WASHINGTON — A white supremacist charged with killing a black security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum appeared in court in a wheelchair Wednesday, his first public appearance since the June shooting.
James von Brunn, 89, had been hospitalized since the June 10 shooting after reportedly being shot in the face by another guard. He finally was well enough to appear in U.S. District Court in Washington after several delays, although he wearing what appeared to be medical bracelets on his right wrist.
His attorney said in court that von Brunn's injuries make it difficult for him to hear and talk and that he cannot walk. However, he had no bandages on his face and no visible wounds.
A judge ordered him back to jail while to he awaits trial.
Competency to stand trial
During the 30-minute hearing, von Brunn's attorney asked that his client be evaluated to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. Von Brunn objected, at first shaking his head and then calling out "your honor." His attorney and the judge tried to stop him.
"Your Constitution guarantees me a speedy and fair trial," von Brunn finally said in a halting voice.
"I'm a United States citizen, and as a U.S. naval officer I swore to protect my country. I take my vows very seriously," said von Brunn, a World War II veteran who served on a PT boat.
The judge granted the request for a competency evaluation.
Might be eligible for death penalty
Von Brunn was indicted in July on charges including first-degree murder for the death of museum guard Stephen T. Johns. Four of the charges make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.
Von Brunn once tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve board, thwarted when a guard captured him outside a board meeting carrying a bag stuffed with weapons. He describes his attempt with apparent pride on his hate-filled Web site.
Von Brunn was sentenced in 1983 to more than four years in prison for attempted armed kidnapping and other charges in his Fed assault. He was released in 1989.
Public records show that in 2004 and 2005 he lived briefly in Hayden Lake, Idaho, which for years was home to the Aryan Nation, a racist group run by neo-Nazi Richard Butler.
Von Brunn had a racist, anti-Semitic Web site and wrote a book titled "Kill the Best Gentiles," alleging a Jewish conspiracy "to destroy the white gene pool." He also claimed the Holocaust was a hoax.
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