Chief Baltimore Circuit Judge Wanda Heard received medical attention Wednesday after a defendant threw a metal water pitcher at her striking her “somewhere around the middle of her forehead" as she presided over his sentencing hearing in a downtown courtroom, court and sheriff’s officials confirmed.
Heard, who remained conscious, immediately recessed the courtroom to seek medical attention as the defendant, Travis Burroughs, was taken into custody to face new charges, court officials said.
“We are the enforcement arm of the court, and we will not allow anyone to assault or intimidate any of the judiciary officers here,” Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a Baltimore Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said. “We take this matter tremendously seriously. We will protect this court house and all of the individuals herein.”
The office of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, which usually prosecutes assaults in the city, referred questions about the alleged assault to Steve Kroll, the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Coordinator. Zy Richardson, a spokeswoman for Mosby, said the referral was made to avoid any conflict of interest, because an assistant state’s attorney in Mosby’s office was a witness to the events.
Kroll confirmed he had been “assigned this case” by Mosby, but otherwise declined to comment.
Heard, a judge since 1999, had just concluded the hearing about 10:40 a.m. in Room 400 of the courthouse at 100 N. Calvert St. when Burroughs “proceeded to reach for a water pitcher and threw it” at her, court spokeswoman Nadine Maeser said.
Tapp-Harper said Heard had just sentenced Burroughs, 36, to life in prison, with all but 70 years suspended. Court records show the sentencing follows Burroughs’s conviction last month on charges of sodomy and false imprisonment. Burroughs was sentenced last year to decades in prison for second-degree rape, assault and false imprisonment, records show.
An attorney for Burroughs could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Assaults on officials in courthouses are rare, though not unheard of. Assaults also have occurred between parties to court cases, though they are also rare, in part because of the presence of law enforcement in most courtrooms. Individuals who enter courtrooms in Baltimore must pass through metal detectors.
Tapp-Harper said there was a sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer in the courtroom at the time, and they quickly brought Burroughs under control. Still, she said, her office would be helping to review the incident to see whether additional security protocols might be needed.
“After every incident, we always critique the matter to see what we can do better,” she said.