Meridian attacker admits guilt in plea change

Sean Carnell claims that he was high, possibly on bath salts mixed with meth, during a rampage.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comApril 17, 2014 

The man accused of seriously injuring two people and inflicting lesser injuries on three others and a dog last summer in Meridian has pleaded guilty to the most serious charges against him.

Sean D. Carnell entered the plea to robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, battery with intent to commit a serious felony and first-degree arson.

In exchange, prosecutors dismissed five other charges and a sentencing enhancement for use of a deadly weapon in commission of a felony.

Carnell, who first pleaded not guilty to all charges, changed his stance last month. He was back in court Wednesday as Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu sought additional information from a mental evaluation of Carnell carried out by the defense. Akamatsu asked Fourth District Ada County Judge Richard Greenwood to order the release of the psychologist's notes.

Defense attorney Eric Rolfsen called that request "unprecedented" and said the defense had turned over 100 pages of data to the prosecution.

Greenwood denied Akamatsu's motion but said the prosecution has the right to have its own doctor interview the defendant. The judge said Carnell could decline to speak with the doctor, but if he did, the defense could not introduce evidence from its evaluation.

Greenwood told Rolfsen that he would give him a week to decide whether to allow the prosecution doctor to speak with his client.

THE CRIMES

Carnell attacked several people during a series of events that took place over a two-hour period Aug. 21 in Meridian. In addition, he set a fire at his apartment and threw a rock through the window of a heavy equipment loader.

In two letters written to the Idaho Statesman in November, Carnell admitted his guilt and appeared resigned to serving a long stretch in prison.

He faces up to life in prison on the robbery charge alone. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 6.

Carnell told the Statesman that he was "high" on the day of the attacks. He said he ingested bath salts, which contain an amphetamine-like stimulant. Use can bring paranoia, agitation and hallucinations, along with violent behavior, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In a Nov. 16 letter to the Statesman, Carnell said he thought he was taking methamphetamine but believes that bath salts were mixed with the meth.

"This synthetic drug is absolutely awful," Carnell wrote. "It takes complete control of one's brain and action process during the high as other reports of use across the nation might have revealed."

He apologized for the injuries he caused.

"It's devastating to think about or even stomach the thought that 'I' (allegedly) could have caused these people in Meridian so much pain," he wrote in November, before he changed his plea. "I've never had a hurtful bone in my body! No matter how much I've ever dislike someone, I've never had the intention to hurt or kill a person or actually proceed with violence to do so."

Two of the victims in the attacks spent five days each in the hospital and were treated for serious injuries. Chris Cade, a Nampa fireman, suffered extensive injuries to his mouth and face after being struck with a skateboard and landing face-first on the pavement.

Construction worker Mike Rice was struck repeatedly with a shovel in the head and back. He missed a month of work.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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