By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida judge accused of punching an assistant public defender after telling him "stop pissing me off" is stepping down temporarily for anger management counseling.
Video footage shows Brevard County Judge John Murphy challenging lawyer Andrew Weinstock to join him outside the courtroom to settle a dispute over the scheduling of a trial date. "If you want to fight, let's go out back and I'll just beat your ass," Murphy said.
Weinstock's boss, Public Defender Blaise Trettis, said the judge became angry because Weinstock refused to waive his client's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Under Florida law, defendants have the right to a trial within 90 days for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony.
"If I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down," Murphy can be heard telling Weinstock on the video from the courthouse in Viera on Florida's east coast.
After Weinstock refused to sit or waive his client's rights, the judge issued his challenge. Weinstock can be seen on the video walking out of frame toward the courtroom's back door.
"According to the lawyer, the judge grabbed him about the collar as soon as he walked into the hallway and began punching him in the head, and the lawyer just tried to stop the blows. And the deputies came into the hallway and pulled the judge off the lawyer," Trettis said.
After the altercation, Murphy returned to the bench and said he needed a moment to catch his breath.
"Judge Murphy has agreed to seek anger management counseling and treatment during a temporary leave of absence," 18th Circuit Chief Judge Harris said in a statement.
Trettis said he would not file charges, but he expected the Florida Supreme Court to take action against the judge.
"It's really out of character," Trettis said of the judge's behavior. "He's really got a good reputation."
(Editing by David Adams and Will Dunham)