Image: Eric Hunt
Mike Derer  /  AP
Eric Hunt appears in court in Somerville, N.J., on Tuesday for charges that he roughed up Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel.
updated 2/20/2007 9:22:49 PM ET 2007-02-21T02:22:49

A man accused of roughing up Nobel laureate and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel at a San Francisco hotel this month was denied bail Tuesday despite his lawyer's contention that the suspect needs mental help.

Judge Robert Reed denied a request to move Eric Hunt, 22, to a psychiatric or medical facility so he can continue an unspecified regimen of medication he was taking before his arrest Saturday at a behavioral health clinic.

Defense attorney James Addis said Hunt is not a flight risk or a danger to people. He did not know what Hunt was specifically being treated for at the Carrier Clinic, a psychiatric and addiction treatment center.

"I think this is a medical problem, judge," Addis said. "I am concerned for his mental well-being."

Hunt faces charges in California including attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse, stalking, battery and the commission of a hate crime, according to San Francisco police.

Hunt is accused of accosting Wiesel, 78, outside a Feb. 1 peace forum at the Argent Hotel. Police said Wiesel was approached in the lobby by a white man in his 20s who asked for an interview.

Police: Man dragged Wiesel
Authorities said that Wiesel agreed to talk in the lobby, but that the man insisted the interview be conducted in a hotel room and got into the elevator with Wiesel. Once on the sixth floor, the suspect dragged Wiesel from the elevator, police said.

Wiesel began yelling, and the suspect ran away, police said.

Police have said they were aware that a man claimed responsibility for the attack on an anti-Semitic Web site registered in Australia.

In a posting, a man identifying himself as Hunt claimed responsibility for the attack, saying he wanted to force Wiesel to admit that his book "Night," an account of his time at a Nazi concentration camp, was fiction.

"I had planned on ... getting Wiesel into my custody, with a cornered Wiesel finally forced to state the truth on videotape ... exposing the 'Pope of the Holocaust religion' for being nothing but a genocidal liar," the posting read.

Addis called his client a quiet young man who edited his high school newspaper and had not shown any violent or anti-Semitic tendencies or opinions.

Hunt, who did not speak during the five-minute hearing, was being treated at the Carrier Clinic when New Jersey authorities arrested him on the request of police in San Francisco.

Hunt still must be formally arraigned, but no hearing date was immediately set.

Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, couldn't immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

He told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera this month that he hadn't been so fearful for his life since just before World War II ended.

"Every time I make a speech somewhere in the world, there is a group of (Holocaust) deniers in that place waiting for me," he said. "Until today, they used words. Now they have switched to violence."

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