(CN) - The fact that a Michigan man was on a mental-health crisis hotline when he allegedly threatened physical violence does not preclude criminal charges, an appeals court ruled.
At an earlier hearing in the case against Brandon William Carrier, prosecutors had Jason Felber testify that, while out drinking with the defendant on Aug. 13, 2013, Carrier threatened to put his ex-girlfriend in a wood chipper and to kill a sheriff's deputy and his family.
Carrier called a mental-health crisis hotline that night at 3 a.m. Emergency services specialist Christian Ginther said he talked to Carrier for 80 minutes.
Ginther said that Carrier could see his ex-girlfriend through the scope of his gun and the he was "locked and loaded," waiting for the "first badge" to arrive.
When police arrived in response to Felber's 911 call, Carrier allegedly told Ginther: "I'm gonna come up to the hospital. I know where you work. I know where that office is. I'm gonna shoot you. I'm gonna shoot your wife and your kids."
After Carrier surrendered, police found two rifles in his home.
Now facing charges of threat of terrorism and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, Carrier moved to suppress his conversation with Ginther, claiming that is was protected by psychiatrist-patient privilege.
The Bay Circuit Court agreed, noting that a police sergeant overheard the "locked and loaded" comment.
"I don't think that, at this hour of the evening standing on your porch, you would expect necessarily to have a police officer that close," the circuit court judge stated.
The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed on Jan. 27.
"We hold that although defendant's communications were generally privileged, the privilege was effectively waived or lost to the extent that defendant voiced threats of physical violence against reasonably identifiable third persons as to whom he had the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threats in the foreseeable future," Judge William Murphy wrote for a three-judge panel.
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