I-TEAM: Judge calling for security changes after attorney attacked in court

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CLEVELAND — The FOX 8 I-TEAM is uncovering a new spotlight on your safety after an attack in a local courtroom made national headlines.

But, you may be surprised by the initial response the I-TEAM heard when they went to Cuyahoga County Sheriff Cliff Pickney.

This week, a convict attacked his lawyer in a vicious assault captured on body camera. It happened while the inmate was handcuffed and standing before a judge getting sentenced for starting a massive fire and more.

Now, the judge on that case has sent an email to the sheriff demanding something be done so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Judge Nancy Margaret Russo wrote, “This was a violent, heinous incident that could have been avoided… a stark reminder to all of us of how this building is arguably the least secure of any Courthouse in this State.”

The I-TEAM tracked down Sheriff Pinkney and asked him about the courtroom melee.

“I’m not familiar with it because I was in Columbus. I just got back this morning. I’m getting caught up on it,” said Sheriff Pickney.

We asked what he thought when he saw that video of the attack, which has gone viral and he said he hadn’t seen it yet.

In the email, Judge Russo praised deputies who scrambled and took control of the situation. But she wrote, one deputy “behaved unprofessionally.” Judge Russo pointed out that the deputy violated policy by handcuffing the prisoner with his hands in front of his body. That allowed him to take the powerful swing starting the attack.

The judge’s letter raises concerns about more than how prisoners get handcuffed. It highlights a shortage of deputies to move prisoners in and out of the dozens of courtrooms at the Justice Center. In other words,  a shortage of deputies to stand guard in case there’s trouble.

Sheriff Pinkney said he’ll make big changes if needed, but it’s too early to tell.

“We can do better. I think we do a good job. Our deputies respond. Very responsive to the judges’ needs,” he said.

The sheriff spoke as a few new deputies were sworn in to his department.

The victim in the attack, Attorney Aaron Brockler told the I-TEAM this week that he hopes the incident leads to a review of what went wrong and what allowed that incident to happen.

Sheriff’s Department supervisors already have an investigation underway. No discipline or final report has been issued.

The sheriff has now reached out to the Judge to talk to her about what happened.

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