Alleged White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C. this afternoon for what should have been an uneventful status hearing and an arraignment on additional charges, but there were some surprises.
At the hearing it was revealed that Gonzalez had undergone a forensic mental health screening and was found to be "not competent" to stand trial. This was unusual because at the last hearing, his lawyer, David Bos, objected to the screening, maintaining that Gonzalez was, in fact, competent. While the lawyers for the prosecution and defense were filing arguments to determine whether the screening should be done, it was completed anyway on October 17.
It was unclear to the lawyers and Judge Rosemary Collyer why it was that both the jail and the screener believed they had the authority to conduct the screening, but since it had been conducted, Judge Collyer could not arraign him on the new charges. She has ordered a full psychological evaluation to be completed in the next thirty days, though she acknowledged it may not happen on time.
"People are languishing. There is not enough money and not enough beds to house him. It is very unlikely this evaluation will be done in 30 days," she said. "Mr. Gonzalez has served his country well. For his service, he deserves our respect. I don't want him to hang around in a DC jail for a year," Collyer said.
Gonzalez's screening lasted approximately sixty minutes, and he will now be moved to a different facility for a more thorough psychiatric evaluation. The next hearing will be held on Dec 3.
- White House fence jumper pleads "not guilty"
- Fence-jumper made it farther in White House than Secret Service let on
Last week a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment with three more charges for Gonzalez stemming from the White House incident - two federal counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees, and one District of Columbia count of unlawful possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device. He cannot be arraigned on these charges at this time because of the results of his screening.
Gonzalez initially faced three charges - first, with unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon, which is a federal offense. The other two are District of Columbia offenses - carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or place of business and unlawful possession of ammunition. The superseding indictment includes those three charges in addition to the new charges.
The government's version of events says that on Sept. 19, 2014, at about 7:19 p.m., Gonzalez climbed over the north fence of the White House. An officer with the U.S. Secret Service ran toward him and yelled at him to stop. Instead, Gonzalez ran toward the White House and entered the building through the north doors.
He was apprehended inside the White House after he allegedly assaulted, resisted or impeded two U.S. Secret Service officers. This was the basis for the new federal charges filed today.
Gonzalez was searched and a black folding knife with a three-and-a-half-inch serrated blade was discovered in his right front pants pocket. After he was arrested, Gonzalez orally consented to a search of his car, which was parked on Constitution Avenue NW. The vehicle contained hundreds of rounds of ammunition, both in boxes and in magazines, two hatchets and a machete. The newly-filed District of Columbia charge involves the recovery of gun magazines that held more than 10 rounds.