Senate Trial Outburst Was Planned
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 6, 1999; Page B4
The spectator who disrupted the Senate impeachment trial on Thursday by blurting out, "Good God almighty, take the vote and get it over with," had been planning to speak out for the past few weeks, authorities said yesterday.
Richard Douglas Llamas, an unemployed carpenter, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of disrupting the Capitol and wound up spending 24 hours in custody. He was released on his personal recognizance yesterday but ordered to stay away from the impeachment proceedings.
"This court is releasing you on the condition that you stay away from the United States Capitol building," Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, a hearing commissioner in D.C. Superior Court, told the bearded, bespectacled defendant, "and from any area within a one-block radius of the Capitol building." Blackburne-Rigsby set an April 19 trial date.
Law enforcement sources described Llamas as a kind of political junkie and said he often corresponds with members of Congress. They said his remarks Thursday were more scripted than spur-of-the-moment, but they declined to elaborate.
In court, Llamas, 48, of the 2500 block of 13th Street NW, did not provide any clues about his behavior. Still wearing the gray pin-stripe suit that he had on at the time of his arrest, he pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a maximum $500 fine. Afterward, at the urging of his lawyer, he declined to comment, offering only a polite but curt, "I don't have anything to say," on his way out of the courthouse.
Defense attorney Michael Madden said Llamas was a bit of a cellblock celebrity, receiving best wishes from other prisoners and court personnel while locked up. When the charge against him was read in court, a defense lawyer in the audience whispered loudly, "Disrupting Congress? That's a crime?" Another lawyer said, "All right!"
While waiting for the hearing to begin, Madden said his client "basically said what a lot of people are saying." Madden said prosecutors would have difficulty winning a jury trial given the mood of many people.
Llamas rose from his seat in the Senate gallery at 4:40 p.m. Thursday, while the Senate was going through a series of procedural votes. He was immediately arrested and ushered to U.S. Capitol Police headquarters. He spent the night in a D.C. police department cellblock before being taken to court yesterday.
Authorities said the incident marked the first outburst since the trial began Jan. 6. The proceedings have been conducted in the strictest decorum. Each day's session opens with the sergeant at arms calling out, "Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment."
"These have been very long days for everyone, but everyone had been very orderly," said Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols. "We obviously can't permit the proceedings to be disrupted in this manner. That's why we're there."
Nichols said police have determined that Llamas had no weapons and no intentions of harming anyone at the trial. Last month, a man with trial tickets allegedly tried to bring a knife and explosives into the building.
Until this week, the most recent verbal incident took place Dec. 18 when the House was debating articles of impeachment, Nichols said. Vonatam Assefaw, a native of Eritrea, allegedly rose to his feet and began yelling, "I must say something." He then began shouting in his native language. Assefaw later told police that his remarks were made in support of President Clinton. The Minneapolis resident, 28, is awaiting trial March 1 in D.C. Superior Court.
Assefaw spent four days in custody after a judge ordered a psychiatric examination. After the psychiatrist, Bruce Cambosos, found no evidence of mental illness, Assefaw was freed on personal recognizance. "He did report that he might have become carried away in his support of President Clinton recently because he does not want the President removed," Cambosos wrote the court.
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