Prosecutors Say Duran Sought to Kill President
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Francisco Martin Duran waited for hours in front of the White House, a semiautomatic rifle beneath his trench coat, until he thought he saw President Clinton and opened fire, prosecutors asserted as Duran’s trial began Monday.
Duran’s defense attorneys acknowledged that he sprayed the White House with bullets, but described him as a paranoid schizophrenic who vented his anger on the stately symbol of U.S. government, not the president himself.
The stocky, gray-haired man Duran saw wasn’t Clinton, but a New York businessman on a private tour of the White House, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Dubelier.
No one was injured in the hail of more than two dozen bullets fired on Oct. 29, 1994, although several struck the White House.
Duran, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo., is charged with attempting to kill the president, who was inside at the time, watching a ball game on TV.
``He hated the U.S. government, he hated the president of the United States,″ Dubelier said during his opening statement.
Prosecutors showed two videotapes shot by tourists that showed a man in a trench coat firing on the White House as people screamed and ran away.
Public defender A.J. Kramer told the jury that Duran was taking out his anger against the government, not Clinton.
``What he did do was shoot at a symbol, a powerful symbol of our country,″ Kramer said, adding that Duran never lifted the Chinese-made assault-style rifle to his shoulder to aim as he fired.
``He didn’t try to hurt anybody,″ Kramer said. He suggested Duran never even saw the Clinton lookalike.
Before the trial began, Duran’s lawyers said they might argue that he was innocent because he was insane at the time of the shooting. Kramer told the jury that Duran, an upholstery repairman for a hotel, snapped mentally before he left his home Sept. 30, bound for Washington.
``He had been seeing visions,″ Kramer said. ``He had been having delusions and hearing voices.″
Duran also is charged with assaulting Secret Service officers who rushed to subdue him, damaging the White House, and several federal weapons charges.
Kramer said Duran never intended to harm the Secret Service officers.
And he played down the damage done by bullets that shattered a window and struck the mansion’s front pillars: ``When you see the bullet holes, they’re not that bad.″ Kramer said they cost $3,400 to repair.
Prosecutors called Duran an anarchist who opposed all forms of government and believed in ``survival of the fittest.″ Duran was furious that Congress had passed tighter gun-control legislation, including a ban on some assault-style firearms.
``Mr. Duran thought those laws were taking away his right to freely possess firearms,″ he said.
Holding up a semiautomatic rifle, Dubelier said Duran had bought it Sept. 13, the day before the weapons ban took effect. On Sept. 28, he bought a shotgun, found after the shootings in his truck parked near the White House, prosecutors said. Two days later, Duran left Colorado Springs in his pickup truck to carry out his assassination plan, according to prosecutors.
Duran left a trail of odd notes, including business cards with cryptic messages handwritten on the back: ``Time to take the country back,″ read one, and, ``Death to all government officials,″ said another.
At a San Antonio hotel, Duran tore off a phone book cover that pictured Clinton, ``drew a circle around President Clinton’s head and drew an X through it,″ Dubelier said.
Public defender Kramer said the business cards ``with some crazy things on them″ were ``the product of Mr. Duran’s mental illness.″
After arriving in Washington on Oct. 10, Duran moved from hotel to hotel, once staying at the Washington Hilton, the scene of the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan, prosecutors said.
Hiding the rifle under his coat, Duran arrived outside the White House fence in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, prosecutors said. He milled around for hours before opening fire about 3:30 p.m., Dubelier said.
Prosecutors contend Duran had mistaken businessman Dennis Basso for Clinton. Basso had stopped on a walkway in front of the mansion, about 225 feet from Duran, Dubelier said.
Two schoolchildren standing near Duran pointed at Basso, saying he looked like Clinton, Dubelier said, adding, ``Within seconds, Mr. Duran pulled the rifle from his jacket and began firing.″
Duran was then tackled by two bystanders, and four uniformed Secret Service officers ultimately subdued him.
Kramer suggested the events themselves proved Duran’s mental instability: ``If you were going to kill the president, what kind of plan is that, to stand in front of the White House?″