A defendant standing trial on allegations of attacking a corrections officer sucker-punched his attorney in an Arizona courtroom after the judge ordered him to leave, according to a report.
The defendant, Lamont Payne, had repeatedly interrupted the judge during the courtroom proceeding last year, KTVK-TV of Phoenix reported.
“He was swearing and rolling his eyes and making a scene,” his public attorney Vladimir Gagic said. “Just causing a commotion and being a troublemaker.”
Gagic was hired by the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender to represent Payne who allegedly bit a corrections officer at a Maricopa County jail on the ankle in 2016.
“I didn’t feel any force,” said Gagic. “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,” KTVK reported.
Besides a bloody nose and a swollen face, he was otherwise unharmed in the alleged attack.
“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, according to the station.
Gagic has reportedly filed assault charges and Payne is no longer allowed in the courtroom, KTVK reported.
Gagic no longer works for the Maricopa County Public Defense Services, according to KNXV-TV.
Gagic was hired by the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender to represent Payne who allegedly assaulted a Maricopa County corrections officer at the Fourth Avenue Jail in 2016
The defendant was facing trial for allegedly assaulting a Maricopa County corrections officer at the Fourth Avenue Jail, this time, attacked his attorney in a courtroom.
Attorney Vladimir Gagic was appointed to represent Payne and had spent a lot of time working to prepare for the trial when he was attacked in 2018 on the first day of jury selection.
Gagic said there were many potential jurors in the courtroom at the time: “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, and never once did it cross my mind, not even an iota of concern there that something like this could happen to me,” said Gagic.
Payne had a history of firing his attorneys and being disruptive in court. In this case, Payne wanted to let the judge know he was not happy with his attorney.
Vladimir Gagic, who was a contract attorney for Maricopa County Public Defense Services, was assigned the case and is speaking out now saying he was treated poorly by staff at the office of public defense services after the incident.
Court documents indicate the suspect, Lamont Payne, has a lengthy criminal history of assaults and disobeying orders.
The incident involving the corrections officer took place in 2016.
Officers, according to court documents, were trying to remove Payne from his cell, but he made it difficult by trying to conceal the windows and putting soapy water on the ground.
When corrections officers accessed his cell to remove him, Payne got on the ground and bit an officer in the ankle, causing a laceration.
In the video, you see him trying to get Gagic’s attention a couple of times. He knocks on the desk at one point, while Gagic is looking at the judge. Gagic seems to ignore him. At another point, Payne raises his hand to get the judge’s attention, only to get a warning.
“If you continue to have outbursts, I’m going to have to remove you from the courtroom,” the judge warns Payne.
When Payne keeps talking, the judge asks deputies to remove him from the courtroom.
As Payne is gathering his papers, Gagic is not paying any attention to him. Then Payne turns and suddenly punches Gagic in the face. “The first thing, literally the first thing I know is, ‘oh it’s salty.’ I could literally taste his knuckles, then I got up and checked my teeth,” said Gagic. The lawyer suffered a nose bleed, but he said what hurt more than that punch was how he felt he had been treated by the office of public defense services. “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,” said Gagic. He said they also asked him to return the $1,000 they had paid him to represent Payne, but he was able to get them to pay for the hours he had already put into the case to prepare for trial. Reacting to questions on why Gagic had been “suspended” from working as a contract attorney for the county, Maricopa County officials in a statement said: “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. Mr. Gagic’s contract was placed on temporary hold after multiple complaints about his lack of communication with clients, another attorney, and PDS.”
unconvinced by the explanation Gagic questions the timing of this action, and now plans to sue the county.
“What message are they giving to all the attorneys? That we are disposable, even less than disposable to that office,” said Gagic.
Court documents state Payne is no longer allowed to attend court hearings and will have to attend them remotely.