Court Security

2 Lawyers Attacked in Federal Court Melee

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A defendant reportedly grabbed the hair of a senior narcotics prosecutor, yanked her to the floor and choked her yesterday, in a presentencing attack in a Brooklyn federal courtroom. A 72-year-old defense lawyer allegedly was cut with a razor blade when he tried to help her.

“I think he was going to slash her throat,” defense lawyer Harry Batchelder, 72, tells the New York Daily News. “He fully intended to maim her.”

Neither attorney apparently was seriously hurt in the courtroom chaos, according to news accounts, as Batchelder, a court reporter and federal marshals piled on top of the screaming prosecutor and the powerfully built defendant, in a successful attempt to subdue him before he did major damage.

Vincent Wright, 37, who was represented by Batchelder, had been about to be sentenced to two mandatory life terms for his role in a murderous rap music-related drug distribution ring, recounts the New York Law Journal, in an article reprinted by New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

The incident shows the need for increased federal court security, including handcuffing some defendants, says Batchelder, a retired Air Force colonel. “They really have to think about changing the policy,” he tells the legal publication. “There’s no jury. He’s facing two life sentences. He has nothing to lose. He hates the prosecutor.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Pokorny, 38, appeared shaken and didn’t comment, but witnesses said she walked out of the courtroom on her own and apparently wasn’t seriously injured.

Batchelder credited as “the real hero” in the melee court reporter Ron Tolkin, who kept Wright from doing further damage with the razor blade, the New York Law Journal reports. The Daily News says that Eugene Corcoran, chief U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of New York, has launched an internal investigation to find out how it was smuggled into the courtroom.

Both Batchelder and Tolkin, 60, are Vietnam War veterans, notes a Newsday account of the incident. It says that U.S. District Judge Frederic Block pressed a panic button and left the bench as soon as the attack began, as court marshals rushed in to help.

A Newsday brief quotes Batchelder as saying that he expects his client will face more charges due to the attack.

Wright’s sentencing will be rescheduled.

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