A South Carolina defendant in an assault case punched his attorney in the face in a crowded courtroom after being sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday.
A video of the incident recorded inside the court shows Lamarcus Williamson, 30, standing handcuffed before a judge after pleading guilty to robbery and assault charges when suddenly he wheels around and takes a swing at York County public defender Dan Hall
The punch caught the lawyer in the mouth and drew blood. In the video, the two men could be seen toppling to the ground before court officers seize Williamson and lead him out of the room.
In the aftermath of the fracas, Judge William Nettles added six months to Williamson’s 15-year sentence, which is the maximum penalty for contempt of court, Herald Online reported.
Williamson, who has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2000, was arrested in March for attacking and choking a female Winthrop University student. Police also found nine grams of crack cocaine on him, according to prosecutors.
During a hearing Wednesday, the judge said that the 30-year-old man’s conduct was not ‘governed by rational thought,’ and his aggression towards a man whose job was to protect his rights was inexcusable.
Williamson claimed that he attacked Hall because prosecutors said he had committed a slew of felonies. However, moments earlier, the 30-year-old had pleaded guilty to those charges.
‘I was upset because the solicitor was trying to incriminate me like I’m some bad guy,’ Williamson said. ‘The solicitor was trying to say I destroyed this woman.’
Judge Nettles, however, was unmoved.
The defendant was booked at Moss Justice Center on a $45,000 bond. Williams still faces pending drug charges, according to officials.
Hall, a former prosecutor for the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Officer and a former York city judge, said in an interview withChannel 9 that he did not see the punch coming.
The attorney said that he was helping out a colleague with the case, and that he had only met Williamson once before. Hall was not the 30-year-old’s main court-appointed lawyer.
The recording of the incident shows Williams standing before the judge during the sentencing and looking fidgety.
A court official positioned behind him could be seen signalling an officer to watch the defendant, who then unexpectedly swings around and hits Hall with his cuffed hands in an attack that lasted only a few seconds.
York County Court Clerk David Hamilton, who is in charge of security at the courthouse, said all proper procedures were followed during the hearing and three deputies were directly behind Williamson.
The altercation, which happened on his 58th birthday, left Hall with a busted lip and sore jaw, but things could have turned out much worse for him.
‘An inch higher I would have had a broken nose,’ he said. ‘An inch lower, my front teeth would have been knocked out.’
He added jokingly, ‘A punch was not the best birthday present I have ever received.’
Hall said that not once during his legal career spanning more than 25 years had he seen a defendant lay hands on a court official.
‘Clearly this is the kind of thing that cannot be tolerated in a courtroom,’ he said.
But the attorney was undaunted, returning to work the very next day to defend other clients in the court of law.