This article appeared on page D – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A New Jersey man charged Saturday with attacking Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel at a San Francisco hotel earlier this month was a “lone wolf” who had also stalked the Nobel laureate in Florida, authorities said.

Police found 22-year-old Eric Hunt at a mental health treatment center in Belle Mead, N.J., where he had sought treatment within the past week for undisclosed reasons. He remained jailed Saturday night in Somerville, N.J.

Hunt faces charges of attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse, stalking, battery and committing a hate crime. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris pledged to vigorously prosecute what she called “horrible, outrageous crimes” by “someone who traveled here” to target Wiesel on Feb. 1.

Investigators say Hunt confronted Wiesel, 78, in an elevator at the Argent Hotel during an interfaith conference and pulled him out on the sixth floor. The assailant fled when Wiesel began screaming. Police said they found Hunt’s car in the hotel parking garage, and Wiesel told The Chronicle that his assailant fled so quickly that the assailant left his wallet and driver’s license in the car.

A judge issued a warrant for Hunt’s arrest Friday. San Francisco police knew Hunt had cash and was using a credit card, and they tracked him to the Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead. Hunt’s mother had helped him check into the facility, which is about 60 miles from his home, investigators said. San Francisco police alerted their counterparts in Montgomery Township, N.J.; they arrested Hunt on Saturday afternoon.

“He had admitted himself there for some type of treatment,” Montgomery Township police Sgt. Guy Fillebrown said. “He was very polite, docile — there was no resistance,” he added. “We simply transported him to jail.”

Hunt is a Holocaust denier who in recent weeks traveled to Florida in an unsuccessful attempt to confront Wiesel at a conference there, said Lt. Dan Mahoney, head of special investigations for San Francisco police. Hunt began following Holocaust denial organizations after graduating from college, and although he used the Internet to spread his beliefs, authorities believe Hunt acted alone.

“He appears to be what we call a lone wolf,” Mahoney said.

Five days after Wiesel was attacked, a man identifying himself as Hunt posted a detailed account of the crime on several anti-Semitic and anti-Israel Web sites. That account matched a description of the attack police provided a few days later. In the online post, Hunt said he cornered Wiesel, the author of more than 40 books based on his Holocaust experiences, to force him into admitting that the Holocaust never occurred.

Hunt’s father, Frank Hunt, 49, said his son called Feb. 9 and asked to be picked up at a bus station in Scranton, Pa., explaining that his car was in the shop. The elder Hunt said his son, whom he had not seen in 11 years, acted strangely, appeared disheveled and did not carry luggage.

His son mentioned nothing about Wiesel, the Holocaust or anti-Semitism in the two days he stayed with him in Pennsylvania, Frank Hunt said. The elder Hunt, who dropped his son off on Feb. 11 in New Jersey at his insistence, said he hopes his son gets the help he needs.

“I think he might be mentally ill,” he said. “I’m worried about his mental health.”

Hunt is to appear in court in Somerset County, N.J., on Tuesday.

E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at