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San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, August
Man ordered to
stand trial for allegedly accosting Elie
by Jaxon Van Derbeken,
Chronicle Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO -- The
man accused of accosting Holocaust survivor and
author Elie Wiesel in a San Francisco hotel
must stand trial on all six felony counts filed
against him, a judge ruled today. Eric Hunt,
23, of New Jersey is accused of attempted
kidnapping, false imprisonment, battery, stalking
and two counts of elder abuse in the Feb. 1
incident in which he allegedly grabbed the
78-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and took him
off an elevator at the Argent Hotel.
Someone identifying himself as Hunt later wrote
an Internet posting about the incident, saying he
had been trying to persuade Wiesel to say the
Holocaust never happened.
Hunt's defense lawyer, John Runfola, has
contended that his client suffered from an
undiagnosed mental illness and that he should get
treatment, not prison time, for an incident in
which Wiesel was not physically harmed. Prosecutor
Alan Kennedy told Superior Court Judge
Harold Kahn that Hunt's conduct showed the
gravity of the crime. "It is very clear that the
defendant was stalking the professor to force him,
he said in his own words, to acknowledge the
Holocaust was a lie."
Runfola called the government's case "very weak"
and said that all his client had done was ask to
talk to Wiesel. "It is quite a stretch to say this
was a credible threat (to harm Wiesel)," the lawyer
said. After Wiesel shouted for help, Runfola said,
Hunt simply let him go. "Mr. Hunt never touched him
again," he said.
In ordering Hunt to stand trial, Kahn said found
evidence to support all the allegations. The fact
that Hunt traveled across the country from his home
in New Jersey to confront Wiesel was an indication
he had been stalking him and could have posed a
threat, the judge said.
"There was a plan for Mr. Hunt to take Mr.
Wiesel against his will," to Hunt's room, Kahn
said. There are also indications Hunt intended to
harm Wiesel if he did not renounce the Holocaust,
the judge said.
Wiesel testified last week that the experience
left him feeling "violated" and more frightened
than he had been since World War II. "The shock to
me was so great that I lost a sense of time and
space," Wiesel said. Hunt interrupted Wiesel's
testimony to tell the author that he was "terribly
sorry about what happened."
Outside court, Wiesel described the apology as
"something a character (in a novel) would do. It's
clever, very clever."
Kahn ordered today that Hunt be referred to a
behavioral health court before trial. The special
court oversees treatment for offenders whose cases
can be dismissed upon completion of a mental health
treatment program, as long as prosecutors go along
with the idea. Runfola welcomed the referral. "It's
a recognition by a very interested judge that the
underlying issue is psychiatric, not hate," he
said. Kennedy, however, said prosecutors would
oppose the referral. "We don't think this is a
suitable case for behavioral health court," he
Copyright 2007 SF
dossier on Elie
ordered to keep away from Wiesel
Cavendish of Cambridge, has a few things to say
about Elie Wiesel-speak: When I lie, I am
telling the truth
are Jews at the 'Holocaust denial'
President Ahamdinejad ever threaten to 'wipe
Israel off the
25, 2007: Elie
Wiesel, The Witness who can't Stay
9, 2007: Wiesel
survives assault in San Francisco hotel
- attacker accuses him of lying in memoirs,
Wiesel on United States and "mass graves" in
Iraq, Jul 4, 2004
Deborah Barnhardt is appalled that some people
do not believe Elie Wiesel's memoirs are
Slepokura reminds us that the book is designated
as a novel