WASHINGTON – A man accused of firing shots at the White House in an attempt to kill President Barack Obama is competent to stand trial, according to a preliminary psychiatric screening. But federal prosecutors filed a motion Monday requesting more extensive tests in the event that his mental health becomes an issue.
An initial, 50-minute evaluation by a court-appointed psychiatrist found that Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez is competent to understand the proceedings against him and to help with his defense, according to the prosecutors' motion.
Ortega, a 21-year-old native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is accused of using an assault rifle to fire up to nine shots at the White House on the evening of Nov. 11, when Obama was out of town. He fired the shots at long range from the window of his Honda sedan, authorities said. One bullet smashed into a window of the living quarters of the executive mansion but was stopped by ballistic glass.
Ortega is one of a handful of people ever accused of trying to assassinate the president, a charge that carries a potential life sentence. He has referred to Obama as the Antichrist and told acquaintances he "needed to kill him," court documents show.
On Monday, a federal judge granted a defense request to delay Ortega's preliminary hearing to give attorneys time to argue whether he should undergo additional screening. Ortega is due back in court Dec. 12.
In their motion, prosecutors said they did not dispute the finding of competency. But they argued a full psychiatric screening is warranted "given the serious nature of the criminal charges pending against the defendant and the likelihood that mental health issues may arise in the course of these proceedings."
The long-haired, bearded Ortega, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, said "Yes, sir," during Monday's brief court appearance when asked if he understood the proceedings. He is being held without bond.