Armed man arrested after confrontation at Supreme Court


WASHINGTON -- A flurry of opinions provided only secondary excitement at the Supreme Court yesterday.

Shortly before the justices took their seats, a man armed with two knives created havoc in the great hall of justice.

Identified as Joseph Esters, 33, with no fixed address, he first brandished the knives while confronting police on the marble steps to the court.

After a half-hour standoff, he gave up the knives, but then rushed into the great hall near the chambers of the justices, said Toni House, a Supreme Court spokeswoman.

"Apparently, what nobody knew was that the front door was open," she said.

The Capitol Police said Mr. Esters was charged with three counts of assaulting a federal police officer. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Inside the building, the intruder surprised tourists and court employees as he raced about with police in hot pursuit.

The man was tackled not far from the press office just minutes before the justices took the bench. The man was handcuffed and carried out of the building.

Ms. House said he had been coming to the Supreme Court for the past 10 days and harassing employees.

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