Hillsborough Woman Agrees to Plea Deal in Pipe Bomb Case

April 13, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

In some criminal cases, the defendant may need mental health assistance rather than time in prison. The defendant may be deemed unfit to stand trial if the court believes that they are unable to comprehend the charges against them. In one recent Hillsborough County case, a Wimauma woman has just avoided any jail time after almost being sentenced to 100 years for possessing explosives.

This page will provide the case details along with relative information pertaining to mental health and criminal charges.

What was the Case?

In October 2019, Michelle Kolts was arrested in Wimauma after her parents found homemade pipe bombs in her bedroom. After her parents contacted the authorities, police uncovered 24 bombs in Kolts’ room. The various bombs contained nails, screws, pellets, and other dangerous materials. There were books found that discussed terrorist bombings, along with an alleged hit list.

When Kolts was first arrested, she was facing charges for explosives which could have resulted in a 100-year prison sentence. However, her attorney and family have spent the last three years pushing for mental health evaluations and treatment. On April 5th, 2023, Kolts agreed to a plea deal that will keep her out of prison completely.

According to the report, Kolts was first found mentally unfit to stand trial after her arrest in 2019. The next six months consisted of receiving treatment at a state hospital, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Since then, Kolts’ attorney, Barry Taracks, has argued that his client should receive mental health treatment rather than incarceration.

As of Wednesday, the State and defense attorneys came to an agreement for a plea deal. Kolts pleaded guilty in front of Tampa judge Leann Goudie. In exchange, the charges against her were reduced from 24 counts of possessing and discharging a destructive device to only 10 counts.

In addition, prosecutor Lindsey Hodges explained that Kolts would be required to follow a full mental health course of care.

“Twenty-four months of community control followed by 15 years of probation,” Hodges explained.

After agreeing to plead guilty, Kolts will not have to face any jail time. Instead, she will be transferred to an in-house facility to receive mental health treatment. Since it was Kolts’ first criminal offense, Judge Goudie withheld adjudication, meaning she will not have the conviction on her criminal record.

“She’s not going to suffer the stigma of a conviction on any of those counts as long as she stays crime free and abides by the terms of her probation,” said Taracks. He added that Kolts and her family are excited about the good news.

What Does it Mean if the Defendant is Unfit to Stand Trial?

When a defendant is found mentally unfit to stand trial, it implies they are not able to understand the nature of the legal proceedings against them, or to assist in their own defense. This is typically due to a mental illness or disability. In short, the defendant does not have the mental capacity to fully understand the charges against them, or to effectively communicate with an attorney.

One misconception is that a defendant who is found unfit to stand trial is then acquitted. It does not mean the defendant will be acquitted or be free from facing legal consequences. Instead, a defendant who is found unfit to stand trial will likely have their legal proceedings placed on hold until the defendant’s mental health improves to the point of being fit for trial.

In some cases, the court may determine that the defendant must undergo psychiatric treatment, counseling, or other services aimed at progressing mental health to the point of being fit for trial. Alternatively, the defendant may be sentenced to a mental institution rather than prison. While this prevents the defendant from being incarcerated, they may be forced to remain under the care of a mental health institution for an extended period.

Charges for Making a Pipe Bomb in Florida

Florida Statute Section 552.22 explains it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, purchase, transport, keep, store, possess, distribute, sell, or use any explosive with the intent to harm life, limb, or property. A person accused of this offense faces a second-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a second-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

The prosecutor would normally have to prove two elements for a conviction of making a Pimp Bomb, (1) that the defendant manufactured, purchased, transported, kept, stored, distributed, or sold a Pipe Bomb; and (2) that they intended to do this for the purpose of harming life, limb, or property, However, Florida law explains that doing any of the first element without a valid license or permit is enough proof to show that the defendant intended to use the explosive for destruction of life, limb, or property.

Mental Health and Criminal Cases

According to the Department of Children and Families, there were 3,246 defendants evaluated for competency to proceed to trial between 2019-2020. Of those, 1,479 defendants were found incompetent to proceed, meaning an average of 45% of all evaluations.

In addition, there has been an increase in defendants who are being evaluated for competency who then report having a co-occurring substance use disorder. From 2019-2020, approximately 23.6% of defendants showed they were both incompetent for trial and suffered from substance abuse.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime and do not believe they are competent to stand trial, it is important to speak with a defense attorney as soon as possible. A skilled attorney will be able to review your case details and determine the right steps to proceed.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Explosives are extremely dangerous and can cause a severe amount of damage to the safety of others. It is also illegal and can result in harsh consequences. If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime involving explosives, you should reach out to a Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. While it’s difficult to navigate the legal landscape, an attorney can help provide you guidance, support, and help in building a strong defense for your case.

Don Pumphrey and his team of attorneys have years of experience representing Floridians who have been accused of a crime. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today and receive a free consultation regarding your case. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website. 

Written by Karissa Key

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