A man who allegedly jumped the White House fence and ran far into the executive mansion through an unlocked front door pleaded not guilty Wednesday to all charges related to the Sept. 19 incident, which has prompted searing criticism of the U.S. Secret Service.
Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, a U.S. Army veteran who has said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, will remain in jail without bond, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson of the District ordered.
Gonzalez did not speak during the 20-minute court appearance.
A federal grand jury charged Gonzalez on Tuesday with one federal felony count of entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly weapon — a knife — as well as D.C. charges of carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or business and unlawful possession of ammunition.
The federal charge carries a prison sentence of as much as 10 years and the D.C. counts up to five years and one year in prison, respectively.
Over vehement protests by Gonzalez’s defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender David Bos of the District, Robinson ordered that Gonzalez undergo a mental competency screening Oct. 17 by the D.C. Department of Mental Health.
“The court is within its discretion to order a [psychiatric] screening,” Robinson said.
Bos said that his client was competent to stand trial, and that he would immediately seek to stay the judge’s order, calling it “wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.”
Bos said there was no basis to conclude that Gonzalez is unable to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense. Bos has opposed similar efforts in the past as a “fishing expedition” by the government to gain access to a defendant and obtain information it would not otherwise have, including in preparation for a potential insanity defense.
At the time of his arrest, Secret Service said, Gonzalez told an agent that he was concerned that the “atmosphere was collapsing” and that he needed to inform the president to alert the public.
Gonzalez’s continued detention was expected after a Virginia judge last week revoked his $5,000 bond on two state felony counts arising from a July 19 incident in which he was stopped on Interstate 81 after allegedly eluding police and carrying a sawed-off shotgun, a map with a line pointing to the White House and an assortment of other weapons and ammunition.
Gonzalez was arrested by the Secret Service on Sept. 19 after authorities said he leapt over the north fence of the White House about 10 minutes after President Obama had left the mansion about 7:20 p.m.
Gonzalez allegedly ignored orders to stop, burst through the White House’s north doors, bowled over a Secret Service agent and moved into the East Room before he was tackled by an off-duty agent who happened to be walking through the mansion, sources have said.
Prosecutors said agents found that Gonzalez was carrying a black folding knife, and that a search of his vehicle parked nearby on Constitution Avenue NW turned up 800 rounds of ammunition, two hatchets and a machete.
Earlier, on Aug. 25, Secret Service officers questioned Gonzalez after seeing him carrying a hatchet in the back waistband of his pants along the south fence of the White House. Gonzalez consented to a search of his vehicle, and officers found only camping gear and two dogs, and released him, prosecutors have said.
In response, the Secret Service has tightened security and added an additional perimeter fence around the White House.
The security breakdown has led to a string of revelations about other recent Secret Service failures. On Tuesday, House lawmakers excoriated Director Julia Pierson about the security breach and misleading information provided by the agency.
Pierson resigned Wednesday.
Senior members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said they would request that the Department of Homeland Security impanel an independent investigation in addition to the Secret Service’s announced comprehensive review.