Criminal Justice

DA promises 'appropriate action' after defense lawyer allegedly scuffles with prosecutor

A spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney is vowing “appropriate action” after a defense lawyer allegedly scuffled with a prosecutor before a New Orleans judge last Friday.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune spoke with lawyers and courthouse staff familiar with the incident. According to their accounts, the incident began after Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier made a ruling in a murder case that favored assistant district attorney Jason Napoli. At that point, Napoli is said to have turned from the judge and brushed past or bumped defense lawyer Eusi Phillips. Apparently taking offense, Phillips allegedly pushed Napoli into a wall, according to the newspaper’s sources. Deputies intervened, and Phillips briefly left the courtroom. The hearing resumed when Phillips returned.

Phillips and his lawyer declined to comment. A spokesman for the DA issued this statement to the Times-Picayune: “Without any provocation—physical or verbal—attorney Eusi Phillips attacked an ADA in court following a bench conference in which the judge ruled against Mr. Phillips. As a result, Mr. Phillips had to be physically removed from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.

“While this occurred in open court immediately in front of Judge Flemings-Davillier, she chose not to hold Mr. Phillips in direct contempt and instead instructed the state to file a motion to hold Mr. Phillips in constructive contempt. The office is presently evaluating the matter and will take the appropriate action.”

Phillips formerly worked for the DA’s office. In 2009, a judge sentenced Phillips to five days in jail for “discourteous language toward the court” and “disorderly behavior toward the judge” during a murder trial, the Times-Picayune says. Phillips later apologized, and the judge reduced his sentence to two days of community service.

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