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U.S. opposes psych test in military shootings case

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors in Virginia are objecting to a request for a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation for a man who admitted to firing shots at the Pentagon, the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico and other military buildings.

The prosecutors say Yonathan Melaku, who faces a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in January to the overnight shootings, is mentally competent to proceed to sentencing and that there’s no information to suggest he suffers from a mental disease or defect.

The government’s court filing Friday was in response to a request for a mental health evaluation from Melaku’s new lawyers, who said their own psychiatrist had determined him to be schizophrenic at the time of the shootings.

However, prosecutors say the same doctor acknowledged that Melaku understands the legal proceedings against him and can assist in his defense, and that the judge made sure in January that Melaku’s guilty plea was made voluntarily.

No one was injured in the series of shootings, which occurred in the fall of 2010.

Melaku was arrested in June 2011 when he was spotted after dark in Arlington National Cemetery with a backpack containing potential explosives material and notations referring to jihad and Osama bin Laden.

Prosecutors say he intended to desecrate veterans’ graves at the cemetery.

Melaku has agreed to a 25-year prison sentence as part of a plea deal.

Melaku’s lawyers requested after he pleaded guilty that he be held for a mental health evaluation, but the judge denied that request in March. Melaku’s new lawyers are now asking the judge to reconsider that ruling.

Lawyers for Melaku didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.