Accused White House fence jumper to get mental health screening
By Evan Perez, CNN
Washington (CNN) — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a full mental competency screening for Omar Gonzalez, who is accused of jumping the White House fence, after a disputed initial examination found him not competent for trial.
U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer expressed concern that the initial mental exam, ordered by a magistrate judge, was done before she had a chance to hear a legal motion by the defense disputing whether the magistrate had the authority to order it. David Bos, the federal public defender representing Gonzalez, objected to any examination in the first place because he says Gonzalez is fit for trial.
The 60-minute initial mental examination of Gonzalez at the District of Columbia jail came as a surprise to the judge and to both the government and defense. But the result, finding Gonzalez not competent, can’t be ignored, Collyer said in court Tuesday.
Bos told the judge: “There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Gonzalez is competent to stand trial.” Nonetheless, he withdrew his objections and agreed to allow his client to undergo a fuller competency examination to try to undo the results of the initial examination.
The judge delayed arraignment for Gonzalez on new charges the government filed against him last week. Gonzalez was arrested in September after he allegedly jumped the White House fence and sprinted into the executive mansion, setting off concerns about Secret Service security procedures. He was found with a folding knife and told a Secret Service agent “that he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people,” according to an agent’s affidavit filed in court. His family has said Gonzalez, an Iraq War veteran, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia.
The incident came amid a series of disclosures about Secret Service lapses that cost the agency’s director, Julia Pierson, her job. Collyer said that during the initial examination, the mental health screener found Gonzalez did understand some parts of the proceedings. The judge suggested that Gonzalez’s mental issues, which she didn’t describe more fully, could be resolved with medication. The judge also raised concerns that the government’s handling of previous unrelated cases could mean it will take some time for Gonzalez to be examined at a federal Bureau of Prisons facility. She gave one example of an unnamed defendant who sat at the District of Columbia jail for months before anyone noticed he hadn’t received the tests that were ordered. The problem, she said, was that sequestration has cut resources for the Bureau of Prisons and finding a bed can take time. Collyer ordered the mental health screening to be done in 30 days and set a new hearing for December 3 at 10:30 a.m.