FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A defense attorney was taken to a hospital Wednesday morning after a defendant in Broward County bond court punched her in the head.
Assistant public defender Julie Chase was appearing before Judge Jackie Powell and looking down at her papers on the podium when William Green got out of his seat, walked up to her from behind and punched her in the side of her head, seemingly at random. The hit was so hard that she was knocked to the ground.
"What happened?" Powell asked after looking up from her papers at the commotion in the courtroom.
Everyone in the room was noticeably surprised by the apparent random attack. The defendant who was at the podium at the time ran out of the way as Broward Sheriff's Office corrections deputies restrained Green, carrying him out of the courtroom.
Then the court went into recess.
Chase was taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where she was treated and released.
"I'm doing OK," she told Local 10 News while leaving the hospital.
Chase said the incident "was a bit of a shock."
"I didn't expect it, but I'm doing OK," she added.
Court records show Green, 27, was arrested Tuesday on a battery charge. He was accused of attacking an employee at a mental hospital.
Assistant chief public defender Gordon Weekes questioned why Green wasn't restrained at the time.
"It seemed like there was a serious breakdown in the jail's ability to identify someone's mental illness and the seriousness of their illness," Weekes said.
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony issued a statement Wednesday condemning the attack.
"It's troubling that an inmate would assault an officer of the court," Tony said. "I've reviewed the footage of the bond court incident and have gone over the facts with command staff in the Department of Detention. I learned that over the last several years, BSO has received numerous requests from the public defender's office asking for a more lax approach to our security procedures during magistrate hearings, which take place through a closed-circuit television feed from inside the jail.
Although I understand their concern that having deputies standing close to the inmates or having them wear handcuffs or shackles could imply guilt, they must in turn understand that their requests made it possible for this unusual situation to occur," Tony continued. "As the senior ranking law enforcement official for Broward County, I am obligated to ensure all policies related to the protection and safety of our court officials are enforced. Effective immediately, all inmates will be handcuffed during these proceedings as to reduce the ability of an inmate to cause similar harm or greater. The safety of my fellow criminal justice practitioners is of the highest priority."
Green now faces additional battery charges in connection with the incident.