Brevard County Judge John Murphy had one nasty temper-tantrum before ultimately beating up a public defender just outside the Florida courtroom Monday, according to local news reports and a pretty wild video.
The scuffle began when Murphy allegedly tried to pressure seasoned public defender Andrew Weinstock to convince his client to waive his right to a speedy trial, according to WFTV.
After what appeared to be some normal legal chatter, the judge became angry and sparks flew.
According to the video, the exchange led to the age-old dare “let’s take this outside”:
“You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now,” Murphy told the attorney from the bench. “Stop pissing me off. Just sit down.”
“You know I’m the public defender. I have a right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my client,” Weinstock replied.
The two can then be seen on video walking out to the hallway on Murphy’s suggestion.
“If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass,” Murphy told Weinstock on the way out of the courtroom.
The camera captured those who were left in the courtroom listening to the sound of yelling (obscenities) and loud thuds from the hallway. They clapped when it was over.
“The attorney said that immediately upon entering the hallway he was grabbed by the collar and began to be struck, “Weinstock’s supervisor told WFTV . “There was no discussion, no talk, not even time for anything. Just as soon as they’re in the hallway, the attorney was grabbed.”
The judge was allowed to catch his breath and go back to the bench to finish his other rulings, according to the report. There were no arrests, but the incident will be reported to the Florida Bar.
I guess if you are a judge, it’s not illegal to threaten people with violence and then physically attack them. Who knew?
UPDATE: Following the incident Chief Judge John Harris released the following statement:
“As Chief Judge, I want to assure the public that yesterday’s incident involving a county court judge and an assistant public defender is not something that will ever be tolerated in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit. This isolated event in no way reflects the typical manner that courtrooms in Brevard and Seminole Counties are managed by the hardworking and conscientious judges in this circuit. People come to court seeking justice and a peaceful resolution to their conflicts and they have the right to expect a much higher standard of behavior from our judges than was exhibited in court yesterday.
“All of our judges, including Judge Murphy, fully understand this and to that end, and with the fullest cooperation from Judge Murphy, I have temporarily reassigned all of his pending cases to other judges. Moreover, Judge Murphy has agreed to seek anger management counseling and treatment during a temporary leave of absence.
“As Chief Judge, I will continue to work with all of our judges to ensure that we meet our responsibilities to the public in a manner that is worthy of the trust and confidence placed in us. At this time, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on the incident, the leave of absence, or any future reassignment of cases.”
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