A man serving a five-year sentence for destroying a Kalispell health clinic has asked the Montana Supreme Court to lower the amount of $642,477.29 in restitution he was ordered to pay in the case.
In an appeal filed earlier this month, the Chief Appellate Defender Chad Wright claimed that Susan Cahill, owner of All Families Healthcare in Kalispell, should have done more to mitigate the damage inflicted by Zachary Klundt, 26.
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.
Despite Klundt’s 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-term abortion in western Montana. At the time of the closure, Cahill had worked 38 years in Flathead Valley as a physician’s assistant. The court’s award to Cahill included $320,000.61 for three years of lost wages; $61,124 for reduction in Social Security benefits; $8,395.11 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; $1,197.20 for phone book advertising following the business closure and $1,118.60 for phone and Internet.
Klundt’s attorney has argued that Cahill’s restitution claim is excessive.
“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 in the appeal. “Zach is unaware of any situation in which a district court has given the victim of a property crime such extraordinary carte blanche 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 claims 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.
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 unavailable for more follow-up questions.
Earlier this year a judge dismissed a civil case Cahill filed against Klundt, along with his parents Kenny Klundt and Twyla Klundt, Hope Pregnancy Ministries of Kalispell, and Hope Pregnancy Executive Director Michelle Reimer. She had claimed that the 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.
Reporter Megan Strickland can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.