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November 15, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Defendant punches his lawyer in the face in Seattle courtroom

If you think you had a hard day at work, just be glad you’re not a public defender.

A defendant punched his lawyer in the face this morning in a Seattle courtroom after whispering to her, “You’re dead,” according to Seattle police.

Public defender Janet Cavallo asked her client, Keith A. Ratliff, to sign a document during a Seattle Municipal Court appearance around 10 a.m. before Judge Fred Bonner. The judge had ordered a mental competency evaluation for Ratliff, who was booked into King County Jail Nov. 2 on a misdemeanor assault charge.

Instead of signing the document, Ratliff sat back in his chair, stared at Cavallo and whispered “You’re dead,” according to police spokeswoman Renee Witt.

Then Ratliff suddenly punched Cavallo on the chin. Court marshals quickly restrained him and took him back to King County Jail,  Witt said.

“It’s an unfortunate situation because we have a dedicated lawyer here who always does her best to represent people and then this sudden punch came out of nowhere,” said Don Madsen, director of the organization Cavallo works with, Associated Counsel for the Accused .

Cavallo went to the emergency room immediately afterward, but is doing fine despite a sore jaw, Madsen said. ACA has released Ratliff’s case so he can find another lawyer.

Ratliff is due back in court Nov. 29 for a mental competency hearing.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Seattle Municipal Court

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