Defendant attacks his lawyer at hearing |

Defendant attacks his lawyer at hearing

Marlene Garcia

FALLON – A suspect in an attempted bank robbery became violent Tuesday at his arraignment in District Court here, slugging his attorney in the face before being restrained by law enforcement.

Frank Manuel Hernandez Jr. punched attorney Paul Drakulich in the mouth just as the lawyer was explaining to the judge that his client didn’t want him as his lawyer any longer.

“I was told by Mr. Hernandez this morning that he does not want me to represent him. Mr. Hernandez is not aware he cannot choose …” Drakulich was in the middle of saying before he was struck.

The defendant jumped out of his chair and threw a single punch that bloodied Drakulich’s lip, while screaming obscenities.

“I’m quite aware you’re trying to (expletive) me when I’m facing life, old boy,” Hernandez shouted, going on to bellow lewd accusations.

Two Churchill County Sheriff’s deputies and a guard from the Nevada State Prison immediately pounced on him, slamming his face into the defendant’s table. The three law enforcement officers struggled briefly with a resistant Hernandez before placing him in handcuffs.

Two prison guards were in the courtroom because they had transported an inmate to Churchill County from Carson City for sentencing in an unrelated case.

The confrontation left the left side of Hernandez’s face bloodied, along with the table where he was restrained.

As the deputies removed the defendant from the courtroom, his face was smacked into a locked door, splintering wood at the top. The courtroom has swinging doors at two separate entrances. One of the doors on each side is normally kept locked while the other remains unlocked when court is in session.

Judge Robert Estes ruled Hernandez was in contempt of court. His arraignment was delayed for one week. Hernandez was taken to the Nevada State Prison in the interim because of his violent outburst.

“In all other further proceedings, Mr. Hernandez will be shackled,” the judge said.

“I coulda been a contender,” Drakulich quipped back to the judge.

Hernandez is accused of trying to rob the Wells Fargo Bank inside Safeway on June 5 by handing a teller a note demanding money. He left when the teller didn’t respond.

The suspect allegedly returned to Fallon on June 17. He was arrested in an alley behind Venturacci Lane, just yards from the bank where the robbery attempt occurred.

Hernandez, 31, is also a suspect in bank robberies in Mill City, Ore., Newburg, Ore., Vancouver, Wash., and in Bishop, along with a vehicle theft in Idaho and carjacking and kidnapping in Modesto.

He appeared in court last week when Drakulich said a plea bargain had been worked out between Hernandez and the district attorney’s office.

The defendant was prepared to plead guilty to attempted bank robbery in exchange for the dismissal of five lesser felony charges.

District Attorney Arthur Mallory said after Hernandez’s flare-up in court that he would file additional charges against the defendant.

“At minimum it’s assault. In the grand scheme of things, he might not find that significant,” Mallory said.

Mallory said the defendant’s behavior indicates the plea agreement is off.

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