Judge, Ill. officer tackle fleeing defendant

The defendant grew angry, shoved an officer and tried running from the court room

By Steve Schmadeke
Chicago Tribune

COOK COUNTY, Ill. — A Cook County judge and a sheriff's deputy tackled a defendant who tried to run out of a courtroom Friday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

The drama began after Judge Nicholas Ford said he would increase bond for Vongia Weathers, 32, for testing positive for marijuana, cocaine, methadone and heroin, according to the judge.

"He almost immediately became violently opposed to what was going on," Ford said in a phone interview. "He shoved and punched a deputy and attempted to leave the courtroom."

As Deputy Fred Holcomb grappled with Weathers, the judge ran down from the bench and helped bring Weathers to the floor near the first row of benches at the front of Courtroom 702, Ford said.

"We were rolling around for five minutes," he said. "It took every bit of both of our strength just to keep him there. His family was screaming. It was complete craziness."

Weathers, who was in court on a charge of driving with a revoked or suspended license, weighs almost 250 pounds, according to jail records.

Court clerk Kim Gutierrez said Weathers' family members in the courtroom tried to persuade him to settle down.

"The family was like, 'Stop fighting, give in, let the sheriff do what they got to do and go in (the lockup),'" Gutierrez said. "He didn't want to go in for nothing."

It took more than eight deputies to subdue Weathers and remove him from the courtroom, Gutierrez and Ford said. A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said Friday that the case was under review and no additional charges had been filed.

Ford continued with his court call after donning a different robe — the zipper on the one he had been wearing was damaged in the struggle — and fielding a concerned call from his wife, Judge Callie Baird of the domestic violence court.

He ordered a mental health evaluation for Weathers and said he would recuse himself from the case.

"I don't think you can put a guy in custody and then hear his trial," Ford said.

Copyright 2013 Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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