Witnesses: Fraud defendant triggers Texas courtroom brawl

Dec 14, 2021, 2:28 AM | Updated: 4:32 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — A defendant in a criminal fraud case punched and attacked a bailiff, prosecutor and judge after he was denied bond Tuesday at a court hearing in Houston, witnesses said.

Joseph Catarineau, 58, was making a routine appearance before state District Judge Danny Lacayo when the judge asked if the defendant needed an attorney, witnesses told the Houston Chronicle.

When Catarineau addressed him disrespectfully, Lacayo denied him bond and directed a bailiff to take him into custody, said Daniel Glasscock, who was waiting to appear in another case.

When the bailiff tried to take him into custody, Catarineau grabbed the bailiff’s hair, took her to the ground and began punching her, according to prosecutor Jacob Salinas.

“He was just wailing on her, so I tried to jump in,” Salinas said. Lacayo came down from the bench to help Salinas, and both traded punches with Catarineau, he said.

“The bottom line is that I’m not going to let a deputy get beat up in front of me,” Lacayo said.

As Salinas, a former college football lineman, and Lacayo subdued the man, the bailiff retrieved the stun gun Catarineau had knocked from her hand and shot the man, giving all three men a jolt, Salinas said.

Catarineau had been charged in 2018 with submitting false financial statements that he had worked for American Airlines and Envoy Air and was owed money by the two companies. Court records show that Catarineau’s attorney asked the judge to withdraw from the case on Dec. 13.

Catarineau had worked as a pilot for Envoy Air until he was fired in 2017 for “erratic behavior,” according to court records. He proclaimed himself a “sovereign citizen” who did not have to pay federal income tax. The sovereign citizen movement has an extremist following that believes itself exempt from most federal and state laws and has been linked to violence.

He now likely faces three counts of assault on a public servant, said senior Harris County prosecutor Sean Teare.

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Witnesses: Fraud defendant triggers Texas courtroom brawl