Court Security

'Am I some punching bag?' Lawyer says he put ex-client's girlfriend in headlock after attack

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A lawyer and two others were charged with misdemeanors following a physical confrontation at a town court in Palermo, New York, earlier this month. (Image from Shutterstock)

Updated: A lawyer and two others were charged with misdemeanors following a physical confrontation at a town court in Palermo, New York, earlier this month, according to a report by

Lawyer Salvatore F. Lanza, 66, of the Lanza Law Office in Fulton, New York, said he was only defending himself when he put an ex-client’s girlfriend in a headlock, according to the article published last week.

Oswego County News Now had earlier coverage of the June 3 incident. That article said Lanza has “earned a reputation as one of Oswego County’s most colorful attorneys, displaying a combative and brash courtroom demeanor.”

Lanza told that he was waiting for his cases to be called June 3 when his ex-client, 41-year-old Steven Marrone, was before the judge. Following a heated exchange, the judge twice told Marrone to sit down.

As Marrone passed the counsel table, Lanza alleges, Marrone grabbed his tie, shirt and lapel and began to shake him. A struggle followed, and a court security officer took Marrone from the courtroom.

Lanza said he was then attacked by Marrone’s girlfriend, 44-year-old Christine Johnson, who drew blood when she dug her fingernails into his hand. Lanza said he put Johnson in a headlock to stop the attack.

“Am I some punching bag for people?” Lanza asked in an interview with “Is that what lawyers have become?”

Lanza told that he previously withdrew from Marrone’s case because of differences on the defense of criminal charges.

Marrone offered a different version of events in an interview with He said when he walked past the counsel table, he lightly touched Lanza’s shoulder with his right hand. The gesture was “a simple courtesy of asking, ‘How are you?’” Marrone said.

Marrone claims that Lanza then stood and pushed him away while using profanities. After Marrone was escorted from the courtroom, Marrone said, he heard his girlfriend scream. He rushed back to the courtroom and saw Lanza had Johnson in a choke maneuver, Marrone said.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said Lanza had continued to argue with Marrone when he was taken from the courtroom. He said Johnson approached Lanza, but he was unsure whether she attacked him.

Lanza was taken to an urgent care medical facility after the incident.

Lanza was charged with three misdemeanors, according to They are second-degree criminal contempt, obstruction of governmental administration and criminal obstruction of breathing.

Marrone and Johnson were charged with the misdemeanors of second-degree harassment, second-degree obstruction of governmental administration and second-degree criminal contempt, according to the article.

Lanza told the ABA Journal that he will plead not guilty to all the charges when he appears for arraignment June 18. He is represented by lawyer Mary Felasco of Fulton, New York.

“The town judges and court clerk gave statements as to what they saw,” Lanza said in an email to the Journal. “Their statements contradict the statements made by the two individuals who attacked me.”

Updated June 17 at 1:20 p.m. to add the email comment from Salvatore F. Lanza.

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