Bloomberg News

Accused White House Shooter Asks Judge to Bar Statements

January 16, 2013

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, the Idaho man accused of attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama, asked a court to bar prosecutors from using statements he made to investigators because they weren’t voluntary.

Robert Spelke, a lawyer for Ortega-Hernandez, said his client was handcuffed and shackled, and wasn’t provided food, water or a restroom break while being interrogated by three federal agents after his arrest in Indiana, Pennsylvania, according to a filing today in U.S. court in Washington.

No video or audio recording of the interrogation exists, Spelke said in court papers, asking for a hearing before U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer.

“These skilled law enforcement officers used the confined space and their physical presence in an effort to extract a confession from Ortega,” Spelke wrote.

Ortega-Hernandez is accused of firing a semi-automatic rifle at the White House on Nov. 11 in an attempt to kill Obama. He pleaded not guilty to 17 criminal charges including assaulting federal officers with a deadly weapon.

Under advisory federal sentencing guidelines, the charges carry a possible term of life imprisonment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington.

A six-week trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 30.

‘Personal Issues’

In the statements at issue, Ortega-Hernandez denied that he shot at the White House and said he travelled to Washington from Idaho for a vacation “after some personal issues with his girlfriend,” according to the filing.

“Ortega denied owning a weapon, denied animosity towards President Obama, denied animosity toward the government, denied drug usage or making disparaging remarks toward President Obama,” Spelke said in the filing.

Ortega-Hernandez also talked about his personal history, his feelings about the president and his religious beliefs, the lawyer wrote.

Spelke said a Federal Bureau of Investigation report of the interview claims his client signed a waiver to talk to the government without an attorney. Spelke said he hasn’t been able to locate that document among the evidence turned over by prosecutors.

The interrogation, conducted by two FBI agents and one from the Secret Service, ended after Ortega-Hernandez told the investigators he wanted to speak to a lawyer, according to the filing.

William Miller, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, declined to comment on today’s filing.

The case is U.S. v. Ortega-Hernandez, 12-cr-00014, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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