Source AP ©

Elie Wiesel's pursuer to face hate crimes trial

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's pursuer who draged the Holocaust scholar out of a hotel elevator earlier this year will stand trial for hate crimes.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled there was enough evidence to try 23-year-old Eric Hunt on six felony charges including attempted battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse and false imprisonment of an elder. Each charge carries a hate crime allegation.

Wiesel, 78, who chronicled his experiences as a Jewish teenager at two Nazi death camps in the book "Night," told authorities he was accosted by a young man who asked him for an interview at San Francisco's Argent Hotel, then dragged him off an elevator.

Hunt has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all the charges. He is being held in a psychiatric unit of San Francisco County jail, where he is receiving counseling and medication to treat bipolar disorder, said defense lawyer John M. Runfola.

Runfola said the incident "came about as a result of a psychiatric condition and not anti-Semitism and hatred."

Hunt was ordered to appear at a Sept. 4 hearing to enter a new plea and receive a trial date.

If convicted of all the charges, Hunt could face seven years in prison and a $10,000 (7,400 EUR) fine, prosecutors said.

Kahn also set a Sept. 6 hearing for attorneys, mental health specialists and a judge to determine if Hunt's case should be handled in Behavioral Health Court, which seeks alternatives to incarceration for mentally ill offenders.

The district attorney's office reserves the right to decide whether the case should go to the alternative court system, and prosecutor Alan Kennedy said Tuesday he does not think it is appropriate for Hunt's case.

"I do believe the charges are serious enough that they warrant time in state prison," Kennedy said.

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