US court orders mental tests for accused White House intruder

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A United States federal judge on Tuesday ordered a full psychiatric evaluation for the man accused of jumping the fence outside the White House and bursting into the president's home.

Mr Omar Gonzalez, 42, pleaded not guilty on Oct 1 to three counts stemming from the Sept 19 incident, when he is alleged to have sprinted across the White House lawn before entering the building with a knife in his pocket.

At Tuesday's status conference, US District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer said Gonzalez must undergo a new evaluation, after an initial screening found he was not fit to stand trial. "I order a full mental health evaluation be performed within 30 days ...(and) the defendant be moved to an appropriate facility to perform this evaluation," Judge Collyer said.

Gonzalez's lawyer David Bos, however, insisted his client was mentally fit. "There's no doubt in my mind that Mr Gonzalez is competent for the trial," Mr Bos said.

Mr Bos added that he was not opposing a new evaluation to "make sure the court has no lingering doubt of Mr Gonzalez's competency". Gonzalez has also been indicted on two counts of "assaulting, resisting, or impeding" US Secret Service agents.

In jail since his arrest, Gonzalez is an Iraq veteran reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

He is accused of entering the main door of the White House after sprinting across the presidential mansion's lawn. The president and his family had left the White House only a short time before.

This and other security lapses sparked withering criticism of the Secret Service and led to the resignation of the head of the elite presidential protection agency.

After his arrest, Gonzalez told a Security Service agent that "he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the president of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people", according to an affidavit.

The next court hearing was set for Dec 3.