Recent charges of aggravated assault against two North Dakota State Hospital patients alleging assaults on hospital staff are just two of 11 assault reports that the North Dakota Highway Patrol has responded to at the State Hospital this year, according to information from Capt. Brian Niewind, with the Highway Patrol.
The reported assaults are a mix of alleged assaults on State Hospital staff and other patients. Rosalie Etherington, superintendent of the State Hospital and the only one administrative officials said was authorized to speak on the topic, was out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol has jurisdiction at the State Hospital and investigates incidents there. The Highway Patrol filed charges in four of the 11 incidents. The other seven incidents were referred to the Stutsman County state's attorney for review and possible charges.
"If there has been a felony committed we can make an arrest even if it didn't happen in our presence," Niewind said. "A report of a misdemeanor goes through a complaint process and is referred to the state's attorney."
The two cases resulting in aggravated assault charges, one of which also includes a charge of attempted murder, occurred in the last three months and involved patients with a history of violence.
In the most recent case, Jared Ray Halonen, 29, is accused of "striking a staff member twice in the left portion of the face" at approximately 9 a.m. June 19 at a nurses desk in the 200 unit of the State Hospital, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
The document goes on to note the second blow caused the staff member to stagger back and lose consciousness on the floor.
Court records indicate Halonen was transported to the State Hospital on June 11 for a "psychological and criminal responsibility evaluation" for charges he assaulted and terrorized emergency room personnel and firefighters in a Fargo hospital in April. He faces terrorizing and three counts of simple assault on emergency or fire personnel, all Class C felonies, and criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor, in that incident.
Halonen is charged with aggravated assault, a Class C felony, in the most recent incident and remains in custody on a $5,000 cash bond in the Stutsman County Correctional Center.
Jason Bradley Benefiel, 31, faces charges of attempted murder, a Class A felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies, related to a March 29 incident. He is accused of striking and choking a State Hospital employee causing a broken nose and loss of consciousness to the victim.
Benefiel has previous convictions for assaulting a police officer in 2007 and simple assault in 2008 in South Central District Court. He was sent to the State Hospital for evaluation in January as a term of his parole.
A preliminary hearing for Benefiel on June 5 regarding the current incident was continued to Aug. 7 pending the completion of psychiatric evaluations and the filing of reports. Benefiel remains in custody on $200,000 cash bond.
Other charges brought by the Highway Patrol in other incidents include simple assault and contact by bodily fluid, both felonies, and misdemeanor simple assault and disorderly conduct.
"We document the facts and present them to the state's attorney," Niewind said.
So far, 2019 is on pace to exceed 2018 in assault reports at the State Hospital. Responsibility for enforcement at the State Hospital transitioned from the Jamestown Police Department to the Highway Patrol during that year. In 2018, JPD reported 10 reports of assault at the State Hospital with seven reported by the Highway Patrol. Statistics on criminal prosecutions were incomplete for 2018.