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Thread: Feds want to prosecute vet who called Suicide hotline in confidence

  1. #1
    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    Feds want to prosecute vet who called Suicide hotline in confidence

    Well, this is bad:

    Feds want to prosecute suicidal vet
    The federal government broke a promise, according to the lawyer for a Navy veteran facing criminal firearms charges after he called for help on what is promoted as a confidential suicide prevention hotline.

    The government alleges the ex-petty officer from Blacksburg committed four felonies by making a homemade gun using a pipe and a shotgun shell. The veteran’s lawyer claims the government is violating due process by using information from his call to prosecute him.

    Duvall, a Persian Gulf War veteran, was despondent and contemplating suicide after being evicted from his apartment in June, according to his motion to dismiss filed in Roanoke federal court. He wandered the streets of Blacksburg, sometimes sleeping on the ground.

    Among his few belongings, Duvall carried a homemade gun consisting of a short length of pipe with a cap allowing a nail to serve as a firing pin for a shotgun shell. Duvall built the device for the sole purpose of taking his own life, according to his lawyer.

    On June 8, Duvall called the Veterans Crisis Line, billed as a “confidential toll-free hotline” by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He explained he had a device for committing suicide and he “really needed help,” the motion read. He said he wanted to hand over the device for someone to safely dispose of it.

    Duvall gave the device to the police officer who responded, along with his backpack and what was to be a final note to his family.

    The call for help was a success story for Duvall’s state of mind. He was released after a few days at a psychiatric hospital. According to his motion, he is now on medication and sees a counselor and a psychiatrist regularly. He has a new job and a new apartment.

    The same call for help also brought trouble. Duvall first was charged with a misdemeanor – carrying a concealed weapon. Then the federal authorities stepped in.

    Duvall now faces four federal felony charges with a possible punishment of 40 years in prison. All four charges are based on the one crude homemade shotgun. Duvall is accused of possessing an unlawful destructive device, possessing an unregistered firearm, manufacturing a destructive device and possessing a destructive device without a serial number.

    Duvall’s lawyer, Randy V. Cargill with the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Roanoke, was blunt in asking a judge to dismiss the charges. “It is wrong to break a promise,” he wrote in the motion to dismiss.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs defended its procedures in a written statement, but did not address whether its efforts might be hampered by the Duvall charges.

    The VA noted it is permitted under law to disclose otherwise private information “when necessary to avert a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of an individual or the public,” according to the statement provided by spokesperson Phil Budahn.

    Two mental health professionals involved in national discussions of suicide prevention for service members and veterans suggest Duvall’s prosecution could undermine prevention efforts.

    “Actions such as this only serve to compound the problem, fueling the impression that the essential networks are not there to help but, as in this case, punish and prosecute,” said University of Utah psychologist M. David Rudd, scientific director for the National Center for Veterans Studies.

    Washington psychologist Alan L. Berman, president of the International Association of Suicide Prevention, agreed. “The threat of punishment will deter help-seeking, the very thing that Mr. Duvall did in calling the VA Crisis Line to begin with,” Berman said.

    Rudd said the veterans treatment courts which are sprouting around the country are designed to handle this type of case. Although Roanoke federal courts offer a veterans treatment program, it was not clear why Duvall’s case was not referred to it.

    Both Rudd and Berman say they hope federal prosecutors back off from the charges against Duvall.
    So, can anyone really trust the Feds?

  2. #2
    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Ridiculous. I wonder how many depressed vets will no longer call this number. I hope his charges are dropped and that he gets all the help that he needs. It's the least we could do for his service to our country.
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

  3. #3
    Campaign Veteran ComradeV's Avatar
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    If only he just waited for the next gun buyback.

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    Regular Member Mayhem's Avatar
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    Wait a minute..... they said he "was despondent and contemplating suicide" and you think the call center should sit on their hands?

    I feel it would be irresponsible for them to wait for him to actually act and end his life before calling the cops.

    But I also read some place that you can make your own gun and it does not need a serial number as long as you do not sell it. The only stipulation would be that it cannot be an NFA weapon. Machine gun, Short barrel, or a zip gun. Not sure how it was a destructive device.

    These charges seem trumped up. That is BS
    Last edited by Mayhem; 02-20-2012 at 09:08 PM.

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    Regular Member MilProGuy's Avatar
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    My heart goes out to the veteran who, already being an unstable individual, is now having to go through this debacle.
    Proud Veteran ~ U.S. Army / Army Reserve

    Mississippi State Guard ~ Honorably Retired


  6. #6
    Founder's Club Member thebigsd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post
    SNIP Wait a minute..... they said he "was despondent and contemplating suicide" and you think the call center should sit on their hands?
    I'm not sure that anyone has a problem with the call center. He called and asked for help and they responded accordingly by sending a polie officer. According to the article, his call and their actions were the catalyst to his turnaround. The problem lies with whoever decided to bring these charges against this guy who had the courage to get help.
    Last edited by thebigsd; 02-20-2012 at 10:22 PM.
    "When seconds count between living or dying, the police are only minutes away."

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post
    But I also read some place that you can make your own gun and it does not need a serial number as long as you do not sell it. The only stipulation would be that it cannot be an NFA weapon. Machine gun, Short barrel, or a zip gun. Not sure how it was a destructive device.

    These charges seem trumped up. That is BS
    I think this was an SBS since he packed it in his stuff. Less than an 18" BBL and 26"LOA if I remember right.

    I don't have a problem stopping him but the information should not be allowed for criminal charges.

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    Imagine how utterly betrayed Duvall must feel. Call for help from a supposedly trust-able source, then get betrayed. Its not an ordinary betrayal. Its a guy literally at the end of his rope, and in a rational moment realizes he needs help and asks for it, and gets betrayed. A guy at the end of his rope, reaching for that almost last hope is then betrayed. God, how that must feel.

    Damn the indiscreet, thoughtless a$$holes who perpetrated that betrayal. Damn their selfishness. Damn their unwillingness to take a slight bureaucratic risk. Emotionally, they couldn't have hurt him more if they had just killed him outright.

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    Regular Member 1245A Defender's Avatar
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    Wow!!!

    Can we thank,,, Obama? Holder? and last, but not least... BATFE!!!!!
    EMNofSeattle wrote: Your idea of freedom terrifies me. So you are actually right. I am perfectly happy with what you call tyranny.....

    “If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

    Stand up for your Rights,, They have no authority on their own...

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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    I'm not sure that anyone has a problem with the call center. He called and asked for help and they responded accordingly by sending a polie officer. According to the article, his call and their actions were the catalyst to his turnaround. The problem lies with whoever decided to bring these charges against this guy who had the courage to get help.
    First, some background. I volunteered with a suicide prevention hotline for about 4 years. Although it's been some time since then, I've tried to keep up at least generally with both the laws and the practice.

    Calling the police is the last resort in suicide prevention - even when the caller states they have a weapon/means of killing themself. Why? Because of the history of how cops respond to the presence of (or mere allegation of the presence of) any weapon, and because so many folks choose "suicide by cop" when they cannot pull the trigger themselves.

    Virginia has a fairly intricate process for getting staff from the public mental health system involved and responding to suicide attempters. For that reason most who say they want to commit suicide are referred to the nearest emergency room when they either agree to remove themselves from the means of committing suicide give the item to someone else, leave it behind and go to the ER, put it in a container and leave that outside when you get to the ER (plus call the hotline and let them know where it is), or some variation of one or all of the above. And for those who have never been there, an amazingly strong bond of trust exists in most cases between the caller and the hotline worker - even in cases where the caller is going to follow through and wants one more "witness" to their pain and their act.

    Even today the Tarasoff Rule ( http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/cases/privacy/tarasoff.htm ) still applies not only in California but as a generally accepted professional practice within all of the "helping professions - a suicide threat must be reported - but the police are not the only ones the threat can be reported to. And Tarasoff only comes into play if the person refuses to seek/accept help/intervention. Also coming into play in recent years is HIPAA and how personally identifying health information must be treated. Because of the complexity of HIPAA all of the details about this individual's case would need to be known before venturing to say if the release of information was or was not allowable.

    Next we come to how the VA handled this veteran's situation. Questions arise about why the veteran was not directed to the local VA hospital or to a local ER, as opposed to calling the police. Had he been directed to the VA Hospital he would have been required to disarm (no firearms, knives or other weapons on VA property - the signs are everywhere!). Most hospitals seem to also have at least a no-firearms policy, although it may not be posted. Passing this information on to the caller is but one technique of getting them to voluntarily separate themself from the means of committing suicide. (See above on trusting them to actually do so.)

    Now, getting to the federal charges - presuming that better practices had been followed by the hotline folks and this veteran checked himself into the local ER after either giving his homemade weapon to a trusted individual or throwing it away (here I'm hoping someone would instruct him to disassemble it first) (and realizing that anyone who instructed him to throw it away might be committing a federal felony themself) - he still appears at first blush to have violated federal laws. Is it absolutely necessary for the good of society and the Republic that the letter of the law be followed? Would society and the Republic be better served with via prosecutorial discretion? And if not, would the veteran be better served with an insanity defense rather than 40 years in federal prisons? (Anybody want to try convincing a jury that building a homemade weapon and contemplating killing yourself with it is not an act of insanity, given the depth and breadth of mental health services the VA says is available to veterans [/sarcasm]?)

    stay safe.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigsd View Post
    I'm not sure that anyone has a problem with the call center. He called and asked for help and they responded accordingly by sending a polie officer. According to the article, his call and their actions were the catalyst to his turnaround. The problem lies with whoever decided to bring these charges against this guy who had the courage to get help.
    As I read the article, he actually changed his mind and wanted to turn in his improvised "weapon" or device or whatever.

    For that he is being punished, persecuted, or however you would describe it. It's regrettable.

  12. #12
    Regular Member Mayhem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    I think this was an SBS since he packed it in his stuff. Less than an 18" BBL and 26"LOA if I remember right.

    I don't have a problem stopping him but the information should not be allowed for criminal charges.
    Ah.. OK. Thanks.


    It does suck that he is getting some other attention that is not going to be all that helpful.

    Anyone know the law on making your own gun? SN required?

  13. #13
    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    See the Roanoke Times articles

    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen View Post
    Imagine how utterly betrayed Duvall must feel. Call for help from a supposedly trust-able source, then get betrayed. Its not an ordinary betrayal. Its a guy literally at the end of his rope, and in a rational moment realizes he needs help and asks for it, and gets betrayed. A guy at the end of his rope, reaching for that almost last hope is then betrayed. God, how that must feel.

    Damn the indiscreet, thoughtless a$$holes who perpetrated that betrayal. Damn their selfishness. Damn their unwillingness to take a slight bureaucratic risk. Emotionally, they couldn't have hurt him more if they had just killed him outright.
    Judge hears arguments in prosecution of suicidal veteran
    The prosecution of a suicidal veteran who called a toll-free help line, only to be charged later with possessing a homemade gun he was carrying at the time, was described today as both morally wrong and legally right.

    The charges against Sean Duvall should be dismissed because the government broke a promise of confidentiality made to all veterans who call the help line, his attorney argued in federal court.

    "This was a man at his lowest point," public defender Randy Cargill said of Duvall the night he wandered the streets of Blacksburg, homeless and contemplating suicide.
    "He called for help. It is morally wrong to use the evidence against him that he only provided because he was promised help."

    ...

    Not only did the counselor have legal authority to get police involved, Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Wolthuis said, but authorities responded correctly to the June 8 situation, which unfolded on the edge of the Virginia Tech campus — which still bears the impact of a 2007 mass shooting by a mentally ill killer.

    "Certainly the presence of a mentally unstable, armed individual on the Virginia Tech campus ... captures our attention," Wolthuis said.
    Oh, so that explains everything. Is every incident from now on in proximity to Tech to be framed in the context of the Cho massacre?

    In-depth background here:
    Suicidal veteran's case pits promise, federal law

  14. #14
    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    Virginia Tech campus officer was the responder

    Due process for Duvall?

    VA case is about due process
    The prosecution of a suicidal veteran who called a toll-free help line, only to be charged later with possessing a homemade gun he was carrying at the time, was described Tuesday as both morally wrong and legally right.

    After Duvall told the crisis line counselor that he was armed and suicidal, a Virginia Tech police officer was dispatched to a campus parking lot where the veteran had agreed to wait. Duvall was committed to a psychiatric hospital and released a few days later when his condition improved, according to his attorney.

    As part of his earlier treatment for depression, Duvall had been encouraged to use the toll-free line, described on the VA website as a confidential resource for troubled veterans.

    Angela Carbajal, the counselor who took Duvall's call, testified Tuesday that she always tries to respect a caller's request for anonymity.

    But, she added, "there are always exceptions to confidentiality."
    This is from the WaPo:

    A suicidal veteran’s plea for help could land him in jail


    Sean Duvall
    Last edited by Repeater; 02-21-2012 at 06:45 PM.

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayhem View Post
    Ah.. OK. Thanks.


    It does suck that he is getting some other attention that is not going to be all that helpful.

    Anyone know the law on making your own gun? SN required?
    Made a pile of them and no SN required. That's not an ATF regulation, it's an IRS requirement to show the manufacturing tax was paid. There is no tax for guns made for personal use but they cannot be sold without it.

    There are some obscure ATF rules that hint at some type of identifier. While that's not written in stone I always put the date as in 022112pn. The pn being my initials.

    To read the law get a copy of the manufacturers handbook (yellow publication if I remember right) from ATF. It's free.
    Virginia law makes it a crime to remove or alter a serial number but there is no requirement there be one in the first place.

    If you ever decide to sell it, you can get an ATF number and stamp it. Then it's legal to sell.

    I don't know how good a machinist you are but if you can get ahold of some of the books written by Frank DeHaas, he gives very good plans for laminated receivers. I've built them up to 45/70. These are Rolling Blocks.

    AR receivers are easy after you mill one the first time. Mauser style Bolt Actions are a PITA and unless you have a full machine shop and a lot of gunsmithing experience, best left alone.

    Inline shotguns can be built half drunk and without glasses.
    Last edited by peter nap; 02-21-2012 at 11:59 PM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    SNIP Inline shotguns can be built half drunk and without glasses.
    LOL! Isn't there some rule that firearms and alcohol don't mix?

    Oh, wait! I think I saw one of your shotguns a while back. A .410 tube on a 12 ga. breech, with an AR pistol grip screwed crooked to the forearm. I'm not sure, but I think the stock was formed out of a solid chunk of Bondo.

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    Sean Duvall offered deal to avoid trial

    These two articles have a different perspective on the deal, but both are important to read regarding the power of government to destroy a life. The spectre of the Cho massacre at Virginia Tech also hangs over all this:

    Veteran who called suicide line offered counseling to avoid charges
    During Monday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Wolthuis said that authorities were concerned that an armed and mentally unstable person was on the campus of Virginia Tech, the site of a massacre in 2007 in which 32 people died and two dozen were wounded before the gunman killed himself.

    Asked if he should have referred Duvall’s case to the veterans court at the beginning, Heaphy said he wasn’t sure. “I can’t say I would have done it differently,” he said. “I do think there is a value in demonstrating how serious law enforcement is at Virginia Tech.
    Deal lets troubled veteran avoid trial
    U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy said that while he was sensitive to those concerns, he also had to weigh the fact that Duvall was armed and dangerous while on the Tech campus, which still bears the scars of a mass murder by a mentally ill gunman.

    "Any incidence of violence ... is met there, and I think understandably so, with fear and tension and reliving of the awful events of 2007," Heaphy said.

    Even after learning more details about Duvall's background and the nature of his call to the crisis line, "I can't say I would have done it differently," Heaphy said of the decision to file charges. "This was a serious threat to public safety."
    Oh, and how's this for irony:
    The case outraged veterans groups, who said that the government should not prosecute those seeking help. They feared that Duvall’s prosecution could have a chilling effect on distressed veterans at a time when they are committing suicide at a rate of 18 per day.

    And they were flabbergasted that the man in charge of the office pursuing the charges against Duvall was Timothy Heaphy, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, who is the son-in-law of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, an advocate for helping troubled veterans rather punishing them.

    Sean Duvall with supporters

  18. #18
    Regular Member DocWalker's Avatar
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    The prosecution should never have happened. They should have just destroyed the device and made sure he got the help he needed.

    He never threatened anyone but himself, he shoud get help and be left alone.

    If this is how it will be then more veterans will die by suicide instead of asking for help. It is sad that after fighting for the USA this is how they are treated.

    Anyone remember the first Rambo movie? I know it is just a movie but makes you think how you not only treat a Veteran but a person, Karma finds a way.

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    Not that it probably matters much to anyone here, but if the news report is to be believed the four charges he's facing are NFA violations.
    All four charges are based on the one crude homemade shotgun. Duvall is accused of possessing an unlawful destructive device, possessing an unregistered firearm, manufacturing a destructive device and possessing a destructive device without a serial number.
    All four of these fall under 26 USC § 5861.

  20. #20
    State Researcher lockman's Avatar
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    Public service announcement

    If you are a veteran and need help you can call the veterans hotline at 1-212-555-1234. All calls are strictly confidential.*








    *Anything you say can and will be used against you.
    Last edited by lockman; 02-28-2012 at 08:35 PM.

  21. #21
    Regular Member Neplusultra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    Made a pile of them and no SN required. That's not an ATF regulation, it's an IRS requirement to show the manufacturing tax was paid. There is no tax for guns made for personal use but they cannot be sold without it.

    There are some obscure ATF rules that hint at some type of identifier. While that's not written in stone I always put the date as in 022112pn. The pn being my initials.

    To read the law get a copy of the manufacturers handbook (yellow publication if I remember right) from ATF. It's free.
    Virginia law makes it a crime to remove or alter a serial number but there is no requirement there be one in the first place.

    If you ever decide to sell it, you can get an ATF number and stamp it. Then it's legal to sell.

    I don't know how good a machinist you are but if you can get ahold of some of the books written by Frank DeHaas, he gives very good plans for laminated receivers. I've built them up to 45/70. These are Rolling Blocks.

    AR receivers are easy after you mill one the first time. Mauser style Bolt Actions are a PITA and unless you have a full machine shop and a lot of gunsmithing experience, best left alone.

    Inline shotguns can be built half drunk and without glasses.

    Peter, perhaps you could give Duvall's lawyer a call and inform him of the laws. My experience was that the prosecution, the judges, the LEO's *and* my lawyer had no idea what the laws actually were. I finally found them MYSELF after contacting someone I thought would know the law. Someone like you. The case ended up being dismissed. Give him a call if you would just to make sure he knows what' going on.

  22. #22
    Campaign Veteran since9's Avatar
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    The case outraged veterans groups, who said that the government should not prosecute those seeking help. They feared that Duvall’s prosecution could have a chilling effect on distressed veterans at a time when they are committing suicide at a rate of 18 per day.
    That figure is way too high. Do the math -- I do not believe 65,700 veterans have committed suicide in the last 10 years.

    Here's an article that seems to confirm it, at least in the headlines. When you do the math on statements such as "...there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans..." and "Seven percent of the attempts are successful...", you wind up with 2.2 suicides per day, not 18. (950*.07/30)

    Regardless, as a Veteran, I am outraged! It makes no difference that the lady who took the call had the authority to call the local police. She also had the authority to handle it much differently than she did, and proximity to Va Tech should have made ZERO difference in her approach. What if he'd been next to a fish market? What the Sam Hill difference does it make? She's got a guy on the phone indicating he's suicidal. That's ALL that matters.

    Oh, and for what it's worth, folks who call suicide hotlines aren't the sort of people who go on shooting rampages. There's a HUGE difference between the mentality of suiciders and the likes of Cho and Loughner.
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  23. #23
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    I've been trying to follow this case as best I can, it really bothers me :/ It looks like the U.S. Attorneys office has agreed to delay the trial for 6 months, and allow Duval to enter into some sort of diversion program to possibly have the charges dismissed. I really don't think the charges are founded in the first place, the whole thing is just

    http://valawyersweekly.com/vlwblog/2...cidal-veteran/

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