A preliminary hearing for an Idaho man accused of attempting to assassinate President Obama was delayed on Wednesday after lawyers for both sides continued to squabble over whether additional mental evaluations are necessary.
Prosecutors asked a federal judge in U.S. District Court for the District for another chance to prove that 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez needs further examination after he was charged last month with firing shots at the White House.
“There is evidence here he may be incompetent,” Assistant U.S. Attorney George P. Varghese said, despite a 50-minute mental screening conducted after his arrest by Dr. Elizabeth Teegarden found him fit to stand trial.
The move suggests prosecutors are seeking to eliminate the possibility that the issue of mental competence could be raised by the defense in a future appeal of the case.
Attorneys for Mr. Ortega-Hernandez said they do not disagree with Dr. Teegarden’s conclusion that Mr. Ortega-Hernandez is competent to stand trial, but conceded that they think “there are issues not addressed.” in the 50-minute screening.
In court documents filed Dec. 7, Mr. Varghese stated that Mr. Ortega-Hernandez’s behavior prior to reports of a shooter around the White House contradict Ms. Teegarden’s conclusions, citing the young man’s videotaped submission to the Oprah Winfrey show where he touts the benefits of marijuana as “the answer to world peace” and his friends’ testimonies that he claimed “to be ‘the modern-day Jesus Christ.’”
According to an arrest warrant, Mr. Ortega-Hernandez drove more than 2,000 from his Idaho Falls home to the District, where he fired up to eight shots at the White House on Nov. 11 from a semi-automatic rifle. After he crashed his car several blocks away, he fled on foot and was tracked to a western Pennsylvania hotel by police.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John Facciola set a new hearing for Friday at which Ms. Teegarden will be present.
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Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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