Thursday, 10:24 AM
Hostage standoff suspect accused of hiding behind 'phantom mental health issue'
(AP Photo/Pool, Foster's Daily Democrat, Mike Ross)
By James Pindell and Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent and Globe Staff
ROCHESTER, N.H. -- The man accused of holding six people hostage at a Hillary Clinton campaign office was convicted of rape in Worcester in 1985, escaped from prison a year later, and raped again, a prosecutor said today at a bail hearing.
Leeland Eisenberg, 46, appeared in court via video wearing a tan prison gown and said nothing as Strafford County Attorney Janice Rundles outlined his criminal history, which began in Massachusetts in 1978 when he was fined for possession of a knife. Eisenberg’s convictions include assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, burglary, larceny, stalking, and failing to register as a sex offender, Rundles said as she argued for high bail in Rochester District Court.
"What we have here in the state’s view is a man who has left a trail of victims" who was now trying to hide behind a "phantom mental health issue," Rundles said.
Judge Daniel Cappiello granted the prosecutor's request and ordered Eisenberg held on $500,000 bail. He is scheduled to undergo a mental health evaluation Tuesday.
Eisenberg's attorney, Randy Hawkes, did not argue against high bail. He said his client wanted to extend his "profound apologies" for trauma he caused when he taped road flares to his chest and bust into Clinton’s campaign office Friday afternoon. Hawkes described it as an "act of a desperate man who was seeking help not for his own situation but for the plight of people everywhere who seek and cannot find answers to their psychological problems."
Eisenberg’s family members have said he could no longer afford his medication for bipolar disorder. After being turned away from a hospital because he did not have insurance, Eisenberg spent Thursday looking unsuccessfully for help, calling the New Hampshire governor’s office, his congressman, and the state Department of Health and Human Services, Hawkes said.
"I think it is ironic Mr. Eisenberg may now get the assistance that he had been seeking," Hawkes said. "And I think it is unfortunate that he must get this assistance through the criminal justice system."
Eisenberg is charged with six felonies for allegedly walking into Clinton's storefront office in downtown Rochester on Friday afternoon with what appeared to be explosives strapped to his body, demanding to speak to Clinton about mental health care.
Eisenberg's family appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" today and said he was despondent and had been drinking heavily because he could no longer afford his medication.
"It was an act of desperation to try to get help," said his stepson, Ben Warren.
His wife, Lisa Warren, said that her husband’s drinking binge pushed her to file for divorce last week after less than two years of marriage.
"When he was on his medication he was always making me laugh, he spoiled me," Warren said. "It was perfect in my eyes. But without the medication and [with] the use of the alcohol, he turned into a different person."
Eisenberg’s family sat in the front row during today’s video arraignment. They declined to speak to reporters after the hearing and left the courthouse in a gray limousine.
Ben Warren told the Globe in a story Sunday that Eisenberg had been drinking heavily and was upset that a local hospital turned him away when he sought help. After seeing a Clinton campaign advertisement, he thought Clinton could help him, Warren said. The last time he saw his stepfather, he had gone out in search of cigarettes and road flares, he said.
Clinton's Rochester campaign office remained closed today, but her 15 other offices in New Hampshire reopened Sunday. Clinton's New Hampshire spokeswoman, Kathleen Strand, said the Rochester office will remain closed until further notice. She said three of the staff members held captive were full-time workers who came from out of state to work on the campaign. Clinton canceled some campaign appearances and visited them after their release.
Rochester held its annual holiday parade Sunday as the town inched back toward normalcy.
"It's business as usual,'' Police Captain Paul Callaghan told the Globe in a story that ran today. "People were fine, festive, it was a huge event," he said of the parade.
Eisenberg, of Somersworth, N.H., grew up in Groton and was one of 541 victims of the clergy sexual abuse scandal who received payments in the landmark 2003 settlement with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, according to court records and a source involved with the litigation. He was due in court Friday to face domestic violence charges.
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