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Attorney: Rotunno sought ‘attention and chaos’

Ian Rotunno, according to his attorney, did not personally want to kill former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Instead, he was hoping to “create some attention and chaos” that would generate a public uprising in support of the execution of the two men, Mark D. Hosken, assistant federal public defender, said Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Rochester where Rotunno appeared for a detention hearing.

Rotunno, 24, has been incarcerated in Steuben County for nearly eight months. U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson reserved decision and scheduled a preliminary hearing for June 10.

Rotunno is charged with expressing a threat to kill or harm a former president. According to the complaint, Rotunno told co-workers Oct. 7, 2010, that he was going to Washington to discharge his shotgun into the reflecting pool in an attempt to be arrested or killed by federal authorities.

He is also accused of saying if Bush was in the same room with him, he “would kill him with his bare hands.” There are additional allegations of threats made against Cheney.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley E. Tyler said Rotunno turned himself into police in Owego, Tioga County, after talking to his mother on the telephone. A loaded 12-gauge shotgun, a flare gun, ammunition and several knives were found in his vehicle.

It is alleged Rotunno made the threatening statements in interviews with Secret Service agents whom Tyler said determined he was mentally unstable and took him into custody under Mental Health Law. Rotunno was transported to St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, where he was a patient until Oct. 26.

Tyler said the threats were supported by some degree by statements Rotunno made while receiving psychiatric treatment at St. James. Those statements were disputed by Hosken.

Tyler requested Rotunno continue to be detained based on a combination of violent outbursts with family members, aggressive behavior and a prior suicide attempt. He also said additional weapons were found at Rotunno’s residence and that the psychiatric assessment indicated he could be a danger to himself and others.

Hosken said Dr. Anthony F. Yacona was present for the sole interview with a Secret Service agent at the hospital and that he said he did not hear any remarks about threatening to kill Bush or Cheney.

The location of the alleged threats may determine where the case in prosecuted. Hornell is in the Western District of New York, but Owego is in the Northern District, which Tyler said is considering taking the case.

Hosken contends there were no threatening statements made at St. James and that the whole time Rotunno was there and at the Steuben County Jail, that he followed the rules and regulations.

Hosken said he doesn’t believe Rotunno is a danger and that if released, he would live with his mother in Ithaca under electronic government supervision and that he would engage in mental health treatment.

Hosken said Rotunno believes that Bush and Cheney are responsible for many societal ills and that terrorism would stop if they were executed. He said Rotunno suffers from a delusional disorder and believed the Secret Service agent was there to help him bring his message to Washington about government corruption.

According to Hosken, Rotunno is competent to stand trial. He said he has no prior arrests, other than a driving while ability impaired infraction. He agreed his client does have mental health issues that can be treated.

Tyler said Rotunno should be monitored long-term and that someone advocating for violence is just as dangerous as if he had committed the acts himself, possibly even more so.

He said under a plea deal that the parties have been discussing, Rotunno could be sentenced up for up to year.

Judge Payson noted Rotunno has been held for almost eight months and that he could be sentenced to time served. Tyler said the length of supervision was important to the government and could be up to five years if convicted. He said there should also be the loss of the some rights, such as preventing Rotunno from having weapons.

Judge Payson asked if the conditions would involve out-patient treatment. Tyler said he would leave that judgment to the mental health professionals.

Judge Payson said she wanted to read the mental health assessment before making a decision.