Florida judge, public defender fight after courtroom argument

Barbara Liston, Reuters

, Last Updated: 12:18 AM ET

ORLANDO, Fla.  - A Florida judge is accused of punching an assistant public defender after telling him "stop pissing me off."

Video footage shows Judge John Murphy challenging lawyer Andrew Weinstock to join him outside the courtroom to settle a dispute over the scheduling of a trial date.

"If you want to fight, let's go out back and I'll just beat your ass," said County Judge John Murphy of Brevard County on the video.

Weinstock's boss, Public Defender Blaise Trettis, said the judge became angry because Weinstock refused to waive his client's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Under Florida law, defendants have the right to a trial within 90 days for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony.

"If I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down," Murphy can be heard telling Weinstock on the video.

After Weinstock refused to sit or waive his client's rights, the judge issued his challenge. Weinstock can be seen on the video walking out of frame toward the courtroom's back door.

The video shows other defendants waiting their turn in the courtroom listening to talk in the hallway.

"According to the lawyer, the judge grabbed him about the collar as soon as he walked into the hallway and began punching him in the head, and the lawyer just tried to stop the blows. And the deputies came into the hallway and pulled the judge off the lawyer," Trettis said.

Trettis said he would not file charges, but he expected the Florida Supreme Court to take action against the judge.

"It's really out of character," Trettis said of the judge's behavior. "He's really got a good reputation."

Trettis said he reassigned Weinstock to another courtroom, but that hundreds of his clients will still be appearing in Murphy's court represented by a different lawyer.

After the altercation, Murphy returned to the bench and said he needed a moment to catch his breath.


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