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New York, Thursday, May 10, 2007

Man ordered to keep away from Wiesel

By Lisa Leff
Associated Press

Elie WieselA NEW JERSEY man was ordered to stay away from Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel for the next three years when he appeared in a California courtroom for the first time Friday to face charges of assaulting the Nobel Peace laureate.

Eric Hunt, 22, who was extradited from New Jersey on Thursday, did not speak or enter a plea when he was arraigned in the Feb. 1 attack at a San Francisco hotel where Wiesel addressed a peace forum.

His defense lawyer, John Runfola, said he was weighing an insanity defense in the case.

"Eric has an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder," Runfola said outside court. "He is not a Holocaust denier."

Hunt has been charged with attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, battery, stalking, elder abuse and hate crimes. The charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine, according to prosecutor Alan Kennedy.

Hunt remains jailed on $500,000 bail and does not plan to ask the judge to reduce the amount, Runfola said. At the prosecutor's request, Judge Donna Little signed an order requiring Hunt to stay at least 150 yards away from Wiesel and to have no written or oral contact with him through May 14, 2010.

Wiesel, 78, who chronicled his experiences as a Jewish teenager at two Nazi death camps in the best-selling book "Night," told police he was accosted by a young man who asked him for an interview and then dragged him off an elevator at the Argent Hotel.

Hunt was arrested at a New Jersey psychiatric hospital where his mother had him placed after he returned from a solo "road trip" in February [2007], according to Runfola.

Hunt was given psychiatric drugs while he was jailed in New Jersey, where another lawyer delayed his extradition to California by arguing he was not mentally competent, Runfola said.

"I don't know the amount of time he had this fixation with Mr. Wiesel, if he had a fixation with Mr. Wiesel," he said.

Kennedy told the judge he plans to ask for permission to videotape Wiesel's testimony at an as-yet to be scheduled hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to try Hunt. The procedure is often used in cases that hinge on the accounts of older witnesses who may be unavailable to testify at trial, he said.

Hunt was scheduled to return to court next Wednesday to enter a plea.

San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, May 10, 20

Author Wiesel receives Koret Prize

Steve Rubenstein,
Chronicle Staff Writer

NOBEL prize-winning author Elie Wiesel, speaking in San Francisco amid tight security Wednesday for the first time since he was assaulted here, allegedly by a Holocaust denier, declared that such people are "not mentally ill but morally ill."

The 78-year-old professor and Holocaust survivor, who is in town to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Koret Foundation, said he remained "surprised and shocked that there are so many people who deny the Holocaust."

Surrounded by nearly a dozen police officers and private security guards, Wiesel spoke at a press conference whose location was kept secret until reporters' identities could be verified.

"I never felt as safe in my life," Wiesel said with a wide smile as he entered the room.

Wiesel was assaulted Feb. 1 in an elevator at the Argent Hotel, allegedly by Eric Hunt of New Jersey. Hunt, 22, who allegedly told Wiesel he wanted to interview him and then grabbed Wiesel and tried to drag him into a guest room at the hotel, was arrested three weeks later after bragging about the assault on a Web site.

Wiesel received the Koret Prize at a private luncheon. It is awarded periodically to individuals who make extraordinary contributions to Jewish life and culture. The 2007 prize carries a grant of $250,000 to the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, established shortly after Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986.

The Boston University professor and native of Romania, who has written more than 40 books, is best known for "Night," the story of his youth in Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps. It has enjoyed a recent resurgence of popularity after being named a book club selection by talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Before receiving the award, Wiesel warned that anti-Semitism is on the rise and said the main threat at present comes from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he called "the No. 1 Holocaust denier in the world."

"When he says he wants nuclear weapons to destroy the state of Israel, I must believe him," Wiesel said. "I have learned to trust the threats of the enemy. How is it possible for the leader of a nation to say that and not to be isolated by the civilized world?".

Contact Steve Rubenstein



Our dossier on Elie Wiesel
Anne Cavendish of Cambridge, has a few things to say about Elie Wiesel-speak: When I lie, I am telling the truth
BBC: Why are Jews at the 'Holocaust denial' conference?
Did President Ahamdinejad ever threaten to 'wipe Israel off the map'? (No)
Mar 25, 2007: Elie Wiesel, The Witness who can't Stay Silent
Feb 9, 2007: Wiesel survives assault in San Francisco hotel elevator - attacker accuses him of lying in memoirs, Night
Elie Wiesel on United States and "mass graves" in Iraq, Jul 4, 2004
Letter: Deborah Barnhardt is appalled that some people do not believe Elie Wiesel's memoirs are true | Orest Slepokura reminds us that the book is designated as a novel

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