Judge to decide on moving Wiesel case to special court

The man accused of attacking author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in a San Francisco hotel on Feb. 1 is due to appear in court in San Francisco today.  The afternoon hearing is to determine whether his case will be diverted from criminal court to a special court where mentally ill defendants receive alternatives to prison time.

Eric Hunt, 23, is severely bipolar, his attorney says. On August 21, Judge Harold Kahn recommended Hunt’s case be diverted to the Behavioral Health Court, which would order Hunt to treatment for his mental disorder.

Hunt allegedly grabbed Wiesel, 78, and tried to pull him from the elevator to his sixth-floor room where, he wrote in an Internet posting at the time, he wanted to make the Nobel Peace Prize winner retract his Holocaust memoir “Night.” Hunt's attorney, John Runfola, said Hunt was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time.

“He is not morally ill, he is mentally ill,” Runfola has said of his client. Wiesel has previously characterized Holocaust deniers as “morally ill.”

Prosecutor Alan Kennedy has said he does not support the diversion program for Hunt because of the seriousness of the allegations. Kennedy said Hunt should be sentenced to prison for the six felony charges, which include kidnapping, attempted battery, elder abuse, false imprisonment, false imprisonment of an elder and stalking, with hate crime allegations.

Hunt is due in court today at 2 p.m., where a judge will hear from attorneys on both sides as to whether the case should be diverted.

amartin@examiner.com  

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