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Unrestrained juvenile charged with attacking stepfather in front of judge

TAMPA — Just months after a state Supreme Court ruling stopped the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles in courtrooms, an unrestrained 16-year-old attacked his stepfather during a detention hearing Thursday morning, authorities said.

The Tampa teen was arrested Wednesday on felony charges of battery on his pregnant mother, according to a Tampa Police Department arrest report. He pushed her with both hands, causing her to fall, after she confronted him about his behavior at school, police reported.

On Thursday morning, he appeared in front of Judge Ralph Stoddard at the Hillsborough County courthouse. He was unrestrained, said Lt. Robert Simpson of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office court operations division.

According to a Supreme Court decision that took effect Jan. 1, the use of restraints such as handcuffs and chains during juvenile court appearances is prohibited except in cases where a judge believes there is a flight risk or other potential danger.

During the hearing, the teen's stepfather was standing in front of the judge answering questions when the teen jumped up and attacked him, Simpson said.

"It didn't appear the juvenile liked the answers the stepfather was giving the judge and he lunged at him and struck him, causing the stepfather to fall to the ground," Simpson said.

Bailiffs stepped in and no one was injured, he said. The teen received an additional misdemeanor charge of battery.

Later Thursday, when the teen reappeared in court to finish his hearing, he was restrained, Simpson said.

Typically, judges use a point system to determine whether the restraints are necessary, Stafford said.

"As I recall, this fella didn't score enough to merit restraints," he said.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show no prior arrests for the teen.

But the stepfather, Clifton Holder Sr., did time in state prison for burglary and three counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 12, state records show. He is a registered sex offender.

Holder, reached by telephone, said he didn't know why the teen attacked him.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or srossetter@sptimes.com.

Unrestrained juvenile charged with attacking stepfather in front of judge 04/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 5:08pm]
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