William Thoman's jaw dropped Thursday when he learned that in addition to being accused of trying to kill a doctor, he's under investigation for allegedly threatening the judge and a witness in the case.
Thoman is under investigation for allegedly asking inmates at the Pennington County Jail if they could help him "take care" of Judge Jane Wipf Pfeifle and the witness who reported him to the police, Trevor Thielen, a prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office, said Thursday in court.
Wipf Pfeifle was "extremely concerned" when police told her about the investigation and recused herself from the case and hopes Thoman remains in jail, Thielen said. He said he expects new charges to be filed against Thoman.
John Fitzgerald called Thielen's testimony hearsay — Judge Jeffrey Connolly agreed — and said it was the first time he's heard of the new alleged threats and investigation.
This is "absolute nonsense" and the state is again trying to "sensationalize this case," Fitzgerald said.
The allegation came up during what was expected to be a routine status update hearing in Thoman's existing case. The 63-year-old Rapid City man has pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree murder and criminal solicitation after being accused of trying to obtain a gun to kill a Regional Health doctor. According to police reports, Thoman believes the doctor failed to properly treat his wife, who died of cancer.
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Thielen asked Connolly to raise Thoman's $250,000 bond to a $1 million cash-only one, the amount typically set in Pennington County murder cases. He also asked the judge to order Thoman to have no contact with Wipf Pfeifle and the witness. Thoman already has a no-contact order with the doctor, who is "extremely scared" and moved after Thoman was arrested in September 2018, Thielen said.
Before Thielen made his new allegations against Thoman, Fitzgerald asked Connolly to lower his client's $250,000 bond to $50,000 or a personal recognizance one, saying his client is "absolutely not" a danger to society, has no criminal history, and was attacked in jail.
He said the court is being oversensitive in the case since the alleged victim is a doctor. He compared the $250,000 bond for his client, who he described as being accused of making vague comments about a gun to the $5,000 cash-only bond given to a principal accused of pointing a gun at a teacher.
Fitzgerald said Thoman's arrest was a "knee-jerk reaction" conducted before police investigated him or tried to set up a controlled gun-buy as they do in other cases. Thoman had "no intent" and "no plan" to kill the doctor, and while his neighbors heard him talk about wanting to hurt the doctor, they all considered it just talk, not an actual threat, Fitzgerald said.
Connolly said he would keep the bond at $250,000 and ordered Thoman not to contact Wipf-Pfeifle.
Thoman is expected to return to court for another status update on June 28, the deadline for Connolly to announce whether he will allow a psychologist to testify on behalf of Thoman at trial. The psychologist plans to testify that Thoman was going through the typical anger stage of grief after his wife died and never made an actual threat to the doctor, Fitzgerald said. The trial has been set for Aug. 20-23.