Richland man faces conduct charges

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 24, 2012 

A Richland man who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from taking a gun into his former workplace and holding a co-worker hostage a year ago has been charged with unprofessional conduct by the state Department of Health.

Jonathan P. Smith was convicted of unlawful display of a weapon, attempting to elude police, fourth-degree assault and third-degree malicious mischief in Benton County Superior Court in October 2011. The eluding charge is a felony.

His license as an "agency affiliated counselor" expired in July, but is subject to renewal, prompting the director of the Counselor Program to file the noncriminal unprofessional conduct charges.

Under the unprofessional conduct statute, a license holder can face sanctions when pleading guilty to a gross misdemeanor or felony.

Smith was arrested in March 2011 after his wife reported he broke windows at his Richland home, fired a gun through the walls and armed himself with several weapons before leaving the house, documents said.

An officer saw Smith walking into Lee's Market on Van Giesen Street, where he used to work, and customers leaving the store said Smith had a gun. He prevented an employee from leaving for a short time, then left the store after she ran outside.

He then led police on a short chase into the backyard of a home, documents said.

Prosecutors agreed to reduce the original charges after doctors at Eastern State Hospital said Smith didn't have the capacity to stand trial or understand right from wrong, court documents said.

Smith underwent treatment and had his competency restored, but a psychologist has diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.

An evaluation by a second mental health professional revealed that Smith was not legally insane at the time of the offense, but was in a psychotic hypomanic state, documents said.

Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long reduced the charges against Smith based on the differing opinions of the doctors, his lack of criminal history and his medical issues, documents said.

Eastern State doctors said Smith responded well to treatment, and Long requested that Smith be required to continue with his mental health treatment. He served almost 51/2 months in jail.

He has 20 days to respond to the unprofessional conduct allegations.

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