Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Accused Wiesel Attacker Eric Hunt Pleads Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity In San Francisco Court

Eric Hunt, accused attacker of Holocaust Icon Elie Wiesel (both pictured at left), appeared in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday July 3rd and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. This post combines and summarizes reports from KTVU Channel 2 in San Francisco, the San Francisco Examiner, and the New Jersey Herald.

Click HERE to view all previous posts about this story on this blog.

Hunt, 22, is charged with attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, battery, stalking, elder abuse and hate crimes related to an incident which took place at San Francisco's Argent Hotel on February 1st, 2007. Wiesel, who was in town to attend a peace forum hosted by the Rock Rose Institute, was allegedly approached in the hotel lobby by a white man in his 20s who asked for an interview, police said. Authorities said Wiesel agreed to talk in the lobby, but the man insisted the interview be conducted in a hotel room, and got into the elevator with Wiesel. Once on the sixth floor, the suspect dragged Wiesel from the elevator, police said. Wiesel began yelling, and the suspect ran away down the elevator, police said, and was in such a hurry he left his car, wallet, and drivers license behind. That's how Hunt was identified and subsequently tracked down.

If convicted on all six counts, Hunt would face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Afterwards, Hunt's California attorney, John M. Runfola explained, "I have consulted with a prominent and well-respected Bay Area psychiatrist who feels that the plea (is) appropriate". Hunt is being held in a psychiatric unit of San Francisco County jail, where he was being treated and medicated, said Runfola, who would not specify the medication or Hunt's specific medical condition.

District Attorney Kamala Harris’ spokeswoman, Debbie Mesloh, said the insanity plea came as no surprise. “We certainly believe that this was a horrible crime that was committed and he has a right, under the law, to be evaluated to see if he was aware of what he was doing at the time,” Mesloh said. “But if he’s determined to be of sound mind, he’ll be prosecuted.”

The court plans to convene again July 11th so lawyers can discuss the appointment of mental health experts to evaluate the psychiatric status of the defendant, Eric Hunt, at the time of the alleged offenses. In addition, Elie Wiesel will also give testimony during a conditional exam to be held in August. A conditional exam consists of a witness being questioned by both prosecution and defense attorneys before a trial, in order to preserve his or her testimony, according to Assistant District Attorney Alan Kennedy. In many instances, including Wiesel's, testimony is videotaped in case the witness can't make it to the preliminary hearing or trial. Wiesel has expressed interest in assisting with the prosecution of Hunt. Hunt will be present during Wiesel's eventual testimony.

The New Jersey Herald story offers some additional previously-undisclosed insight into Eric Hunt's probable state of mind leading up to the encounter with Elie Wiesel. While Hunt attended County College of Morris, he looked after his grandparents, who lived with him in a basement apartment at home in Vernon, NJ. Subsequently, his grandmother had heart problems and passed away, and his grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, later died in a nursing home. Hunt always had a deep concern for his grandparents, so their deaths had a profound effect on him. His mother claims his behavior became progressively more depressed thereafter.

Police have said they are aware of a Web posting, written by an "Eric Hunt," which claims responsibility and claims Wiesel's account of the Holocaust is fictitious.

Commentary: Just a quick response to the District Attorney's remark. Horrible? She calls this a "horrible" crime? Elie Wiesel was briefly jostled, but suffered no pain or injury. Here's a truly horrible crime: A white couple gets kidnapped by five black thugs, then is raped, tortured, dismembered, and murdered. The girl has bleach poured down her throat while still alive to remove DNA evidence. Now, THAT's actually horrible.

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