Man suspected of faking mental illness in Weber jail before paralysis, death

Thursday , April 13, 2017 - 4:08 PM

NADIA PFLAUM, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Matthew Ryan Hall, who was paralyzed after falling in a Weber County Jail cell, refused to take medication or participate in mental illness treatment prior to injuring himself, court records say.

State mental hospital officials who visited the 31-year-old in jail noted his behavior had “malingering potential,” meaning they thought he may have been exaggerating or faking his mental health issues, the documents show. 

RELATED: Man dies after suffering serious neck injury, paralysis in Weber County Jail

Hall, who had been hospitalized and breathing on a ventilator since breaking his neck during the Feb. 24 fall, died from his injuries April 7, according to his obituary.

Prior to injuring himself, Hall was on suicide watch. Closed circuit camera footage from Feb. 24 showed him naked and repeatedly running into a wall with his head, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Then he climbed onto the sink and fell headfirst to the floor.

Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson said Thursday about 2 minutes passed between the fall and when jail staff began helping him. Hall was taken by ambulance to McKay-Dee Hospital before being transferred to LDS Hospital, where he died.

Hall was originally arrested in November 2015 after he was accused of fighting with Ogden police and taking a Taser from one of them, according to previous Standard-Examiner reporting.

He was charged with several misdemeanors, as well as two counts of third-degree felony assault against a police officer, one count of third-degree felony disarming a police officer and one count of third-degree attempted assault by a prisoner. Three of those felonies were dropped to misdemeanors in exchange for guilty pleas, court records show.

In a court filing requesting a competency evaluation in connection with the incident, Hall’s attorney said Hall’s mother claimed her son was previously diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Court records show on Sept. 30, 2016, 2nd District Court Judge Joseph M. Bean ordered Hall to be committed to Utah State Hospital for a mental health evaluation at his attorney’s request. But because of a long waiting list of inmates ordered to Utah State Hospital for mental health treatment, Hall remained in the custody at the Weber County Jail. 

The Salt Lake Tribune reported inmates wait an average of 180 days before transfer.  

A staff member from the Department of Human Services visited Hall in the jail on Oct. 29, 2016, and reported Hall was not cooperative.

“Mr. Hall was identified as a candidate for the Outreach Competency Restoration Program,” a letter to the court dated Dec. 14, 2016, reports. “[...]Of note, jail staff report that he is able to engage in playing games with other inmates and converse appropriately with both inmates and jail staff. In the most recent interaction with Mr. Hall, he provided only short verbal responses before becoming completely unresponsive (no eye contact, not answering questions, staring blankly). He then smiled when asked if there were any reason he might stall his case. He has refused to meet ever since.”

The mental health staff’s suspicions of Hall’s “malingering” extended to their second visit, which was detailed in a second letter to the court.

On Feb. 17, “(H)e vacillated between responding to questions and remaining silent,” the letter says. “He also made odd movements with his head and shoulders, swaying and jerking them from side to side and back to front at inconsistent intervals.

“However, when the worker ended the session and left the visiting area where the defendant could no longer see the worker, the worker was able to observe that the defendant had ceased such behaviors,” the record says.

A doctor from the Department of Human Services came to meet with Hall Feb. 28 but was informed that Hall had been admitted to McKay-Dee Hospital due to the injuries that led to his paralysis. 

On March 31, attorneys for the state of Utah filed a motion to vacate Hall’s custody with the Department of Human Services because, “based on his current medical condition, Defendant is unable to engage in competency restoration services.” 

The judge granted that motion April 6, the day before Hall died. 

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