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Pinellas County jail inmate accused of attacking his attorneys

LARGO — An inmate at the Pinellas County Jail attacked his two attorneys Saturday after they refused his request to fire them, deputies said.

Now they've fired him.

Roderick L. Clark, 39, was charged with two counts of assault and battery, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

Here's what happened, according to the Sheriff's Office: Clark's two attorneys, Bjorn Brunvand and Mary Arena, visited the jail Saturday to discuss Clark's upcoming trial on charges of sexual battery and burglary.

The attorneys were sitting in the visitation room when Clark entered and said he wanted to fire them. The attorneys replied that they couldn't be fired because his trial started Monday.

Clark became irate and spat at Brunvand, who ducked. Clark then began striking Brunvand in the head and body while Arena yelled at him to stop. Clark then turned and struck her.

A jail trusty who walked past the room and saw the commotion called for the guards. Detention deputies then responded and secured Clark.

The attorneys were taken to Largo Medical Center for treatment of unspecified injuries.

"This individual has been a problem in the jail," said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecelia Barreda. "There's been numerous complaints filed by other inmates with the guards about him. He's been what you would call a security threat in the past."

But Clark, who has been in the jail since 2006 awaiting trial, had been switched from a higher security level that would have required him to be shackled.

The room where he met his attorneys has no videocameras or audio recorders because of attorney-client privilege, she said. It does have a panic button, but it was not used. Guards were 15 feet from the room, Barreda said.

Brunvand said Clark was blocking the panic button so they couldn't reach it. He estimates Clark punched him 10 to 15 times after spitting at him.

Brunvand has bruises on the left side of his body, from his kidneys to the top of his head. He also has hairline fractures on his ribs. "I've done this for over 20 years, and I've never had anyone attack me," Brunvand said. "And I've been everywhere from county jail to death row."

Brunvand said Arena was punched in the face. Her injuries were not life-threatening.

Brunvand said he had previously tried to get himself dismissed from being Clark's attorney but it wasn't granted. Brunvand, Clark's seventh attorney, said it appears Clark has been trying to prolong his case by constantly making outrageous and false accusations against his attorneys.

That is why he asked for a second attorney to be assigned to the case with him, he said, so there would be a witness.

The two attorneys filed a motion Monday to withdraw as his attorneys, and it was granted. Clark originally said in court Monday that he was going to represent himself, but then decided he wanted a lawyer. One was appointed for him. His trial, originally set for Monday, was rescheduled for 9 a.m. today.

This isn't the first time Clark has had a problem with an attorney. In 2001, Clark accused Bruce Johnson, a public defender, of sexually assaulting him in his cell, beating him and paying another inmate to kill him. Clark even filed a restraining order against Johnson, which was quickly rescinded.

Clark later pleaded guilty to perjury charges in relation to his allegations, and he apologized to Johnson in court.

Andy Boyle can be reached at aboyle@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8087.

Pinellas County jail inmate accused of attacking his attorneys 11/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 7:04am]

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