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Clearwater man convicted of assaulting federal officer

TAMPA — On April Fool's day, a man with a small baseball bat approached a security officer at the U.S. District Courthouse, called out "batter up" and took a swing toward the officer.

It was no prank.

An affidavit from the U.S. Marshals Service chronicles a pattern of erratic behavior by a Clearwater man whose harassment of courthouse staff escalated into a criminal conviction Monday for assault on a federal officer.

Jay Paul Porton, 67, faces up to a year in prison when sentenced Oct. 29.

He had been representing himself in a 2014 civil case at the courthouse and the presiding judge ruled against him on March 19. Since filing the case last year, he had harassed two female defendants, the affidavit states. There were reports that Porton had tried to buy a gun and had claimed to have a gun.

The affidavit was part of a criminal complaint filed by Zachary Self, investigator for the Marshals Service.

At one point, Self wrote, Porton was calling the deputy clerk for Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins every five minutes. He called the federal clerk's office and asked which bridge would be best for suicide. He called the Marshals Service and reported, "I'm a bad person" and "I'm not nice," the affidavit states.

He told a defendant's attorney that he had been researching everyone associated with the case, including the judge.

"Porton has become fixated with Magistrate Judge Jenkins' deputy clerk and she believes his calls are harassing and intimidating," Self wrote.

The deputy clerk obtained an injunction for protection against stalking on March 24, which Porton violated almost immediately, the affidavit states. A hearing on that injunction was scheduled at the state courthouse for April 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Nearly three hours before that, Porton arrived at the federal courthouse with the bat and was confronted by lead court security officer James Yorkey in front of the main entrance. Security cameras captured the encounter.

"Batter up," Porton reportedly said, after tapping the bat on the ground.

Yorkey told Porton to drop the bat, but instead he raised it over his head and swung it toward the officer, Self wrote.

There's no mention of the bat making contact.

With a hand on his gun, Yorkey again ordered Porton to drop the bat. He dropped it but came closer to Yorkey, who pushed him away. Other officers joined in and Porton was taken into custody.

Porton was found competent to stand trial.

The case was quickly moved to the Orlando federal courthouse under an order from Chief U.S. District Court Judge Anne Conway after judges in Tampa declared conflicts of interest.

Contact Patty Ryan at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

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