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Lawyer: 'Rambo' mentally shaky in sniper case

Oct. 1, 2013 - 07:42PM   |  
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NEW YORK — The lawyer for a former soldier known as “Rambo” said Tuesday he was concerned about his client’s mental and emotional stability as his client faces charges he plotted to kill a federal agent.

Attorney Marlon Kirton said Joseph Hunter’s lips were quivering and he seemed about to cry as he spoke to him before a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“He has some issues related to his service,” Kirton said outside court of Hunter’s stints in the Army from 1983 to 2004, including time in Iraq. “He was almost weeping.”

The lawyer said he believed his client might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hunter, 48, was brought to the United States last week to face conspiracy charges in an indictment that alleges he led two other ex-soldiers — an American and a German — in an $800,000 plot to kill a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Liberia. The plot was created by DEA operatives who used the sting operation to shut down a murder-for-hire operation that prosecutors said used ex-military snipers for freelance killing assignments on behalf of drug organizations.

Hunter pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas on Saturday.

Two co-defendants charged along with Hunter pleaded not guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain. All three were handcuffed and shackled at the waist as they sat in the jury box, with U.S. marshals watching over them.

A prosecutor, Michael Lockard, said some of the men made limited statements after their arrest. He did not elaborate.

Hunter’s lawyer told the judge Tuesday that he believed Hunter’s mental and emotional health should be evaluated. The judge said she will consider ordering an evaluation if the Manhattan prison where he resides doesn’t do one soon.

Edward Wilford, a lawyer for defendant Dennis Gogel, a 27-year-old German resident who was in the German armed forces from 2007 to 2010, said he believes the sting operation might qualify the case for an entrapment defense.

He said he would be “vigorously attempting to lay a foundation for that sort of defense.”

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