State contends clinic vandal should pay restitution

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The Montana State Attorney General’s office wants the man serving a five-year sentence for destroying a Kalispell health clinic to also pay the full $642,477.29 of restitution ordered to be paid back to the owner of the clinic.

The office last week filed a response to the appeal of Zachary Klundt, 26, who has asked that he not have to pay the large restitution amount, arguing that Susan Cahill, owner of All Families Healthcare in Kalispell, should have done more to mitigate the damage he did.

Klundt severely damaged the health clinic on March 4, 2014, in what his defense attorney claimed was a result of mental illness and a deep addiction to pills and alcohol. Klundt stole medical records from the clinic, which had a clientele of 400 patients. He poured iodine over the others, punched holes through family photos and smashed every framed-glass picture hanging from the clinic’s walls. At sentencing, a Kalispell police officer noted that nearly everything in the clinic that was accessible had been damaged.

Although Klundt’s attorney used a defense of mental health and addiction, prosecutors noted at sentencing that another motive might have been in play. Klundt had texted his mother prior to the incident, asking where the “abortionist” worked. He also called Cahill a “murderer” in a conversation with a psychologist after his arrest.

Cahill closed her clinic after the vandalism. It was the only provider of first-trimester abortion in Western Montana. At the time of the closure, Cahill had worked 38 years in Flathead Valley as a physician assistant.

In a response to Klundt’s appeal to reduce restitution, Assistant State Attorney General Tammy Plubell laid out the complicated calculations that went into determining a restitution amount, including testimony from an accountant and business evaluation analyst who both spoke about the estimated value of her business and tax records.

“Cahill was a well-respected and well-loved medical provider,” Plubell wrote. “Her practice was very successful. After Klundt destroyed that practice, he forced Cahill to abandon her 38-year career and her long-range retirement plan, instead forcing her to retire three years earlier than planned. As a result, Cahill suffered a significant financial loss. This court should affirm the district court’s restitution award to Cahill.”

The district court’s award to Cahill included $320,000 for three years of lost wages; $61,124 for reduction in Social Security benefits; $8,395 in reduced IRA contributions and earnings; $208,546 for the total value of the business; $24,980 for damaged property at the business; $1,575 for six months of rent while she closed out the business; $8,796 for the salary paid to her assistant; $418 for a storage unit; $2,050 for counseling; $2,280 for monthly alarm system fees for the next 10 years; $1,192 for computer software services; $1,197 for phone book advertising following the business closure and $1,118 for phone and internet service.

Klundt’s attorney, Chief Appellant Defender Chad Wright, argued in the October appeal to the state Supreme Court that Cahill could have done more to mitigate her losses.

“First and foremost, Cahill had a duty to mitigate her damages, and it was her personal choice to discontinue her employment for three years rather than return to work,” Wright wrote. “Zach is unaware of any situation in which a district court has given the victim of a property crime such extraordinary carte blanc to discontinue working for the remainder of their career.”

Wright wrote that Klundt had proposed to pay six months of Cahill’s salary “to cover the period during which she decided what to do with her business and, if necessary, looked for alternative employment.”

Wright also argued that Cahill’s lost business was partly her fault, and not Klundt’s.

“It was Cahill’s own decision not to market the business following the incident and to allow its value to drop to nothing,” Wright wrote.

But Plubell argues that was not entirely plausible, given the fact that Cahill rented the building and that Klundt’s damage left her with hardly anything to sell. Ninety-five percent of Cahill’s office ended up at the dump, Plubell wrote.

“Cahill did not have a physical location to practice medicine,” Plubell wrote. “As she explained, in light of the events that transpired, she had not been able to find a place to rent. Local landlords were uneasy about renting space to Cahill in light of the controversy that surrounded her medical practice, since she was willing to provide first-trimester abortions. At the age of 64, Cahill should not have been required to purchase a building to house her medical practice in the name of mitigating her damages.”

Plubell pointed out that Klundt’s arguments do not factor in the emotional damage Cahill went through. According to the documents, Cahill struggled to get out of bed following the incident. Plubell also noted the impact to the community.

“Over 400 people in the Kalispell area lost their primary health-care provider,” Plubell wrote. “At the sentencing hearing, several of Cahill’s patients testified about the quality of care that Cahill provided them and the impact upon them after losing Cahill as a provider.”

Klundt will have a 15-year suspended sentence that follows his five-year commitment to the Department of Corrections. During that time, one of the conditions of probation is that he pay off his restitution. Klundt is currently housed at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby, according to state records.

Cahill said she has not yet received any sort of restitution, but was heartened by the attorney general’s response.

“It’s right and also heartwarming to know that the Attorney General’s Office acknowledges both my personal loss and the loss my patients experienced by losing their medical provider in denying Zachery Klundt’s appeal to ‘reverse the imposition of restitution,’”Cahill said. “It’s shameful that Zachary does not recognize this.”

In 2016 a judge dismissed a civil case Cahill filed against Klundt, his parents Kenny Klundt and Twyla Klundt, Hope Pregnancy Ministries of Kalispell and Hope Pregnancy Executive Director Michelle Reimer. Cahill claimed she had been evicted from her old clinic space when it was bought by Reimer, director of Hope Pregnancy Ministries. Less than a month later, Klundt committed the extensive vandalism.

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