A former Cincinnati-area bartender accused of threatening to kill John Boehner will be released from custody after a federal judge said Tuesday that the man was of low risk to the community and has enough support to live a productive life.
Michael Hoyt, who had worked as a bartender at a country club in Boehner's suburban community, was accused of threatening to kill the then-U.S. House speaker with a gun or by poisoning his drink. In July, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled Hoyt, now 45, was insane at the time of the offense, threatening to kill a U.S. official. He found him not guilty and ordered his evaluation at a federal medical center.
After listening to psychologists and witnesses including Hoyt's father in a Tuesday hearing, Black said the case is a "lesson for America" that mental illness needs to be recognized as a prevalent issue and that others can help by offering support and being alert to warning signs of problems.
Hoyt, who smiled often and responded "Yes, sir," to the judge, appeared via video conference from a federal center in Butner, North Carolina.
Black repeatedly praised Hoyt, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, for his understanding of his condition and his cooperation with treatments over the past year. Hoyt's attorneys said he will live initially with his father, will have ongoing monitoring to make sure he takes his medications, and that both he and his family plan to take part in bipolar support groups. Black's written order stated that it is "far preferable" for someone with mental illness to be cared for by family and community professionals, "rather than be warehoused in prison."
Black said in the hearing that Hoyt had no history of violence and made his threats during a "manic episode." He warned him against drinking alcohol and to find a job other than bartending, and told him "no guns."
"Tonight this judge will sleep soundly, because the decision today is the right decision," Black said. "Mr. Hoyt, Godspeed."
Kristina Lloyd, a psychologist at the Butner federal center, said Hoyt had extra scrutiny because of the high-profile case and that he was clearly ready for release.
The judge, referring to Boehner, said U.S. officials need to be able to carry out their duties without being under threat, and he expressed sympathy for him and his wife.
Boehner retired from Congress last month. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with a spokesman for the West Chester Republican.
Hoyt's mother was in Butner to drive him home as soon as federal officials there received Black's order.
"It will be a wonderful Thanksgiving for the Hoyt family," said defense attorney Martin Pinales.
Court documents stated that Hoyt had a history of mental illness since he was struck on the head in 2012. He was treated for an earlier psychotic episode, but stopped taking his medication, the documents stated.
A criminal complaint filed in November 2014 said Hoyt said he began hearing voices, telling him Boehner was evil and was responsible for Ebola. Hoyt told officers dispatched to his home in the Cincinnati suburb of Deer Park that he had been fired from the country club and "did not have time to put something in John Boehner's drink."