Hostage suspect portrayed as manipulative, desperate
ROCHESTER, N.H. -- The man accused of taking hostages at a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign office last week watched impassively during his video arraignment Monday as he was portrayed alternatively as a sick man desperately seeking psychiatric help and a manipulative longtime criminal.
The judge ordered Leeland Eisenberg held on $500,000 cash bail on six felony charges and ordered a psychiatric evaluation for him.
"I think it's very, very important, to keep this man under lock and key for now until we get to the bottom of his mental health problems, Rochester District Court Judge Daniel Cappiello said.
Strafford County Attorney Janice Rundles asked for the high bail, saying Eisenberg, 46, has a long criminal record, including two rape convictions, and would be a threat to the public.
She said he was sentenced to 10 years for rape in Worcester, Mass., in 1985 but apparently escaped the next year and committed another rape. He was sentenced to 11 to 20 years for that, she said.
Massachusetts officials said Friday Eisenberg was released from prison in March 2005 after completing a sentence, but state law prevented them from giving details of the conviction or charge.
Rundles said his record in New Hampshire began that year when he was charged with failing to register as a sex offender. He was convicted the following year, she said.
Rundles said Eisenberg has two Social Security numbers and had been known previously in Massachusetts as Ralph E. Woodward.
"What we have here, in the state's view, is a man who has a trail of victims in his past," she said.
His public defender, Randy Hawkes, portrayed Eisenberg as a man at the end of his rope emotionally after being repeatedly turned down when he sought help.
"He asked me to extend his profound apologies," he said, calling the event a "desperate plea."
Hawkes also said Eisenberg, whom he said had repeatedly attempted suicide in the past, wanted to thank the police for not shooting him, even though he asked them to on Friday.
Eisenberg, wearing a short-sleeved shirt over a T-shirt, hung his head slightly and did not look at the camera as he appeared in a grainy, live video link from the county jail in Dover. He did not speak.
Eisenberg will not enter pleas until the case reaches Superior Court.
He allegedly took six hostages, including an infant with mother, at Clinton's storefront office in Rochester on Friday, showing them what he said was a bomb strapped to his chest. Authorities said it turned out to be road flares.
No one was hurt in the 51/2-hour drama, which ended when state police negotiators persuaded him to surrender.
Police said Friday there had been five hostages, including the infant. In court, Rundles said there had been six, including a previously undisclosed 18-year-old man released soon after the incident began.
She and police say Eisenberg ordered everyone to the back of the office and told them to lie down. When the hostages asked him to let the woman and her baby go, he agreed in the first few minutes, Rundles said. She said he agreed soon afterward to release the 18-year-old because of his age. The last three hostages dribbled out as the afternoon wore on.
An interview with three of the hostages was shown on WMUR-TV Monday evening.
The station identified the campaign workers as "22-year-old Catherine, 24-year-old Graham, 24-year-old Morgan," and said two of them are from California and the other from Massachusetts.
Graham was the last hostage released before Eisenberg surrendered.
"It was really apparent from the get go that we were dealing with a man who was dangerous and was sick," he said. "The way he was acting made us all fearful."
He said police negotiated Catherine's release, but that Morgan ran out when she saw an opportunity. Graham told the station that Eisenberg, who he called "Leeland," was very upset at Morgan's escape and threatened Graham's life.
The three told the station they were eager to get back to work in the Rochester office, which remained closed on Monday.
Hawkes said Eisenberg's efforts to get help included calling Gov. John Lynch's office on Thursday. Hawkes said his client was referred to his local congresswoman's office, where he was told it was a state matter.
Monday afternoon, Lynch's office called that account "absolutely not true." Eisenberg spoke to a receptionist and got a phone message back from a staffer who helps constituents resolve problems, Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said. But that staffer never spoke to Eisenberg and he was not referred to the congressional office, Manning said.
Eisenberg also contacted the state Department of Health and Human Services but was told there was nothing the agency could do immediately, Hawkes said. He said an agency employee urged him to apply for Social Security disability benefits, but acknowledged that would take time.
Last week, Hawkes said, Eisenberg "heard voices and saw a movie in his head telling him he had to sacrifice himself" to shine light on the flaws in the system.
But Rundles said Eisenberg did not mention his mental illness or ask for help during his contacts with her office before Friday. His mental illness, "as far as I can tell, has been phantom until now," she said.
As evidence he is manipulative, she said he had pressured his wife after she made the pending domestic complaints against him.
Eisenberg's wife, Lisa Warren Eisenberg, filed for divorce last week after about a year and a half of marriage.
On ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday morning, Warren said Eisenberg made her laugh and spoiled her when he was on medication and wasn't drinking.
"But without the medication and (with) the use of the alcohol, he turned into a different person," she said.
Her son, Ben Warren, said he spent Thursday night and Friday before the incident with his stepfather, whom he described as being in a "drunken stupor" at one point. As Eisenberg left the house Friday, he said, "No matter what happens today, tell your mother I love her," Ben Warren told police in an interview.
Before Monday's hearing, Ben Warren told reporters his stepfather had been turned away by hospitals including Frisbee Memorial in this former mill city of about 30,000.
In a statement, the hospital responded that it does not deny care to people who cannot pay.
"The fact is that no one is ever denied treatment at our hospital because they don't have health insurance or the ability to pay for their care. Consistent with our core mission to serve our community, anyone who needs care receives care," chief executive Al Felgar said.
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