Released from probation early: Tucson musician accused of trying to kill random stranger

Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 8:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The insanity defense is being considered for an accomplished Tucson musician charged with slashing the throat of a random stranger this year.

Michael Moynihan, a convicted felon, is sitting in jail right now, charged with attempted murder.

Court records show Moynihan is being evaluated by at least one mental health expert.

They reveal he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and has taken several prescribed medications for years.

Moynihan had been on probation for committing another crime, but a judge released him early.

Court documents reveal a stretch of bizarre and dangerous behaviors by Michael Moynihan, Jr.

The latest was caught on a security cam just outside a Home Depot earlier this year.

Moynihan bolted towards a random stranger.

911 Caller: “I just saw some guy cut another guy in the neck.”

This isn’t the first time he’s accused of a crime.

In 2020, police say he showed up at a Circle K on Speedway with a handgun.

911 Caller: “He pointed it at a couple of employees here.”

Court records show he pointed the gun while singing and dancing.

Moynihan fled to New York, but got caught with firearms and “spent several months at Riker’s Island in the mental health unit’, according to the 2020 Sentencing Memorandum.

He returned home to Tucson and a judge sentenced him to 5 years probation.

But at the halfway mark, he’s released.

Three days later, he’s in jail, this time accused of attempted murder.

So why was he given early release from probation?

What are the rules to ensure a violent felon is ready for release?

13 News Investigates reached out to the probation department for an interview with the chief, David Sanders, to find out, but he declined to be interviewed on camera.

He instead answered through email.

Moynihan’s petition to early terminate shows he served at least half his probation period, which made him eligible for early release.

That’s allowable under state law provided the probationer followed all court-ordered conditions and met behavioral goals.

The petition shows Moynihan did.

But the state statute specifies the probation department is “required to file an investigation report for the judge.”

13 News Investigates asked to see it but was told that there isn’t one.

Sanders wrote, “An investigation report was not done, nor was it required.”

That’s because the department added a rule that “the report is not needed if the petition is filed by a probation officer. In that case, the petition itself serves as the investigation report.”

So does the Pima County probation department have the authority to tack on that rule to the state statute?

Sanders wrote, “it comes directly from the AOC -- the Arizona Supreme Court Administrative Office of the Courts.

He stated, “The intent of the rule was to prevent judges from granting requests from defendants for early termination prior to the time when a person may be eligible. Our judges have agreed with the position taken by the AOC.”

In other words, judges agree to rely on the probation officer’s input and grant early releases without an investigation report.

How often do judges grant early termination?

13 News Investigates reached out to the court and was told the court doesn’t track the number.

The court provided the total count of petitions in 2022 and 2023.

The percentages jumped this year January through March in 2023.

Chief Sanders wrote that the AZ Supreme Court “management urged an increase in early terminations for those eligible.”

Moynihan’s probation release on Feb. 13 fell within that time frame.

Standard Probation20222023Percentage +/-
Intensive Probation20222023