Man loses lawsuit, attacks Joliet cop while in court
By KIM JANSSEN AND Brian Stanley Sun-Times Media February 14, 2013 9:44PM
Lavelle Watts Jr.
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:25PM
Lavelle Watts Jr. waited nearly three years to get revenge against a Joliet police officer whom he claimed had assaulted him in a racist attack.
But when a federal court jury on Thursday rejected the allegations in Watts’ lawsuit, he became enraged and threw a courtroom chair at the officer, injuring the officer’s arm, prosecutors said.
Now, Watts, 32, is locked up and facing a federal assault charge — a far cry from the $100,000 jury award that he had hoped for from his lawsuit.
The dramatic scene came at the end of a four-day trial. Immediately after the jury ruled in favor of Officer Joshua Sawyer, Watts threw the chair, threatened Sawyer verbally and scuffled with Sawyer before being subdued by deputy U.S. marshals in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Cox, Joliet city attorney Greg Smith said.
Sawyer suffered an injury to his left arm and was treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
In his lawsuit alleging police brutality, Watts, who is black, said Sawyer, who is white, twisted his arm, slammed him into a door frame and made a racial remark while responding to a domestic disturbance at Watts’ girlfriend’s Joliet home in March 2009.
But the jury deliberated for just one hour before finding in favor of Sawyer.
Watts also was accused of trying to fight Sawyer in September outside the Will County Courthouse in Joliet. Sawyer was in his police car when Watts approached, asked Sawyer if he remembered him and began yelling at him and trying to fight him, according to police.
Watts was charged with aggravated assault and physical intimidation in the incident, but those charges were dismissed Dec. 3. He was also arrested by Joliet police on domestic battery charges Jan. 26, records show.