The Washington County Attorney's Office has refiled felony sexual assault charges against a Blair man who was deemed incompetent to stand trial after he did not qualify for state services.
Nicholas Boyce, 26, was charged April 10 with third-degree sexual assault of a child, a Class IIIA felony; and intentional child abuse, a Class IIIA felony.
According to an arrest affidavit, Boyce is accused of inappropriately touching a 5-year-old girl. The girl's mother took her to the hospital after she noticed some redness in the girl's pubic area. The physician contact police after the girl said Boyce had touched her.
The incident was reported Dec. 6. Charges were initially filed a week later.
Washington County District Court Judge John E. Samson ordered a competency evaluation, which was completed March 1 by Dr. Klaus Hartmann, a psychiatrist at the Lincoln Regional Center.
Hartmann found that Boyce was incompetent to stand trial. He explained Boyce's “incompetency is a direct result of decreased mental capacity” and that he “is not restorable to competency,” according to a petition filed in district court.
Based on that finding, Washington County Attorney Scott Vander Schaaf contacted Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare to get Boyce a mental health screening.
The screening, which was completed at CHI Health Immanuel, showed Boyce does not have a mental illness, but he may be a danger to others.
Boyce was sent to the Beatrice State Developmental Center for an evaluation to determine his disability and what services he can receive. However, the center determined Boyce was not “low-functioning enough to be considered disabled for services there.”
Vander Schaaf said he had no other choice but to refile charges against Boyce. The initial charges had previously been dismissed without prejudice. Boyce is currently housed in the Washington County Jail.
Boyce's attorney, Adam Tripp of Fremont, has filed a motion for another competency evaluation. Boyce is expected to be sent back to the Nebraska Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln for the evaluation.
“By reading the previous competency eval, the evaluation at Beatrice as far as developmental disabilities, as well as the information from Immanuel, obviously our position would be try to get him somewhere that has whatever proper supports that would be necessary and whatever needs are determined are addressed,” Tripp said.
If Boyce is found incompetent again — this time by a different doctor — the process will have to restart.
“If he is disabled, he needs to get services,” Vander Schaaf said. “If he's competent, he needs to be held accountable.”
Boyce has been identified as a “gap” individual, Vander Schaaf said. He is not low-functioning enough to be considered disabled, but not high-functioning enough to be considered competent.
“He doesn't fit into anything,” Vander Schaaf said.
The situation with Boyce has shed light on a larger problem.
Vander Schaaf said each agency that provides services for disabled individuals has different qualifications for those individuals to be considered for those services.
“The statutes and department regulations don't match up,” Vander Schaaf said. “I'm told there are many more people than Mr. Boyce. We need to bring awareness to do something here.”