A Braddock man set to plead guilty of rape on Monday dove into the crowd watching his hearing in an attempt to attack the victim’s mother.
Attorneys who witnessed the attack said Warren Keith, 35, wearing shackles and handcuffs, broke free from an Allegheny County sheriff’s deputy as he was being led out of Common Pleas President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel’s courtroom about 11:25 a.m.
“I heard a commotion and he was flying into the crowd. The sheriffs were grabbing him and then on top of him,” said Assistant Public Defender Michelle Collins, who is representing Keith. “When I saw him at the jail, he was completely fine and cooperative.”
County police Detective Steve Dish, who was standing near the woman, saw what was happening, lowered his shoulder and deflected Keith’s dive. Keith landed in the second row, broke four chairs and injured Tamara Mulholland-Motte, who was seated behind his intended target, according to a sheriff’s affidavit.
Mulholland-Motte was hurt when a chair slammed against her knees. She and Dish were taken to UPMC Mercy, Uptown, as a precaution, deputies said.
Deputy John Terrick, who was escorting Keith from the courtroom, charged him with 18 criminal counts, including two counts of aggravated assault and one count of intimidation of a witness or victim.
The trouble began when Keith first sat down in the courtroom. He turned his head and mouthed, “die” several times to someone in the crowd, Collins said. Terrick told him to turn around.
Keith refused to be sworn in when the clerk called his case, and he responded in a foreign language or gibberish, witnesses said.
McDaniel then ordered the deputy to take him back to jail, said attorney Casey White, who was in the courtroom on another case.
On the way out, Keith made his dive, witnesses said. Duquesne police Officer Fred Hill helped subdue him.
“I put him in a chokehold,” Hill said.
Collins said the judge was to consider a deal for her client that would have given him 13 to 40 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea.
Sheriff Bill Mullen said he will review what happened, but said the deputy followed procedure.
“It’s tough to control someone when they dive to the ground,” Mullen said.
Mullen said sheriff’s deputies typically escort 80 to 90 prisoners a day in the courthouse. They know the charges each faces, and, sometimes, jail officials alert them if an inmate is prone to bad behavior, Mullen said.
Keith’s case made headlines in April when police said a friend of the victim’s family shot him during a fight in the Hill District the day after police charged him.
He told the girl that if she said anything he would “cut everyone you love in pieces,” before forcing her to kneel and pray with him after the rape, police said.
Keith isn’t the first person to attack someone or run from deputies at the courthouse.
In April a homicide defendant threw a book toward a prosecutor. In 2006, a man ran onto the courthouse roof and wrestled with a prosecutor and sheriff’s deputy who subdued him. In the early 1990s, a convicted bank robber bit the late Judge Walter Little above his eye.
Collins, who has been a public defender for more than a decade, said a defendant backhanded her across her head eight years ago.