Prosecutors today won a chance to convince a Washington federal trial judge that the alleged gunman who opened fire on the White House last month is suffering from a mental disease that may render him incompetent to stand trial.
The alleged shooter, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with the attempted assassination of President Barack Obama, appeared in court today for what was supposed to be his detention hearing.
Prosecutors told Magistrate Judge John Facciola that there is a good faith basis to believe Ortega-Hernandez is not mentally sound to proceed with the prosecution.
Facciola granted the government's request to present evidence, at a hearing scheduled for Friday, about information that was not assessed during an earlier competency examination.
Ortega-Hernandez's lawyer, David Bos, an assistant federal public defender, said his client is mentally competent to move forward with the case. Bos told Facciola today that Ortega-Hernandez has been active in his defense. The issue of competency is distinct from whether Ortega-Hernandez is suffering from a mental illness, Bos said.
A 50-minute preliminary screening examination conducted in a courthouse cellblock showed Ortega-Hernandez understands the nature of the criminal proceedings and that he understands the role his lawyer is playing.
Prosecutors contend the examination was not comprehensive. Government lawyers said the examiner either did not ask about or did not know about Ortega-Hernandez comments to friends and family about, among other things, his belief that marijuana use will lead to enlightenment and world peace. Ortega-Hernandez, according to the government, has also said the Food and Drug Administration wants to "dumb down America" through flouride.
An assistant U.S. attorney, George Varghese, said the government wants a full-blown psychiatric or psychological examination of Ortega-Hernandez. Prosecutors noted in court papers this month that Ortega-Hernandez has described himself as the "modern-day Jesus Christ."
Ortega-Hernandez is charged with shooting at the White House the night of Nov. 11. Investigators found several bullet impact points on the White House. Obama was not at the residence at the time of the shooting. There were no injuries.