Legal Ethics

Public Defender Choked Prosecutor in Court Hallway, Police Say

An Illinois prosecutor was hospitalized today after an assistant public defender allegedly choked him in a court hallway in Chicago following a courtroom dispute over setting a hearing date in a post-conviction murder case.

Police said Henry Hams, 47, put a 50-year-old Cook County prosecutor into a “choking headlock” this morning at the criminal courthouse at 26th and California, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“He had his hands wrapped around his throat and was just kind of riding him down the wall,” an unidentified source told the Chicago Tribune.

Another unidentified source said Hams “just lost it and shoved him against the wall” and put his stunned opposing counsel into a headlock after the prosecutor responded unsympathetically to the public defender’s complaint about a status date, the Tribune says.

An unidentified bystander told the Sun-Times that Hams said he was sick of being mocked by the prosecutor. Hams, who obtained a one-year professional boxing license in 2006, was charged aggravated battery in a public place and resisting arrest, according to the Sun-Times.

Accounts differ concerning how seriously the unidentified prosecutor was injured. He was treated at Mt. Sinai Hospital and released later Thursday.

One of two Cook County sheriff’s deputies who broke up the fight in the courthouse’s first-floor main hallway sustained a minor back injury, the Tribune reports.

Hams works in the public defender’s post-conviction unit. He is set to appear at a bond hearing Friday, the papers report.

Fisticuffs between Oregon attorneys in a similar courthouse dispute in Portland in 2008 that apparently didn’t result in any injuries were handled by a close-at-hand judge, as detailed in an earlier post. He gave the battling barristers a good “talking-to” after determining that both were at fault but said he wasn’t going to report them to the state bar for a potential attorney discipline case.

Likewise, Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies who witnessed the fray took no action.

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