By Polly Keary, Editor
A Trombley Road-area man with a long history of violence and paranoia escaped life without parole in 1999 when his three strikes assault conviction was overturned, but he could be headed back to prison forever after he allegedly terrorized a Monroe family on U.S. 2.
The night of Monday, Jan. 20, according to a police report, a man named William Mulholland called 911 at about 10 p.m. and reported that someone had shot at him on U.S. 2. There were two red cars and a black car following him, he said. He reported that the occupants of the black car shot at him twice. The dispatcher informed the officer that the person who reported it, Mulholland, had a long history of mental issues.
A second call had come from Mulholland’s mother, reporting that her son was headed east on U.S. 2.
An officer drove out of Monroe to see what was going on.
The officer reported that he saw what looked like Mulholland’s blue F-150 Ford truck headed toward him, traveling behind a black passenger car that was flashing its lights.
The officer turned around and pulled over both vehicles. A woman in the black car jumped out, exclaiming that the truck had been trying to run her off the road. She said that she was driving east on U.S. 2 between Snohomish and Monroe with her two kids, ages 1 and 4, in the back and her boyfriend in the passenger seat, and that the man could have killed them all.
The officer saw the two children and the passenger in the car and first performed a search for a weapon, which he didn’t find.
Then he asked her what happened.
She said that she was driving east on U.S. 2 when the truck swerved into her lane from the right.
She said she tried to speed up and get around the truck, but that it paced her and that the driver swerved to try to hit her car a number of times. The two lanes started to merge into one, giving her nowhere to go but into oncoming traffic. She called 911, saying she was afraid of getting in a head-on collision.
Mulholland then told the officer that the car had been behind him and shot at him twice, and said he thought the shooter was part of a motorcycle gang that planned to kill him. He said the two red cars behind them were also involved.
It turned out that Mulholland, who is diagnosed with PTSD, had been committed to a mental health clinic within a month previous to the event for making similar statements about someone following him and trying to kill him.
The officer arrested Mulholland on four counts of second-degree assault.
Mulholland, 50, has been arrested and convicted under similar circumstances in the past. In 1996, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a third assault conviction under the three-strikes law. He got that conviction overturned, but this time he could be headed back to prison for the rest of his life.
The case that nearly put him away forever last time was an incident in 1995 in which a dispute over a car sale wound up violent.
Mulholland, then 31 and living in Bothell, according to police reports sold an El Camino to a man who didn’t make the second payment he’d agreed to make. Mulholland later saw another man driving the car and chased him down.
The driver said Mulholland hit the man with the butt of a gun and forced him to lead Mulholland back to the man who owed him the money.
When they got there, the man driving shot at Mulholland, who shot back and hit a nearby woman in the leg.
Mulholland tried to flee in the car, but the driver shot him again, hitting him in the chest. Both Mulholland and the woman ended up airlifted to Harborview.
Later he told law enforcement that the driver he’d chased down had been trying to kill him. He said he only pulled his own weapon because he thought the driver had been shooting at him.
Mulholland had previous convictions, all for assault, one third-degree, one second-degree, and one attempted first-degree.
And he was on the run after allegedly threatening to kill a witness in a case against his brother, also in trouble for assault.
Mulholland was tried three times. The first two trials ended in mistrial. At the final trial, a jury decided to acquit Mulholland of all but one count. But they upheld one count of second degree assault, and it was enough. Mulholland was sentenced to prison for life because of his prior convictions.
Sixteen months later, his case wound up in front of an appeals lawyer who reviewed the 1,000 or so documents in the file and concluded that Mulholland had a chance to get his sentence overturned.
Three-and-a-half years into his sentence, Mulholland got a new trial in federal court. At that trial, he was charged with a lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, of which he was convicted in 1999. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, which he served in Sheridan, Ore.
With credit for time served and the 15 percent of time granted for good behavior in the federal system, he was eligible for release in about 2010.
While incarcerated, Mulholland became a jailhouse lawyer. He studied the process of motions and appeals. He later filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court that was distributed for conference in 2004. His petition was denied, however.
He helped to found a prison support group, and said they’d helped to orient 165 new inmates to the etiquette, rules and customs of prison life. Eventually he compiled his institutional knowledge of prison life into a book titled “Prison Etiquette: The Real Guide and Secret Codes to Living and Surviving in Prison.”
He went on to start a consulting service in 2010 called The Real Prison Consultant, saying he’d spent 21 years in the prison system, and offering to educate people headed to prison about what to expect, or to inform media or the movie industry on life behind bars.
He offered that advice free. He was legally unable to charge, as he was still on supervision following his release.
Crime channel HLN actually took him up on it last year, asking him to describe what life might be like for Ariel Castro, the notorious Cleveland kidnapper who imprisoned women at his home for many years.
And the New York Times in 2012 interviewed him for a story on prison consultants.
His new charge is of sufficient gravity to finally make a three-strikes sentence stick to him.
He is currently in Snohomish County Jail on $500,000 bail and the prosecutor hasn’t ruled out seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
The court expects to file charges in Superior Court Feb. 7.