Suspect in high-speed crash remains in custody

Pleads not guilty by reason of mental illness

Posted 4/11/24

A man who allegedly raced into Powell at 143 mph, crashed into four different vehicles and injured two people last year lacked the mental capacity to understand what he was doing, his attorney says.

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Suspect in high-speed crash remains in custody

Pleads not guilty by reason of mental illness


A man who allegedly raced into Powell at 143 mph, crashed into four different vehicles and injured two people last year lacked the mental capacity to understand what he was doing, his attorney says.

At a hearing in Park County District Court last week, 50-year-old Cameron Boni pleaded both not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to multiple charges that stem from the May 2023 incident. 

In the aftermath of the crash, Boni appeared paranoid, reportedly telling authorities he was fleeing from unknown people who had planted a bomb in his car and were after his money. The Meeteetse resident has remained in custody since the crash, held on a $100,000 cash bond, despite repeated attempts by his defense attorney and family to have him released.

Like Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah before, District Court Judge Bill Simpson declined to lower the $100,000 figure last week.

Given the concerns about Boni’s competency and the dangerous nature of the allegations, “it’s very difficult for me to release him to your custody,” Simpson told the defendant’s mother and stepfather, Kathy and Howard Thompson of Cody.

“I know each of you, as parents and as human beings and as wonderful contributing members of this community … can only imagine the sense of loss and regret that any of us would have if Mr. Boni was released, but he had another episode and he fled and he gained access to a car and someone was hurt or killed,” Simpson said. “That would be a tragedy.”


Arguing bond

Boni’s attorney, Tim Blatt, argued they could address the public safety concerns by requiring Boni to live with his family, having him under the supervision of a family member or friend at all times, keeping car keys and firearms out of his reach and requiring 24/7 GPS tracking and alcohol monitoring.

Further, as the case drags on, “Mr. Boni is continuing to deteriorate and suffer in the detention center,” Blatt said, contending the facility isn’t equipped to address Boni’s mental health needs, “and we do have a reasonable alternative for a reasonable bond …”

However, Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield argued Boni needs to remain in custody.

“He was obviously trying to kill people and himself,” Hatfield said. “And he can deny it as much as he wants, and he can claim that he had some mental break with reality, and he was fleeing people, but his criminal history proves otherwise.”

“He is a violent convicted felon that will not stop,” the prosecutor said. “The state intends to stop him.”


No major injuries

In what authorities have described as a miracle, no one was severely injured in last year’s crashes, but two of the drivers Boni hit — a woman and a teenager — reportedly went to Powell Valley Hospital due to various pains and soreness.

The county attorney’s office has charged Boni with two counts of aggravated assault and battery in connection with those injuries, along with a felony count of property destruction and a misdemeanor count of driving without auto insurance.

Because of Boni’s prior convictions, prosecutors are seeking to have him designated as a “habitual criminal.” That enhancement means that a conviction on the aggravated assault charge would bring at least 10 years of prison time.

Boni was previously convicted of felony third-degree assault in Oregon in 2001 and aggravated assault in Park County in 2007, when he reportedly threatened a sheriff’s deputy with a knife. However, Boni had less contact with law enforcement in recent years and operated his own construction business; Boni’s mother, Kathy Thompson, told the court that last year’s incident “came as a great shock to friends and family.”


The role of mental illness

An initial evaluation found Boni was not competent to be tried on the charges due to “severe mental illness,” but he wasn’t admitted to the Wyoming State Hospital until December. 

In the meantime, Thompson said her son lost 35 pounds, developed an infected tooth and likely became depressed while being held at the Cody jail.

“He is wanting to make amends. This certainly has not been helpful,” Thompson said, adding “I think he deserves to be treated for some mental issues.”

She said Boni did better at the state hospital, and following treatment, his competency was deemed to have been restored. An expert determined that Boni is now able to understand the court proceedings and aid in his defense, which caused the case to resume in February.

With Boni having now pleaded not guilty by reason of mental infirmity, medical professionals will need to complete a new evaluation to determine whether he had capacity to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirement of the law” at the time of the alleged crimes. If he lacked that capacity, Boni cannot be held criminally responsible for his actions.


Civil suit and future hearings

Boni’s mental health has also come up in an unrelated civil suit brought against him and his construction company. In a complaint filed in Park County District Court last fall, Vito and Paula Verdetto of Lovell assert that Boni performed shoddy work while building them a garage and a laundry room. The Verdettos say they hired Boni in September 2022 and that he abandoned the $88,862 project “on or about July 2023.”

Boni could not have continued work after May 11, 2023, as he’s been in jail or at the state hospital since that date. In a December response filed by his attorney, Boni disputed the Verdettos’ allegations, denying that he performed substandard work or abandoned the job. As one affirmative defense, Blatt wrote that Boni “suffered and continues to suffer from a mental infirmity which prevents his ability to complete any contract obligations” on the project.

No trial has been scheduled on the civil lawsuit, while the criminal case will remain on hold until a determination is made about Boni’s mental capacity at the time of the crash. That could take a couple months.