A man who had been acquitted of charges he groped a woman fired a sawed-off rifle at her during a court hearing over attorney's fees, authorities said. No one was injured but the shot narrowly missed the judge's head.
"I should have shot that b---- two years ago," Leo Lewis Jr. said as he stood up and pulled the trigger on Monday night, according to a felony complaint issued Tuesday. The complaint also said Lewis confessed he had previously thought about killing the woman.
Lewis had been acquitted of charges of forcibly touching the 49-year-old woman, and on Monday he was seeking attorney's fees from her in small claims court, according to Louis Valvo, chief assistant district attorney for Rockland County.
The hearing was being held in the small town of Sloatsburg, and the courtroom on the second floor of Village Hall has no metal detectors.
The shot missed the woman and struck a window several feet above a judge's head, police said. An officer who was in the courtroom for traffic court fired off a shot, then chased Lewis down and, with the help of a bystander, tackled him, authorities said.
Bail was set at $500,000, and the woman and the Sloatsburg judge, Thomas Newman, were given orders of protection against Lewis.
Gun hidden in envelope
The gun was brought into court in a large manila envelope. Valvo said more weapons and ammunition were found at the defendant's house.
Lewis, his face bruised, was arraigned on second-degree attempted murder and weapon possession charges Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty.
"This is not the man I married," the defendant's wife, Julie Lewis, said tearfully outside court. She said her 60-year-old husband had terminal cancer and "I have no idea" why he allegedly committed the crime. She said the woman who had accused him was a family friend.
Sloatsburg is a village about 40 miles northwest of New York, where the woman lives and the hearing was held. The complaint was filed Tuesday in Suffern, a nearby town.
Sloatsburg Mayor Carl Wright told the Journal News that an effort to install security cameras and other safety measures was under way but the plan did not include a metal detector.