Phoenix, AZ – A defendant in a Maricopa County courtroom didn’t like the way his public defender was representing him so he slugged him in front of the judge (video below).
Lamont Payne was already facing trial for biting a correctional officer on the ankle in the Maricopa County jail in 2016 when the courtroom outburst occurred, FOX News reported.
Court documents said that Payne had been trying to prevent correctional officers from removing him from his cell, so he covered the windows and put soapy water on the floor, KNXV reported.
The records showed that when correctional officers entered his cell, Payne got on the ground and bit one of them hard enough on his ankle to leave a laceration.
Vladimir Gagic, a contract attorney for Maricopa County Public Defense Services, was assigned Payne’s case in 2018, KNXV reported.
The incident between the defendant and his attorney occurred on the first day of jury selection for his trial.
Payne was behaving in a disruptive manner during jury selection, KTVK reported.
"He was swearing and rolling his eyes and making a scene," Gagic said. "Just causing a commotion and being a troublemaker."
Surveillance video from inside the courtroom showed Payne getting more and more frustrated with his attorney, whom he complained to the judge wasn’t doing his job.
The video showed the judge was walking the potential jury members through the guidelines of performing jury duty.
When he asked the potential jurors if they had questions, the defendant interrupted.
“My lawyer ain’t gonna speak up, it’s plain and simple,” Payne complained in the video. “You asked him a question just a minute ago… I've been giving him questions, but he won't speak up.”
“Sir, that’s because it’s not his turn to ask questions yet,” the judge explained. “The appropriate time will happen at the appropriate time.”
The video showed the deputies in the courtroom trying to calm down the defendant.
“If you continue to have outbursts, I’m going to have to remove you from the courtroom,” the judge warned Payne.
“That was the appropriate time. I keep telling you he’s a problem,” Payne argued.
“Deputies, please remove him,” the judge ordered, looping his index finger in the air in a “he’s outta here” gesture.
The video showed Payne cursed at the judge and stood up as if he were organizing the papers on the table to go.
Then he turned and punched his attorney in the side of the face.
Deputies standing behind Payne quickly grabbed him and Payne didn’t appear to be fighting them in the video.
They removed him from the courtroom.
The video showed the judge also quickly cleared the potential jurors out of the courtroom after the defendant’s outburst.
The attorney, Gagic, flew back in his chair from the momentum of Payne’s punch but then jumped up and away from his client, holding his face, the video showed.
"I didn't feel any force," Payne’s attorney told KTVK. "I didn't feel like pain or anything like that. It was just salty because you're tasting somebody's skin. It's kind of gross, but that's what I remember."
Gagic had a bloody nose and swollen face after he was punched but said he was alright.
He said it wasn’t the first time he had been threatened with violence, KTVK reported.
"I've been doing this close to 20 years, and I've had all sorts of clients, but nobody that actually acted out on it," Gagic said.
He filed assault charges against Payne, KTVK reported.
The judge ruled that Payne may no longer attend his own hearings and will have to watch them remotely.
Court documents showed that Payne had a history of firing his representation and misbehaving in court, KNXV reported.
But in this case, Payne wasn’t the only one who suffered consequences from his actions.
Gagic said the public defender’s office treated him badly and tried to force him to refund the $1,000 he’d been paid to represent Payne, KNXV reported.
He was, however, able to get the county to pay for the time he had spent on Payne’s case.
"I find out a couple of months later, a month later that they suspended me from the contract. They never told me why; it's because they're cowards," the attorney complained.
Maricopa County officials said in a statement that Payne had not been the first complaint about Gagic.
"A contract might be placed on temporary hold if there are complaints from clients or family members, the attorney provides poor representation, or they are carrying too many cases,” the statement read. “Mr. Gagic's contract was placed on temporary hold after multiple complaints about his lack of communication with clients, another attorney, and PDS."
Gagic said he didn’t buy the explanation and planned to sue the county, KNXV reported.
Watch things get crazy starting at 2:00 in the video below: