By Cory Shaffer, Cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Warrensville Heights man shocked a courtroom full of spectators Tuesday when he sucker-punched his own defense attorney after a judge sentenced him to 45 years in prison, witnesses told cleveland.com.
Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputies took down David Chislton after the 42-year-old struck lawyer Aaron Brockler in the face with both of his handcuffed fists, the witnesses said. Chislton spurred an hours-long police standoff in 2017 when he pistol-whipped his girlfriend and set his apartment complex on fire.
Brockler was visibly shaken up but seemed to be in good spirits as deputies and Cleveland EMTs wheeled him out of Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy Margaret Russo’s courtroom on a stretcher.
“It was pretty fun,” Brockler, who had a small cut on his face, joked to a reporter.
Brockler suffered injuries to his face and a “possible concussion,” county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said. He was taken to MetroHealth as a precaution.
Deputies were in the process of completing reports and filing additional charges against Chislton on Tuesday afternoon, Madigan said.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s office plans to seek a special prosecutor to handle the case, a spokesman said.
Defense lawyer Michael Goldberg was in the courtroom waiting for a trial in an unrelated case to begin and saw the attack.
“He just wheeled around and punched his defense lawyer,” Goldberg said. “It was pretty heinously violent.”
Russo sentenced Chislton sentenced on nearly two dozen charges, including multiple counts of aggravated arson and felonious assault, in 2017 incident.
Chislton pistol-whipped the woman and threatened to kill her after she accused him of sexually abusing her 15-year-old daughter, then set fire to the building during an ensuing standoff with police, prosecutors said. He wore brass knuckles when officers took him into custody, and investigators found a loaded revolver in the apartment, records show.
Russo could have sentenced Chislton to anywhere between 19 years to more than 100 years in prison. Russo ordered Chislton to sign paperwork that required him to register with the state as an arsonist, and when he went to sign the papers, Russo noticed that a deputy cuffed Chislton in front of him, instead of behind his back as is more customary.
Russo continued with the sentencing and, after she announced the total, Chislton spoke out. He took a step back and delivered the blow to Brockler, who was standing to Chislton’s left at the podium, Goldberg said.
Both men fell to the floor and several deputies, as well as a police detective in the room waiting for an unrelated hearing, jumped on top of Chislton to corral him, witnesses said. Chislton bit Brockler’s leg and Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Jeff Schnatter dragged Brockler away from Chislton by the foot, the witnesses said.
Russo was also visibly shaken in an interview with cleveland.com. She said she hoped Brockler was OK.
“People don’t understand what we go through in this building on a daily basis,” Russo said as she fought back tears.
Common Pleas Court Administrative Judge John J. Russo said in an emailed statement through a spokesman late Tuesday that he was thankful Brockler wasn’t more seriously hurt and wished him a speedy recovery.
“This incident is a reminder that the safety of our employees, citizens and anyone else in our courtrooms should be a top priority,” he said. “We thank the deputies and others who responded during the incident for their quick actions, and we encourage the sheriff’s department to fully review safety protocols for court proceedings.”