Duran Convicted Of Trying to Kill President Clinton


By Toni Locy
Washington Post staff Writer

After deliberating nearly five hours, a federal jury convicted a Colorado man yesterday of trying to assassinate President Clinton, rejecting his claim that he was insane when he opened fire on the White House in October.

The jury, whlch began deliberations yesterday morning, also convicted Francisco Martin Duran, 26, of assaulting four Secret Service officers, illegally possessing firearms, using those weapons during a crime of violence and causing $3,400 in damage to the White House.

Because of the seriousness of Duran's armed assault on the White House, U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. said, prosecutors may ask U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey to go beyond federal sentencing guidelines--which call for a term of 25 to 30 years on the charges--and impose the maximum sentence of life in prison when Duran is sentenced June 29.

"One of the things I hope comes out of this will be a very strong deterrent effect," Holder said. "We take all crimes seriously. but especially those directed against the leaders of this country."

Holder called the case an example of cooperation not only among law enforcement agencies but also with ordinary citizens. He lauded "the courageous acts" of tourists who tackled Duran on Oct. 29 as he tried to reload a semiautomatic rifle on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and of others who captured the incident on videotape and testified as government witnesses.

The jury's rejection of Duran's insanity defense also was important, Hoider said. "Very often in society, people try to use excuses to deflect responsibility." he said. "This jury has sent a message to people like this that bogus excuses will not he tolerated."

Holder repeated his concern that several prople had heard Duran make threats against the president but did not report them to police. "It's much better to, investigate a number ... of crackpot allegations ... in the hope that you will get that one person who is like Mr. Duran." Holder said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric A. Dubelier, who prosecuted the case With Brenda J. Johnson, told reporters after the verdict that Duran's insanity defense was "preposterous" and "nonsense."

The two-week trial was a battle of specialists who gave far different opinions on Duran's mental state.

Mental health specialists for the defense insisted that Duran, a hotel upholsterer from suburban Colorado Springs, is a paranoid schizophrenic who had no intention of shooting at the president.

Defense psychiatrists and psychologists said Duran was trying to destroy a "mist" that was connected by an umbilical cord to an alien being he encountered in the Colorado mountains. Duran, they said, believed it was his duty to destroy the mist, which was controlling the White House, to save the government and the world.

Public defenders A.J. Kramer and Leigh A. Kenny, who would not comment on the verdict, argued that Duran never meant to hurt anyone. They argued that he did not hear two Indiana school boys say they thought they saw someone on the White House lawn who looked like Clinton.

But doctors hired by prosecutors said that Duran was faking mental illness and that he was antisocial and narcisstic. Johnson said in her closing argument that Duran simply wanted to be famous. He told his wife and friends to cash in on his fame by appearing on tabloid television shows and by selling business cards on which he had written violent, threatening messages.

The prosecution called more than 60 witnesses to show that Duran had talked often of anarchy and that he hated government in general and Clinton in particular.

According to testimony, Duran bought an SKS semiautomatic rifle in Colorado on Sept. 13. That was the day Clinton signed into law the most recent crime bill, which bans the sale of military-style weapons such as the SKS.

Duran left Colorado on Sept. 30. When he arrived in the Washington area on Oct. 10, he moved from hotel to hotel, staying for a few days at the Washington Hilton, the site of John W. Hinckley Jr.'s attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

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