A former Marine who admitted to firing shots at the Pentagon and other military facilities in Northern Virginia suffers from schizophrenia, according to the evaluation of a psychiatrist retained by his lawyers.
Yonathan Melaku pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria in January and agreed to a prison sentence of 25 years and to pay restitution for the victims' losses that totals about $111,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 20.
In October and November of 2010, Melaku shot at the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, a Marine Corps recruiting substation in Chantilly and a Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge, according to court documents. No one was injured in the shootings.
Melaku was taken into custody in June 2011, when he was found on the property of Arlington National Cemetery, where he had intended to desecrate and injure grave markers, court papers said.
Melaku's lawyers retained a psychiatrist who determined that Melaku had a serious mental illness at the time he committed the offenses and continues to suffer from mental illness, according to a court document. The psychiatrist wrote that Melaku is schizophrenic.
In light of the evaluation, Melaku's lawyers filed papers Wednesday asking that the court reconsider the request for a court-ordered evaluation and ultimately commit him to a proper facility so he can receive treatment.
During the hearing in which Melaku pleaded guilty, his then-lawyer asked that Melaku receive a mental-health evaluation so he could get whatever treatment he needed while incarcerated. This request was followed by a written request that was denied due to a lack of support.
Melaku's then-lawyer stated in the written request in February that there was "absolutely no reason to believe that the defendant did not have the requisite mental capacity to enter his guilty plea."
However, Melaku's new lawyers wrote in a document filed Wednesday that "this statement is shocking due to the fact that prior counsel failed to ever have Mr. Melaku examined by a psychiatrist or other mental health practitioner."
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday that the office declined to comment on the schizophrenia claim and would respond in court when appropriate.