White House Gunman Gets Prison Term : Violence: Francisco Martin Duran is sentenced to 40 years behind bars for the October attack. He tells the judge that he deeply regrets his actions.
Francisco Martin Duran, who lost a bid to convince jurors that he was insane, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison Thursday for raking the White House with rifle fire last October.
U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey, noting that Duran was convicted in April of attempted assassination of President Clinton and nine other assault and weapons-related charges, said such crimes “cannot be tolerated in a free society.”
Duran’s shooting spree from a public sidewalk, together with the April 19 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, were the key factors that led Clinton last month to tighten security around the White House, including closing a two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicular traffic.
Before imposing the stiff sentence, which he said was largely dictated by congressionally mandated sentencing guidelines, Richey read parts of a letter that he received this week from Ronald K. Noble, a Treasury Department official with supervisory authority over the Secret Service.
The letter said the semiautomatic rifle shots fired by the young Colorado hotel worker marked “the first shooting directed at the White House in over 150 years.” Noble told Richey that Duran’s actions “were an assault on all people of the United States, as well as on the President.”
The judge told Duran that even though no one was injured, the rifle fire could have penetrated White House windows where the President’s family resided. In addition to the prison term, he assessed Duran $500 in court costs and $3,200 to cover the cost of repairing the bullet-scarred facade of the executive mansion.
“The purpose of a sentence is deterrence as well as punishment,” Richey told the defendant. “Perhaps others will consider not doing what you have done.”
Duran’s assault occurred a month after a Maryland man died when he crashed a small plane on the South Lawn of the White House in an apparent suicide. Last month, a Virginia graduate student was shot and wounded by a Secret Service officer after scaling the White House fence with an unloaded pistol.
Before he was sentenced, Duran, 26, stood before the judge in blue prison dungarees and said he deeply regretted his actions.
“My actions on Oct. 29 were inexcusable,” he said softly. “I very much wanted to die that day. I not only ruined my future but that of my wife and 6-year-old son.”
Federal prosecutor Eric Dubelier said that even though no one was wounded in the attack, “the government proved to the jury that the defendant’s mental state was to kill the President of the United States.” Richey added that he recalled a handwritten note found in Duran’s possession that read: “Kill the Prez.”
At the time of the shooting, Clinton was in the rear living quarters of the White House, watching a Saturday afternoon college football game on television and never was in any danger. But three Secret Service officers who rushed out to help subdue Duran were endangered as the gunman fired nearly 30 rounds from his Chinese-made assault rifle.
Trial testimony showed that Duran was motivated by hatred of the federal government, but the jury rejected defense claims that he was a paranoid schizophrenic whose actions resulted from compulsions and voices inside his head.
Dubelier, who had urged Richey to impose a sentence of life imprisonment, said later that he was satisfied with the punishment. He said Duran could be free in about 35 years with good behavior.