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Suspect in Clinton office siege to get mental test

A judge ordered a mental evaluation for a man accused of taking workers hostage at a Clinton campaign office, and his attorney said the man wanted to bring awareness to mental health issues.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The man accused of taking hostages at a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign office last week watched impassively during his video arraignment Monday as he was portrayed alternatively as a sick man desperately seeking psychiatric help and a manipulative longtime criminal.

The judge ordered Leeland Eisenberg held on $500,000 cash bail on six felony charges and ordered a psychiatric evaluation for him.

“I think it’s very, very important, to keep this man under lock and key for now until we get to the bottom of his mental health problems,” Rochester District Court Judge Daniel Cappiello said.

Prosecutor Janice Rundles asked for the high bail, saying Eisenberg, 46, has a long criminal record, including two rape convictions, and would be a threat to the public.

She said he was sentenced to 10 years for rape in Worcester, Mass., in 1985 but apparently escaped the next year and committed another rape. He was sentenced to 11 to 20 years for that, she said.

Massachusetts officials said Friday that Eisenberg was released from prison in March 2005, but state law prevented them from giving details.

Eisenberg allegedly took six hostages, including an infant and mother, at Clinton’s storefront office in Rochester on Friday, showing them what he said was a bomb strapped to his chest. Authorities said it turned out to be road flares.

No one was hurt in the 5½-hour drama, which ended when state police negotiators persuaded him to surrender.

Public defender Randy Hawkes portrayed Eisenberg as a man at the end of his rope emotionally after being repeatedly turned down when he sought help.

Eisenberg “heard voices and saw a movie in his head telling him he had to sacrifice himself” to shine light on the flaws in the health care system, Hawkes said.

“He asked me to extend his profound apologies,” Hawkes said.

Rundles, however, said Eisenberg did not mention his mental illness or ask for help in previous complaints her office prosecuted. His mental illness, “as far as I can tell, has been phantom until now,” she said.

Rundles said his record in New Hampshire began in 2005 when he was charged with failing to register as a sex offender. He was convicted last year.

Rundles said Eisenberg has two Social Security numbers and had been known previously in Massachusetts as Ralph E. Woodward.

“What we have here, in the state’s view, is a man who has a trail of victims in his past,” she said.

Eisenberg, wearing a short-sleeved shirt over a T-shirt, hung his head slightly and did not look at the camera as he appeared in a grainy, live video link from county jail. He did not speak.

Eisenberg faces charges of kidnapping, criminal threatening and fraudulent use of a bomb-like device. He will not enter pleas until the case reaches Superior Court.

Hawkes said Eisenberg’s efforts to get help included calling Gov. John Lynch’s office on Thursday. Hawkes said his client was referred to his local congresswoman’s office, where he was told it was a state matter.

When Eisenberg contacted the state Department of Health and Human Services, he was told there was nothing the agency could do immediately, Hawkes said. He said an agency employee urged him to apply for Social Security disability benefits, but acknowledged that would take time.

Police said Friday there had been five hostages. In court, Rundles said there had been six, including a previously undisclosed 18-year-old man released soon after the incident began.

She and police say Eisenberg ordered everyone to the back of the office and told them to lie down. When the hostages asked him to let the woman and her baby go, he agreed in the first few minutes, Rundles said. She said he agreed soon afterward to release the 18-year-old because of his age. The other three hostages were released as the afternoon wore on.

Hawkes said Eisenberg, whom he said had repeatedly attempted suicide in the past, wanted to thank the police for not shooting him, even though he asked them to on Friday.

Rundles, in describing Eisenberg as manipulative, said there is evidence he had pressured his wife after she made domestic complaints against him that are still pending. Lisa Warren Eisenberg filed for divorce last week after about a year and a half of marriage.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday morning, Warren said Eisenberg made her laugh and spoiled her when he was on medication and wasn’t drinking.

“But without the medication and (with) the use of the alcohol, he turned into a different person,” she said.

Her son, Ben Warren, said he spent Thursday night and Friday before the incident with his stepfather, whom he described as being in a “drunken stupor” at one point. As Eisenberg left the house Friday, he said, “No matter what happens today, tell your mother I love her,” Ben Warren told police in an interview.