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White House Gunman Described as Schizophrenic : Courts: Man accused of shooting at the Executive Mansion is mentally ill, his lawyer says. Prosecutors contend he attempted to kill Clinton.

March 21, 1995|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The trial of the Colorado hotel worker accused of spraying the White House with semiautomatic rifle fire began Monday with his attorney claiming that he suffered from "a terrible disease of the mind."

"He began hearing voices inside his head and seeing visions of things that were not there," federal public defender A. J. Kramer told jurors, referring to Francisco Martin Duran, 26, who was seized by tourists and Secret Service agents moments after the shooting last Oct. 29.

Duran has been charged with 10 felony counts, the most serious of which--attempted assassination of the President--carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Federal prosecutors added the attempted assassination charge nearly three weeks after the shooting, even though officials initially said that Duran had fired randomly at the White House and that President Clinton was never in danger. The jury was told that this most serious charge was based on notes left by Duran and statements he had made to co-workers.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Dubelier told the jury of 10 men and two women that Duran had left writings with such phrases as "time to take the country back . . . kill the Prez . . . (and) death to all government officials."

Later Monday an employee at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, where Duran had worked as an upholsterer, testified about Duran's alleged hatred of government officials.

"He got irate when he talked about politics," said Stacy Stallwood. "He once slammed his fist down on the table and said: 'Screw Clinton.' He said if he had the chance he'd kill him and (former President George) Bush too."

Dubelier said evidence will show that Duran, after standing on the sidewalk in front of the White House for more than six hours, suddenly pulled a Chinese-made assault rifle from beneath his trench coat and began firing at a group of four New York businessmen--one of whom closely resembled Clinton--who were on a private tour of the grounds.

The President, however, was safely in the family living quarters at the rear of the Executive Mansion watching a Saturday afternoon college football game on television.

Kramer, appointed by the court to represent Duran, belittled the prosecutor's account. He said that Duran never aimed at any individuals but fired off 30 bullets at the White House "because it is a powerful symbol of our government."

A dramatic full-color videotape of the shooting, made by a tourist who was coincidentally filming the White House, appeared to bear out Kramer's account. It showed Duran holding his rifle chest-high as he ran and fired without specifically aiming it.

Duran is a paranoid schizophrenic, Kramer told the jury, declaring that "this illness of the brain . . . can drive people to do things they would not ordinarily do."

Duran, wearing an open-collar white shirt and dark slacks, sat with rapt attention as U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey explained that the 10 counts against him also include weapons crimes as well as charges that he sought to harm federal agents with the gunfire. Nine bullets that hit the exterior facing of the White House caused $3,400 in damage.

Richey said the trial would last one to two weeks.

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