The man who attacked Holocaust survivor and novelist Elie Wiesel in a hotel elevator last year was found guilty of a felony hate crime charge of false imprisonment by a San Francisco jury on Monday. Twenty-four-year-old Eric Hunt was also found guilty of misdemeanor battery and elder abuse; he was cleared of five other felony charges, including kidnapping.
According to testimony by Wiesel, author of the Holocaust memoir Night (Hill and Wang, 1960) and the recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, on February 1, 2007, Hunt rode up the elevator of a San Francisco hotel with him and pulled him out on the sixth floor, insisting that he interview him. When Wiesel yelled for help outside the elevator, Hunt fled. Prosecutors argued that the incident was a hate-based attempt to persuade Wiesel to deny the Holocaust. John Runfola, Hunt's attorney, told the San Francisco Chronicle that his client was a "lost soul" but not a racist or Holocaust denier.
The false imprisonment felony carried a maximum sentence of three years in prison, but Runfola said that since Hunt has been in custody for eighteen months already, he will most likely be freed after sentencing next monday.