Public defender punched in head by inmate during hearing

An inmate who was awaiting a hearing punched a Florida public defender in the back of the head, said the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

On Wednesday morning, William Green was awaiting a hearing before a magistrate judge after he was arrested on a battery charge at a mental health facility when the incident occurred, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.  

A video of the hearing shows public defender Julie Chase going over paperwork with another defendant standing nearby. The footage shows Green get up from his seat, walk over to Chase, and punch her in the back left side of her head. A couple seconds later, the footage shows sheriffs detain Green. 

“It’s troubling that an inmate would assault an officer of the court,” said Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony in a statement.

Green now faces additional battery charges, said the sheriff’s office. No one else was hurt during the incident. Chase, who was not representing Green as his public defender, was taken to the hospital, treated and released, reports The Miami Herald.

The sheriff’s office said inmates will now be handcuffed during similar proceedings to prevent similar incidents. Tony also cited a “more lax approach” to security procedures during hearings requested by the public defender’s office.

“Although I understand their concern that having deputies standing close to the inmates or having them wear handcuffs or shackles could imply guilt, they must in turn understand that their requests made it possible for this unusual situation to occur,” Tony said. 

In a letter to Tony obtained by the Miami Herald, Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein blamed deputies for failing to act quickly enough.

“This attack was the culmination of a series of failures by your deputies that resulted in a foreseeable and preventable act by a severely mentally ill person,” wrote Finkelstein, as reported by the Herald.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23

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