Attorneys argue every day in court but one attorney may have taken it too far, getting physical with his opponent, and may now face criminal charges.
Police arrested Assistant Attorney General David J Highsmith on Thursday after he allegedly assaulted attorney Frank Gary Gumataotao.
According to lawyer Willam Pole, Gumataotao’s law firm partner, there was an afternoon motion hearing and Highsmith accused their client of misconduct.
“Gary corrected him on that. After the hearing, they were still discussing the case and out of nowhere Highsmith pushed Frank,” Pole said.
Pole says that Gumataotao is unable to see with one eye which impacts his ability to balance.
“He hit the hard floor outside the courtroom with his head. He was out for about 3 to 5 minutes. When I got there, medics were just arriving so I went with them to the hospital. Unfortunately, GMH was full and we had to go all the way up to GRMC. He was evaluated for a couple of hours. He is now out,” Pole said.
Pole says when Gumataotao regained consciousness the first thing he saw was the court’s skylight but could not remember where he was or how he got there.
“He is in a lot of pain, he hurt his back, his arm, his neck and we just have to wait and see how serious it is. With those kinds of injuries you don’t know right away what will happen,” Pole said.
Pole says he was surprised by the altercation as Highsmith and Gumataotao have known each other for over 30 years, adding that Gumataotao never saw it coming.
“Lawyers have to make arguments on behalf of their clients. There was a disagreement on the facts. Sometimes, things get heated but this might be the first incidence of physical altercation in the courtroom in a very long time,” Pole said.
Highsmith was booked and released according to Pole. Meanwhile, the Office of the Attorney General is aware of the incident and the arrest. In response the AG Spokeswoman Carlina Charfarous says: “The OAG holds its employees to a high standard of conduct while they are acting on behalf of the office. We have a responsibility as an employer and will conduct an administrative review of the incident. We are also aware of our responsibility to ensure all criminal complaints are handled appropriately. Any criminal complaint related to this incident will be referred to an independent attorney.”