Lawyer and Client Decked by Courtroom Spectator
A lawyer and his client were assaulted on Tuesday by a spectator in a New York courtroom who was unhappy about a judge’s request.
Defense lawyer Anthony Colleluori declined medical attention but his client, Ronald Rodriguez, sustained an injured nose and a cut over his eye that required stitches, the New York Law Journal reports. A court officer who helped subdue the spectator also suffered a knee injury. Rodriguez is on trial for the murder of Bilah McGraw.
The assault occurred after Judge Norman St. George of Nassau County asked two spectators to leave for wearing shorts, Colleluori said in an interview with ABAJournal.com. One of them, Colleluori said, “turned on his heels. He took three giant steps toward us and jumped over the railing, attacking Mr. Rodriguez. I was hit first, by accident I believe, because he was really trying to nail Ron.”
“It took five court officers to subdue this guy,” Colleluori told the ABA Journal. “There were other members of the community in the courtroom who were cheering him on. There was complete pandemonium. I was afraid of a riot.”
The onlookers finally quieted down after an officer yelled at them to sit down. The attacker, Chevez Jackson, was subdued and charged with assault, Newsday reports. The New York Law Journal says he is one of McGraw’s distant relatives.
Colleluori says the incident highlights the need for better courtrooms with increased security. The problem with the courtroom where the case was being tried, he says, is that the well is small and placing a podium there would block jurors’ view. As a result, lawyers have to question witnesses from outside the well just three or four feet from spectators.
The safety issue is getting a lot of discussion on the SoloSez message board. “Frankly, we talk about security all of the time, but we’re not getting any,” he says. “And I think the state and the county need to put some money into this courthouse specifically and build us a modern protected building.”
He says at least two rows of seats should be placed between the rail separating spectators and lawyers, and the door to the well needs to be locked. He also points out that the courtroom has a window, and someone could take a shot at those in the courtroom from the street.
“This has been one of the worst thing that has happened in my entire career,” he says. “It jostled me.
Updated at 5:35 p.m. to correct that Jackson is a relative of Bilah McGraw. Updated at 6:05 p.m. to add comments from Colleluori.