The Texas man accused of storming the White House with a knife – and consequently sparking a ferocious debate about security and President Obama’s safety – pleaded not guilty to all charges on Wednesday afternoon.
Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, appeared before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It was his first court appearance since the Sept. 19 incident in which Gonzales allegedly scaled a White House fence, raced across the front lawn, overpowered a security officer and made it all the way to the East Room before he was arrested. President Obama and his family were not at home during the time of the intrusion.
According to NBC News, the hearing lasted approximately 20 minutes and Gonzalez – dressed in an orange jumpsuit – did not speak and allowed his lawyer to enter his plea. He did waive his right to a formal reading of the charges in addition to his right to a detention hearing, meaning he will remain in custody. The court ordered a mental competency screening, a move that defense lawyers were against. Public defender David Bos said there is no evidence that Gonzalez is not competent to go to trial.
The next status hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 21.
Authorities said Gonzalez, an Army veteran who was reportedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, had more than 800 rounds of ammunition, a machete and two hatchets in his car, which was parked nearby. He was indicted on Tuesday for unlawfully entering a restricted building, unlawful possession of ammunition and carrying a deadly weapon. He faces up to 15 years behind bars.
Shortly after Gonzalez’s hearing, U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson – who was grilled by lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday about the security lapses – resigned. Pierson told lawmakers on Tuesday that the intrusion was “not acceptable” and promised to “ensure it will never happen again.”
Additional White House security concerns have since surfaced. According to the Washington Post, Gonzalez was finally taken down not by an agent working that day but an off-duty Secret Service agent. Separately, according to the newspaper, an armed contractor was a criminal record was allowed on an elevator with President Obama on Sept. 16.