Advertisement

Accused White House intruder pleads not guilty; mental exam ordered

Accused White House intruder pleads not guilty; mental exam ordered
Secret Service police guard the entrance to the White House on the evening after an intruder breached the perimeter and made it inside. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The Iraq war veteran accused of running into the White House with a knife on Sept. 19 pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three criminal charges in a case that has exposed broad security lapses by the Secret Service.

Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, stared straight ahead and said nothing in the 30-minute appearance in federal court. He waived his right to a detention hearing, meaning he will remain in custody.

Advertisement

According to court papers, Gonzalez climbed over the north fence of the White House, sprinted unimpeded across the north lawn, opened the unlocked door of the North Portico and tussled with guards who chased him on the first floor before he was finally subdued in the East Room just outside the Green Room.

President Obama and his family had left the residence moments before Gonzalez burst through the front door.

Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson ordered Gonzalez to undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial. She acknowledged that neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers had sought the evaluation.

David Bos, the public defender assigned to represent Gonzalez, objected, insisting that his client was prepared to proceed.

"There is no basis to believe Mr. Gonzalez is not competent to stand trial," Bos said. "It's so clear that this is not appropriate."

Bos vowed to file a motion challenging the judge's order.

Although Secret Service officials initially said the intruder was unarmed, he carried a black folding knife with a 3½-inch serrated blade in his pocket, the agency later acknowledged.

Investigators said they also found hundreds of rounds of ammunition for shotguns, pistols and rifles in his car, which was parked nearby. According to court papers, he does not hold a valid registration certificate for a firearm.

After his arrest, Gonzalez told agents "he was concerned the atmosphere was collapsed" and needed to get the information to Obama, according to a Secret Service affidavit.

Gonzalez faces a federal charge of entering a restricted building while carrying a deadly weapon, and District of Columbia charges of carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or business and unlawful possession of ammunition. If convicted he could face 10 years in prison.

The case has become the latest black eye for the Secret Service, which has been mired in high-profile scandals and cost Julia Pierson, the head of the agency, her job. Pierson resigned Wednesday.

Advertisement
Advertisement