Attorney Justin Braulick was standing next to his client in a Hennepin County courtroom Monday morning when he suddenly found himself waking up on the floor.
Braulick looked over and saw his client on the ground with about four deputies trying to restrain him. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, which provides security at the courthouse, said Braulick was punched once by his client about 10:25 a.m.
Braulick said Monday afternoon that he did not remember being punched in the right side of his face. He recalled standing next to his client during sentencing in a criminal sexual conduct case, and then waking up after falling facedown.
"I'm kind of shaken up a little bit," Braulick said. "A little sore."
The client, who was already in custody, was taken back to jail. The attack on Braulick remains under investigation, and the client has not been charged.
The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects who have not been charged.
Braulick said he blacked out for about 30 seconds after he was punched and was diagnosed with a concussion. It's unclear if the concussion was a result of the punch or his fall.
"Obviously it can happen any time, but it's shocking that someone would do that, especially in open court when the judge is addressing you," said Stephen Heller, owner and president of the St. Cloud-based law firm Heller and Thyen, which employs Braulick.
According to Braulick, he and the 39-year-old client were standing at a podium at the front of the courtroom. The client wanted to withdraw a guilty plea he entered in November to second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The judge denied the withdrawal and asked the client if he wanted to proceed with sentencing.
"And then I just remembered lying on the ground," Braulick said.
Braulick didn't recall the client saying anything before the punch or while four deputies restrained him. About a half-dozen more deputies entered the courtroom.
Paramedics arrived to assess Braulick and transport him to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was treated and released a few hours later.
"I can't thank the deputies and EMTs enough," Braulick said. "They were really fast and on top of it."
While the incident shocked Braulick, who works regularly in Minneapolis and across the state, he said it won't discourage him.
"I think it's an isolated incident," he said. "Emotions run high and a lot's at stake, and I think people sometimes don't operate with the most clear vision at that time."
As a precaution, Braulick was given a ride back to St. Cloud on Monday instead of driving his own vehicle, which was also transported home.
"He's an extremely hard worker, conscientious," Heller said of Braulick. "He works hard for his clients."
Court records show that the client received a term of about eight years in prison.