FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A public defender was transported to the hospital after she was punched by an inmate at the Broward County Courthouse.
Veteran defender Julie Chase was alongside a female defendant during morning bond court when another inmate walked up and punched her in the head, Wednesday.
The inmate, who was identified as 27-year-old William Green, was then restrained by deputies and carried away.
Green was already facing a charge of touch or strike battery after he allegedly punched an employee of Florida Medical Center while being held under Florida’s Baker Act law.
“If he did something in the hospital, that’s where they’re supposed to keep him to give him injection or medication, restrain him,” Sharon Green, William Green’s mother, said.
Howard Finkelstein, Chase’s boss, agrees with Green’s mother.
“Had the officer followed the law and allowed Mr. Green to continue treatment for his psychosis, the incident would not have occurred,” Finkelstein wrote in a letter to Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. “Mentally ill persons who commit minor criminal offenses in Baker Act facilities should not be arrested and transported to the jail. What happened today should not have happened and should never happen again.”
According to the arrest report, Green was admitted to the hospital “due to his severe violent history.”
“Out of nowhere, defendant Green rushed [the employee] from behind, grabbing him around the waist with both arms and drug him into the hall,” the report stated.
In a statement released Wednesday, Tony said, “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. Effective immediately, all inmates will be handcuffed during these proceedings.”
Charges for the Wednesday morning incident are currently pending.
“It was very unfortunate and our hearts go out to her because she’s carrying the good weight of our office every single day trying to represent folks in that very difficult environment,” said Public Defender Gordon Weekes. “That is totally inappropriate and not what is to be expected of your job as a public defender. The jail needs to take a little more precautions when it comes to the safety of individuals, particularly the public defenders that are placed in that environment. They should have been able to identify that this individual is experiencing deep and significant psychosis. The jail needs to be a little more mindful of identifying individuals with significant and ongoing and pervasive mental illness, and they need to take more appropriate steps to ensure that those that are present are in a safe environment.”
It is also unclear why Chase was punched in the first place.
“Jail wasn’t the answer,” Sharon Green said.
When she was asked what she would say to Chase, she responded, “Oh, Lordy. I want to say, ‘I’m so, so, so sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry.'”
Chase was taken to the hospital to be evaluated and has since been released. The full extent of Chase’s injury remains unclear. The public defender has since returned home and is said to be resting.
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