Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The man accused of fatally shooting a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is in no condition to appear in court, a federal judge said Monday.

After privately consulting with defense and prosecution attorneys during a brief status hearing in U.S. District Court, Magistrate Judge John Facciola said it would be impossible for 88-year-old James W. von Brunn to appear within the next week in the courthouse or in his hospital room.

Mr. von Brunn was shot in the face during the attack.

“Obviously, he’s not able to get to court,” Judge Facciola said after the consultation.

Few details were made public during the hearing about Mr. von Brunn’s status. His court-appointed federal defense attorney A.J. Kramer, said Mr. von Brunn was in “critical but stable condition.”

FBI officials have said that Mr. von Brunn is likely to survive.

Mr. Kramer said he has met with his client, but he declined to say whether Mr. von Brunn is able to speak or to give any other details about his medical condition.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Waid also declined to comment on Mr. von Brunn’s condition or the prosecution’s strategy in the case.

The judge set another status hearing for 9:30 a.m. Monday for updates on Mr. von Brunn’s condition.

“We will know a lot more by next Monday,” Mr. Kramer said.

Mr. von Brunn is charged with the first-degree murder in the shooting death of Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39, a security guard who opened the museum door for him Wednesday afternoon. Authorities say Mr. von Brunn opened fire using a .22-caliber vintage rifle. He was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after two museum guards returned fire.

Channing Phillips, acting U.S. attorney for the District, said Mr. von Brunn, if convicted, will face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole and would be eligible for the death penalty.

In recent days, Mr. von Brunn’s family has made statements denouncing the shooting. Mr. von Brunn’s son told ABC News that his father, who he called an extremist, has been a source of “verbal and mental abuse” in his family for years.

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