Man convicted of hate crime for accosting Wiesel - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Man convicted of hate crime for accosting Wiesel

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Posted: Monday, July 21, 2008 10:45 pm | Updated: 9:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

SAN FRANCISCO - A New Jersey man who once claimed insanity was convicted Monday of a hate crime for accosting Nazi death camp survivor and scholar Elie Wiesel in a hotel elevator.

Eric Hunt, 24, was convicted in San Francisco Superior Court of one felony charge of false imprisonment with a hate crime allegation. Hunt was also convicted of two misdemeanor counts — one for battery and one for elder abuse.

The jury dismissed charges of attempted kidnapping, stalking and a second false imprisonment charge.

He had withdrawn his original not guilty by reason of insanity plea, eliminating the need for a second trial to determine his sanity at the time of the crime.

Hunt shook in his seat after the verdict was read. He could face as long as three years in prison.

"We are pleased with the verdict," said his attorney, John Runfola. "I'm just saddened it took this long to get justice for this young guy who is mentally ill."

During the nine-day trial, Wiesel, 79, testified that he thought Hunt was trying to kidnap him when he was forcefully pulled off an elevator at San Francisco's Argent Hotel on Feb. 1, 2007.

On the witness stand, Wiesel read comments allegedly written on a Web site by Hunt calling Wiesel's accounts of the Holocaust "fictitious."

Wiesel's parents and younger sister died in Nazi death camps during World War II. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and has written more than 40 books, many of them about the Holocaust and Judaism.

Hunt's lawyers contend that his online statements were the result of a mental illness and not anti-Semitism and that Hunt is being treated.

"He is not a Holocaust denier," Runfola said.

Sentencing is set for August.

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