MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — An Army staff sergeant charged with shooting and killing a newly sworn Virginia police officer is mentally impaired as a result of his two tours in Iraq, his defense lawyer said Tuesday.
In this February 2016 photo provided by the Prince William County, Va. Police shows Ronald Hamilton, who is being held without bond in the Prince William County Adult Detention Center on charges that include murder of a law enforcement officer. A judge weighs a defense request for a gag order on lawyers in the capital murder case against a soldier charged with killing a police officer on her first shift. (Prince William County Police via AP)
Ronald Hamilton, 32, of Woodbridge, is charged with capital murder for the Feb. 27 shooting death of Prince William County police officer Ashley Guindon, who was working her first shift after being sworn in.
At a pretrial hearing in Prince William General District Court, Hamilton’s lawyer, Ed Ungvarsky, said he expects Hamilton’s state of mind to be a major issue going forward, though he did not commit to pursuing an insanity defense.
“After serving two tours in Iraq, Sgt. Hamilton presents as a psychologically damaged and mentally impaired person,” Ungvarsky told Judge Robert Coleman.
Prosecutors say Hamilton shot Guindon and two other police officers who responded when Hamilton’s wife called 911 for help. Crystal Hamilton was found shot dead in her home. The two other officers who were shot, Jesse Hempen and David McKeown, survived.
Court records indicate that Hamilton confessed to the shootings.
Neither Ungvarsky nor Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert would comment on Hamilton’s mental health after Tuesday’s hearing. Ethical guidelines bar attorneys from discussing potential evidence in the case outside of court.
Ungvarsky’s comment came as he argued multiple pretrial motions, including a request for a gag order on all the lawyers in the case, and a request that would bar prosecutors from using a search warrant to obtain Hamilton’s personal records, such as health records and phone records. Ungvarsky said prosecutors should instead be required to seek such records through a subpoena, a process that would allow defense lawyers to object to anything they deemed improper.
Coleman rejected all of Ungvarsky’s requests, saying he lacked authority as a district judge with limited jurisdiction to grant them. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next month, and if a judge finds probable cause, the case will be sent to a grand jury for an indictment and then to Circuit Court for a trial. If convicted, Hamilton could get the death penalty.
Hamilton said very little during the hourlong hearing. He was handcuffed and shackled throughout, and surrounded by four armed deputies.