t need our prison system anymore,” Edwards said. “It’s not unusual for a defendant to express remorse when they think they might go to prison.”
Both at the onset of his testimony and after he was finished, Anthony’s father apologized to both the victim and the Cedar City community for his son’s actions.
For nearly two hours, Lee listened to arguments and testimony before making his ruling.
“Mr. Anthony I’ve wrestled with what to do and all the things we talked about today ever since I was assigned the case. I want to do the right thing by (the victims) and their family. I want to do the right thing by the people of the state of Utah,” Lee said. “I want to do the right thing by you. But I want you to know my main concern is for the safety of the people of Utah and my main concern is for the victim in this case.”
Lee explained to the victims and Edwards the reason he chose not to send the defendant to prison is because of the pre-sentence report that pointed to probation as a serious alternative.
“I think there are ways to maintain the safety of the public without having you (Anthony) incarcerated. As I look at the mitigating factors I feel that Mr. Anthony has excellent family support and his parents who are willing to love him, to take him back and let him live with them,” Lee said. “It appears to me there are mental health illness that need to be addressed more than anything else and the court feels there are ways this can be accomplished outside of a correctional facility.”
Lee emphasized that he had sentenced Anthony to three years to life and that will be carried out if he gets in any further trouble.
In addressing Anthony in his final comments, Lee told the defendant he wanted him to get the help he needed.
“I don’t think you’re a monster. I don’t think you’re a bad person. What you did is horrible. It’s one of the worst crimes I can think of someone committing. I’m so grateful (the victims) weren’t hurt,” Lee said.
Following the hearing, Anthony’s parents spoke with Cedar City News and said they wished the judge had reduced the charges to a second-degree felony but were grateful to be taking their son home. They acknowledged the work ahead saying they recognize they must be painstaking in their efforts to help their son recover.
Lee was brought in for Anthony’s sentencing from Sevier County where he serves as a Sixth District Judge and serves over a court for the mentally ill who are facing criminal charges. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. appointed Lee to the bench in 2005.
Editor’s Note: The story incorrectly identified Jason Thomas as a former officer of CCPD, Thomas is still employed with the department.
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