I-TEAM: Attack in courtroom exposes security concerns at Cuyahoga County Justice Center

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CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-TEAM is giving the first look at a vicious attack on a defense attorney by an inmate in court, and the incident has exposed security concerns throughout the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.

The attack happened on Tuesday during the sentencing for David Chislton while he was handcuffed.

A Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s deputy had a body camera rolling to capture what happened.

Judge Nancy Margaret Russo told Chislton he’d be going to prison for nearly 50 years. The video shows him look to the back of the courtroom. He then hit his defense lawyer, Aaron Brockler,  with an uppercut using both hands while wearing handcuffs. That led to courtroom chaos as Chislton fell on top of the lawyer and deputies moved in to gain control.

The I-TEAM showed attorney Brockler the video. He hadn't seen it before and said, "I was glad to see what happened because, like I say, all I remember was waking up underneath the table. I was assuming it was one punch. He actually hit me multiple times. All I remember is a feeling of being hit. Hearing a whoosh sound and saw some stars. And then waking up underneath the trial table.”

Chislton reacted after getting a 47 year prison sentence for starting a massive fire and for other charges tied to a standoff and a domestic attack.

The courtroom violence is raising new questions about Justice Center security.

At the start of the sentencing, just one deputy was in the room. And, the inmate had been handcuffed with his hands in front which allowed him to take a big swing at his lawyer.

The I TEAM reviewed Sheriff`s Department policy. It said all inmates should be brought into court handcuffed with hands behind the back . The only exception, if they`re walking in during a trial. Now the Sheriff’s Department has started an internal review to find out why this inmate was handcuffed in front.

Brockler added, "It’s important for everybody to see what went wrong."

The Chief Judge for Cuyahoga County has called for a review of courtroom security. The I-TEAM found the security policy dated 2012.  Judges told the I -TEAM they often have a shortage of deputies to move prisoners and stand guard.

Oddly, the attack happened just as Aaron Brockler tells us he was about to say something that may have changed everything. Brockler said he was about to tell David Chislton that there are ways to try to reduce the sentence later. No need to overreact. But, before he had a chance to get out those words, he was under attack.

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