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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Broward public defender was caught off guard when she was punched in the head by an inmate.

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It happened Wednesday morning in the middle of a bond court hearing for a different inmate.

The inmate who punched assistant public defender Julie Chase has been identified as 27-year-old William Green, who was in court on a ‘touch or strike’ battery charge.

In the bond court video, you see Green walk up behind Chase, who is staring down at some papers, and smack the side of her head with his left hand that was closed into a fist.

As she falls to the ground, bailiffs and sheriff’s deputies immediately moved in to subdue Green.

Chase was taken to Broward Health Medical Center.

“I’m doing okay, it was just a bit of a shock. I didn’t expect it, but I’m doing okay,” she told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench as she left the hospital.

Watch The Punch In The Video Below

 

Chase’s mother was with her and she quickly added the element of a parent’s concern to the troubling tale.

“You don’t feel very well getting a phone call at work hearing that your daughter has been smashed in the face by somebody in court,” said Chase’s mother Judy. “She said she didn’t know what had happened for a couple of minutes because it was from behind. She’s very committed to work and she enjoys her job. She’s been there for quite a while and she’s very happy there.”

Judy Chase said her daughter told her she had no idea why it happened.

Green was in court on a previous battery charge for which his bond has been set at $1000.

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said he’s been with the public defender’s office for more than 40 years and this has never happened before.

He said they will not be representing Green on the new charge.

Broward’s Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes Junior says this could have been prevented.

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“I am outraged about a lack of security and a lack of protocols with the ability to identify and handle people who are experiencing mental illness,” said Weekes

Weekes said Green was arrested Monday for a similar attack at Florida Medical Center, where a police report says he threw that person up against a wall and then struck that person in the face and body.

The report said Green was admitted as a Baker Act because of his severe violent history.

“If he were properly assessed they would have probably called his case at the end of the docket with a little bit more personnel to make sure this had not occurred,” said Weekes. Weekes said he was concerned for his staff members who handle a large number of cases every day under a “very difficult environment.” He said he never wanted to see any of his staff ever being attacked.

“Our people should not be slammed in court because of security lapses at the jail,” he said.

After the assault, Weekes said Chase would be taking a few days off from work.

Weekes said he will be drafting a letter to the Sheriff saying that the errors must be addressed and fixed.

In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Jim DeFede, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said the concerns will be addressed.

Tony said “I am not going to have another public defender harmed on my watch because if that requires us to make sure people are handcuffed or reduce the number of people coming to court at once before they see the magistrate, we will take those steps.”

“Looking at the video it falls back on me as the Commander of this office to take the necessary steps for better security,” he said. “We are going to look at how to change policies. This stems from a dialogue not just with my office but with my predecessor and the Public Defender’s Office. How do we balance safety and security with the way we bring in people to court in handcuffs.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after being interviewed, Sheriff Tony released a statement.

In addition to describing the incident, he points out an interesting discovery that was made while discussing the facts with commanders in the Department of Detention.

“I learned that over the last several years, BSO has received numerous requests from the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) asking for a more lax approach to our security procedures during magistrate hearings, which take place through a closed circuit television feed from inside the jail. 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 also stated that effective immediately, all inmates will remain handcuffed during bond court proceedings.

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein sent a letter to the sheriff claiming Green’s arresting officer broke the law.

The public defender believes Green should’ve stayed at the mental health facility under the Baker Act to receive treatment instead of being taken to jail.

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To view a copy of the letter, click here.