WASHINGTON: An man accused of firing shots at the White House pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he tried to assassinate President Barack Obama.
A lawyer for Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez entered the plea on his client's behalf during a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Washington. Ortega did not say anything during the proceedings and will remain held without bond. He has another court date next month.
Prosecutors say Ortega used an assault rifle with an attached scope to fire a series of shots at the White House from long range on the night of Nov. 11. Obama and his wife, Michelle, were out of town at the time. In the months before the shooting, investigators say, he had had become obsessed with Obama, referred to him as the anti-Christ and told at least one person that he planned to "take care of" the president.
Prosecutors say he drove away after the shooting and crashed his car, then took off on foot. Authorities searching his car found a semi-automatic rifle, 12 spent shell casings and three fully-loaded magazines, and bullet impact points were located in the area of the White House that's known to be the living quarters of the First Family. Authorities recovered a bullet from a window frame on the Truman Balcony.
Ortega was arrested on Nov. 16 at the same hotel where he had stayed before the shooting, authorities say.
Ortega, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was indicted last week on 17 counts including trying to assassinate the president, transporting a firearm across state lines and assaulting officers or employees of the United States with a deadly weapon. Those charges refer to three Secret Service employees who authorities say were on the grounds of the White House at the time of the shooting.
Ortega's federal public defender, David Bos, has previously argued that prosecutors have not established that Ortega was present at the shooting or that the president was the target of the attack. Bos declined to comment after the hearing.
Ortega could face up to life in prison if convicted of trying to assassinate the president.
The hearing took place in the same week that a lawyer for John Hinckley, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, is making his case for extended time away from the psychiatric hospital where Hinckley has been confined.