White House Gunman Charged
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal prosecutors filed an assault charge Friday against the former Internal Revenue Service employee who allegedly waved a gun outside the White House and was shot by a Secret Service officer.
Robert W. Pickett was charged with assaulting a federal officer, said Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
Conviction carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Pickett will be arraigned in U.S. District Court, Phillips said. Prosecutors expect he will remain at George Washington University Hospital for treatment through the weekend, and will likely face a federal magistrate early next week.
Pickett, 47, was in good condition after a uniformed Secret Service officer shot him in the leg Wednesday.
Pickett left a suicide note in his vehicle in addition to a previously disclosed letter to the IRS that proclaimed, ``My death is on your hands,″ law enforcement sources said.
The emerging picture of Pickett depicts a troubled man who admitted his mental illness in lawsuits against the IRS, yet was able to pass an instant background check to buy a gun in his hometown of Evansville, Ind.
The law enforcement sources, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said a suicide-style note was discovered in Pickett’s vehicle, found at a commuter rail station in Washington’s Virginia suburbs.
While officials would not quote from the note, Pickett just last week wrote the IRS commissioner, contending the U.S. government had destroyed his life and suggesting he expected to die soon. ``My death is on your hands,″ said the letter. ``I have been a victim of corrupt government.″ President Bush was listed among those copied in on the letter, but it was not known whether he received it.
The U.S. attorney’s office can request a federal court to order an initial examination to evaluate Pickett’s ability to understand legal proceedings. The results of that exam could lead to a more comprehensive, monthlong evaluation.
Authorities said Pickett created tense moments just outside the White House wrought-iron fence Wednesday as he waved his gun at police and terrified tourists. He apparently fired two shots before a uniformed officer shot him, police said.
Pickett bought the gun from an Evansville pawn shop a year ago after passing an instant criminal background check, said David Sisson, operations manager at Casey’s Pawn Shop, who said a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent linked the gun to his shop through a serial number.
In Indiana, no permit is necessary to purchase a handgun, but anyone without a permit is required to complete a form for a background check. Maj. Karen Butt, commander of the Indiana State Police records division, said the forms are destroyed after 30 days because of state privacy laws, and there was no record of Pickett’s responses.
The state form asks: ``Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or have you ever been court committed to a mental institution?″
Pickett reached a settlement in 1989 with the IRS, in which the agency dropped an action to fire him and allowed him to resign. The IRS agreed to provide back pay for a six-week period.
In one court case, Pickett presented his psychologist’s letter attesting that he suffered from chronic depression and has been under treatment for a long time.
In a lawsuit filed against the IRS in U.S. District Court in Evansville in 1997, Pickett said he ``has been hospitalized five times by psychiatrists since August 1986, including twice for attempted suicide by drug overdose, and is currently in therapy.″