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  • Videotaped interview with Russell Weston

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  •   Capitol Shooter's Mind-Set Detailed

    Russell Weston
    Russell Weston at the time of defense psychiatrists' interview. (DC Public Defenders Office)
    By Bill Miller
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, April 23, 1999; Page A1

    Russell Eugene Weston Jr. told a court-appointed psychiatrist that he stormed the U.S. Capitol last summer, killing two police officers, to prevent the United States from being annihilated by disease and legions of cannibals.

    "He described his belief that time was running out and that if he did not come to Washington, D.C., he would become infected with Black Heva," wrote Sally C. Johnson, the psychiatrist who examined Weston last fall. Weston called this imaginary ailment the "most deadliest disease known to mankind" and said it was spread by the rotting corpses of cannibals' victims, Johnson wrote.

    Weston told Johnson he went to the Capitol to gain access to what he called "the ruby satellite," a device he said was kept in a Senate safe. That satellite, he insisted, was the key to putting a stop to cannibalism.

    The former mental patient told another doctor that he fatally shot officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson on July 24 because they were cannibals who were keeping him from the satellite.

    These accounts of the shootings, never before made public, were included in a volume of materials unsealed by a judge in U.S. District Court yesterday. The items included the findings of Johnson and five other mental health specialists, two videotapes of interviews conducted in recent months by a defense psychiatrist and a videotape made in July 1996 when Weston showed up, unannounced, at the Central Intelligence Agency. In that tape, Weston tells a note-taking CIA employee that President Clinton "is a Russian clone, brought to the United States for the purposes of communist insurgency." Weston began his discussion with the CIA by saying that he, too, was a clone.

    Judge Emmet G. Sullivan released the materials after finding that Weston is not mentally competent to stand trial for the rampage that killed Chestnut and Gibson and wounded Officer Douglas B. McMillan. Sullivan ordered that Weston, 42, spend the next four months in a federal correctional facility, getting psychiatric treatment in hopes of making him better. He set a follow-up hearing for Sept. 9 to determine whether there is any chance that Weston's condition will improve in the foreseeable future.

    The four hours of tapes bring Weston's thoughts vividly to life. On them, he maintains an easygoing, sometimes cheerful disposition as he talks about his beliefs, sprinkling his comments with "of course" and "obviously." He links nearly everyone to a grand conspiracy, with the exception of his lawyers, who he maintains have been representing him for millions of years.

    The tapes and documents depict a man obsessed with the idea that he alone could save the country from imagined enemies, including Clinton, who he said was put in the White House by the communists in a secret coup.

    Weston, who has a lengthy history of paranoid schizophrenia, including a 53-day involuntary commitment to a Montana hospital, maintains that he has valiantly battled enemies thousands, if not millions, of times.

    On the tapes, he describes the ruby satellite system as a means of reversing time. Because of the satellite's ability to manipulate time, Weston told one doctor, Chestnut and Gibson are "not permanently deceased."

    The doctors said Weston believes he is perfectly healthy.

    The materials provide the most comprehensive look to date at Weston's mind-set. Mental health specialists have said that Weston's illness may be so severe that he never will be deemed competent to stand trial in the killings. Even if the case does go forward, defense attorneys A.J. Kramer and L. Barrett Boss are all but certain to raise an insanity defense. Doctors said Weston now opposes such a plan and views the trial as his best chance to defeat the cannibals. He also views his trial as one of the most significant events in history.

    In a conversation with defense psychiatrist Phillip J. Resnick, of University Hospitals in Cleveland, Weston was able to accurately recite the charges against him: two counts of murder, one of attempted murder and three of unlawful use of a weapon. Weston said he has faced this same trial many times in the past. If he does not prevail, he warned, the human race could be wiped out. Weston said it is in the government's best interest to drop the charges against him, and he declared that he has the "upper hand."

    "We are just going to let the federal court system know that we know what's going on, and we make sure that they are awake and make sure that they know what's going on, and we give them a chance to turn it over," Weston told Resnick in the interview, conducted in a District jail facility. "You know, I guess you might call that, in the style of the French Revolution, which it is, a coup d'etat of the government with as little bloodshed as possible."

    During the interview, Weston appeared calm and confident, espousing his views as if he were a university professor. Indeed, he said he was a professor in one of his many previous incarnations, just before he became the dean of both the medical and law schools of Harvard University. He also said he once was a lawyer who successfully tried thousands of cases.

    Details about Weston's psychiatric problems surfaced soon after last summer's shootings. Weston's parents opened their home in Valmeyer, Ill., to the news media and told how he struggled with mental illness for at least two decades. They said "Rusty" believed the federal government was out to kill him and thought that his enemies had planted mines and booby traps and that Clinton had even dispatched an assassin from the Navy Seals to silence him for good. Sometimes he got treatment, they said, but mostly he denied he was sick.

    The meeting at the CIA came at a time when Weston's problems repeatedly were drawing the attention of authorities, the psychiatric reports showed. Despite numerous warning signs, however, officials failed to ensure that Weston got the treatment he needed to overcome his illness.

    During the spring of 1996, Weston told a sheriff's deputy that government officials were following him, and he warned that he would kill Clinton if Clinton ever tried to kill him. The Secret Service then interviewed Weston, who denied making any such threats. In May, Weston showed up at a hospital emergency room and complained that federal agents were poisoning him with soap. Authorities determined that he did not meet the criteria for civil commitment to a mental hospital and released him even though he declined medication.

    At the CIA, Weston linked Clinton to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and warned that Clinton would detonate an atomic bomb to stay in the White House. The CIA alerted the Secret Service, but it was not until October 1996 that Weston was involuntarily committed to a Montana mental hospital. That action came after Weston went to a hospital to complain he had been brainwashed. After his commitment, Weston moved in with his parents in Illinois. He was staying at the house when he suddenly left for Washington after talking to his sister about Black Heva, cannibals and other delusions.

    Weston told psychiatrist Resnick that Judge Sullivan "was involved with black market racketeering. Murder and cannibalism also." He expressed fear that Sullivan would attempt to influence the makeup of his jury to include some cannibals.

    For months, prosecutors suggested that Weston could control his delusions and still stand trial. They accused Weston of refusing to cooperate for strategic reasons with a doctor they had selected. But Weston told Resnick he would not talk to the prosecution's psychiatrist because she was a cannibal.

    At one point, Weston expressed surprise that none of the doctors who had interviewed him performed the appropriate competency test. "You put your tongue out and hold your tongue out for longer than a minute," Weston said. If the tongue turns purple, he said, that suggests brain problems.

    Weston asked Resnick: "Since I told you about this test, did you do any studies on it and hunt for it?

    Resnick replied, "I did, and I didn't run into anyone who is familiar with it." Weston appeared disappointed but then moved on to another familiar subject: "the statutes and codes on cannibalism."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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