Man charged with throwing courtroom chair at cop he accused of assaulting him
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter email@example.com February 14, 2013 9:04PM
Lavelle Watts Jr.
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:28PM
Lavelle Watts Jr. waited nearly three years to get revenge against a Joliet cop he claimed had assaulted him in a racist attack.
But when a jury rejected his allegations Thursday afternoon, Watts tried to take justice into his own hands — by throwing a courtroom chair at the cop, prosecutors say.
Now the 32-year-old is locked up and facing a federal assault charge — a far cry from the $100,000 payout he had gone to court hoping for Thursday morning.
The dramatic scene came at the end of a four-day civil trial. Just moments after the jury ruled against Watts and in favor of Officer Joshua Sawyer, the Joliet cop Watts had sued, an enraged Watts grabbed a chair and flung it at Sawyer, witnesses said.
Watts yelled, “I told you I was gonna get you, you racist pig!” Then he scuffled with Sawyer and jumped on a bench before he was arrested by deputy U.S. marshals as a fuming Judge Susan E. Cox looked on, Joliet City attorney Greg Smith said.
Sawyer suffered an injury to his left arm and was treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
According to a federal complaint, Watts later confessed to deputies, saying “I chucked the chair at that man,” “I cracked his ass,” “I socked his ass,” and “Then I told him — now we’re even.”
During the trial, Watts, who is black, had alleged that Sawyer, who is white, twisted his arm and slammed him into a door frame while responding to a domestic disturbance at Watts’s girlfriend’s home in March 2009.
He alleged that Sawyer then asked him, “Do you think that it’s going to be easier now that we’ve got a black president? It’s going to get worse!”
But the jury — which included two African Americans — deliberated for just one hour before finding in favor of Sawyer.
It isn’t the first time Watts has been accused of confronting Sawyer since his 2009 arrest. In September, he allegedly tried to fight the officer outside the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.
Watts’ attorney, Scott Kamin, said he had his back turned and didn’t see the start of the confrontation Thursday, adding that the judge was concerned for the safety of jurors and that the incident was well-handled by deputies.