Wiesel's suspected attacker to be tried

Court rejects claims of insanity, charges to include kidnapping and hate crimes.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The man accused of stalking Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and dragging the Holocaust scholar out of a hotel elevator earlier this year was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for hate crimes. A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled there was enough evidence to try 23-year-old Eric Hunt on six felony charges including attempted battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse and false imprisonment of an elder. Each charge carries a hate crime allegation. Wiesel, 78, who chronicled his experiences as a Jewish teenager at two Nazi death camps in the book "Night," told authorities he was accosted by a young man who asked him for an interview at San Francisco's Argent Hotel, then dragged him off an elevator. Hunt has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all the charges. He is being held in a psychiatric unit of San Francisco County jail, where he is receiving counseling and medication to treat bipolar disorder, said defense lawyer John M. Runfola. Runfalo said the incident "came about as a result of a psychiatric condition and not anti-Semitism and hatred." Hunt was ordered to appear at a September 4 hearing to enter a new plea and receive a trial date. If convicted of all the charges, Hunt could face seven years in prison and a $100,000 fine, prosecutors said. Kahn also referred the case to Behavorial Health Court and set a September 6 hearing for attorneys, mental health specialists and a judge to develop a plan to treat Hunt's condition and possibly drop criminal charges. Prosecutor Alan Kennedy said Tuesday he does not think an alternative court is appropriate for Hunt's case. "I do believe the charges are serious enough that they warrant time in state prison," Kennedy said.