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Court melee follows verdict

BRADENTON — A melee broke out in a Manatee courtroom Thursday after an 18-year-old man was found guilty of a crime that will land him in prison for at least 20 years and maybe the rest of his life.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies say Curtis Williams resisted being handcuffed after a jury convicted him of armed kidnapping, attempted robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm in the kidnapping of a girl walking home from middle school.

After the verdict was announced, a bailiff overheard Williams tell his attorney “she might have to get out of the way,” according to a sheriff’s report. The bailiff told Williams “not to do anything,” before Williams tensed up as the deputy tried to handcuff him. Several deputies were able to seize Williams and handcuff him, but he shoved a deputy and tried to run out of the courtroom.

Dozens of bailiffs entered the courtroom to secure Williams and his family, who had become emotional as the struggle erupted in front of them. All of Williams’ family members were escorted out of the courtroom and taken out of the courthouse, according to sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow.

Numerous deputies subdued Williams, even attempting to shoot him with a Taser stun gun, but the device did not go off, Bristow said. “After the verdict, the jury left the courtroom and he just went crazy,” said Assistant State Attorney Brian Chambers. “It was surprising. I haven’t seen a reaction like that before.”

Sarasota attorney Jeff Haynes was in the courtroom on another case and observed the commotion. “I have never seen anything like it. There was an unbelievable amount of noise,” he said.

Williams faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, and maybe life, Chambers said, after a jury found he pulled the victim into woods in Palmetto, tried to rob her, threatened her with a gun and molested her in July 2008.