Criminal Justice

Testifying re Alleged Prosecutor Battery, Assistant Chicago PD Claims Self-Defense; Jury Acquits

Updated: An Illinois public defender who was criminally charged after an altercation with a prosecutor two years ago in a Chicago court hallway testified at his felony aggravated battery trial Wednesday that he acted in self-defense when he grabbed the other lawyer by the neck, threw him to the floor and straddled him, reports the Chicago Tribune.

“I have a right to defend myself if threatened,” Assistant Cook County Public Defender Henry Hams told the jury at his Skokie trial. “I was thinking tactically, what is the best way to handle this situation.”

A jury in the Chicago suburb of Skokie apparently agreed, finding Harris not guilty Thursday, according to an updated Chicago Tribune article.

Harris, who is now 49 and has been a public defender for 20 years, said he approached Assistant Cook County State’s Atty. Mike McCormick, who is now 52, in the hallway of the Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street and California Avenue. He wanted to ask about getting some documents in a criminal case in which the two men were opposing counsel, but McCormick, he testified, became verbally abusive and pushed him, then didn’t back off when Harris told him to do so, the newspaper recounts.

McCormick, he said, was so close and so angry that the prosecutor was spitting in Harris’ face as he spoke to him.

On Tuesday, McCormick testified that, although he and Harris had exchanged words, he was stunned by the physical attack, which was without provocation. Treated and released after the June 2010 incident, McCormick had neck surgery weeks later and has filed a civil lawsuit against Harris.

Earlier coverage: “Public Defender Choked Prosecutor in Court Hallway, Police Say”

Updated at 2:27 p.m. to include news of acquittal from updated Chicago Tribune article.

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