SAN FRANCISCO – A man accused of roughing up Nobel laureate and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel at a San Francisco hotel earlier this month needs mental help and should not be jailed while awaiting trial, his lawyer said Tuesday.
A judge in New Jersey denied a request by the lawyer to move Eric Hunt, 22, to a psychiatric or medical facility so he can continue an unspecified regimen of medication he was taking before his arrest at a behavioral health clinic on Saturday.
"I am concerned for his mental well-being," lawyer James Addis told the judge. I've spoken with Mr. Hunt and I do not think he is a danger to anyone, or a danger to flee."
The judge denied a request that Hunt be released on bail.
Hunt is accused of accosting Wiesel, 78, outside a Feb. 1 peace forum at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco. Police said Wiesel was approached in the lobby by a white man in his 20s who asked for an interview.
Authorities said Wiesel agreed to talk in the lobby, but the man insisted the interview be conducted in a hotel room, and got into the elevator with Wiesel. Once on the sixth floor, the suspect dragged Wiesel from the elevator, police said.
Wiesel began yelling, and the suspect ran away down the elevator, police said.
He faces charges in California that include attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse, stalking, battery and the commission of a hate crime, according to San Francisco police.
Police have said they were aware that a man claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on an anti-Semitic Web site registered in Australia.
In that posting, a man identifying himself as Hunt took credit for the attack, saying he wanted to force Wiesel to admit that his most famous novel, "Night," an account of his time at a Nazi concentration camp, was fiction.
"I had planned on ... getting Wiesel into my custody, with a cornered Wiesel finally forced to state the truth on videotape ... exposing the 'Pope of the Holocaust religion' for being nothing but a genocidal liar," the posting read.
Addis said he had only spoken briefly with Hunt on Tuesday, adding that Hunt did no mention the alleged incident in San Francisco.
Asked if Hunt had evidenced any violent or anti-Semitic tendencies or opinions, Addis replied, "No. None whatsoever."
Hunt, who did not speak during the five-minute hearing, was being treated at the Carrier Clinic in Montgomery Township when New Jersey authorities, acting on a request from police in San Francisco, located him there and arrested him.
Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, has worked for human rights in many parts of the world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986