Disgraced Florida pastor’s courtroom suicide try: Pops pills after child sex-abuse conviction
Rev. James Harris was found guilty of abusing a 15-year-old boy, then tried the coward’s way out in a West Palm Beach court.
BY PHILIP CAULFIELD/ NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2012, 3:11 PM
Florida Rev. Richard Harris was wheeled out of Palm Beach court on a gurney after he tried to swallow some pills immediately after getting convicted of child sex abuse. He is now on suicide watch.
A Florida pastor convicted of sex crimes against a 15-year-old boy gobbled a handful of pills after receiving his sentence on Thursday in an apparent courtroom suicide attempt.
West Palm Beach court deputies immediately pounced on Rev. James Harris and wrestled him to the ground while ordering him to spit out the suspected poison pills.
"Oh, my God, it's cyanide," the Palm Beach Postquoted a group of court interns whispering, as the officers worked to subdue the convicted sex fiend.
The 64-year-old Belle Glade minister was eventually wheeled from the courtroom in a stretcher, handcuffed, barefoot and with his white shirt unbuttoned, according to photos shot by the Post.
The bizarre scene capped a three-day trial in which Harris was charged with sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in 2008 and 2009.
LANNIS WATERS/PALM BEACH POST
Harris, 64, was accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy whom he promised to make a football star.
Using his connections with Glade Central High School's football program, the disgraced minister lured the boy with phony promises of introductions to professional football scouts and trainers, prosecutor said.
Harris forced the boy to perform sex acts on him twice and, on a separate occasion, filmed the boy masturbating while a porn film played in the background, according to the Sun Sentinel.
During the trial, a girl testified that Harris also secretly filmed her having sex with the boy when she was 14.
Both tapes were played for the jurors.
Harris faces 80 years in prison and is set to be sentenced on Oct. 5.
He was on suicide watch at the Palm Beach County Jail.
Spokesmen at both the Palm Beach Sherrif’s Department and the courthouse said it wasn’t known what Harris tried to swallow.
LANNIS WATERS/PALM BEACH POST
Deputies jumped on Harris after he tried to swallow some white pills. It wasn't clear what kind of pills they were.
According to the Post, Harris was convicted in 2009 of attacking a woman with a baseball bat at a local Elks Club.
He was sentenced to one year in prison in that case.
Thursday's incident recalled the case of a crooked former Wall Street trader who swallowed a cyanide pill in court in June after he was convicted of torching his Arizona mansion because he couldn't keep up with the payments.
Courtroom cameras caught disgraced financier Michael Marin appearing to pop something in his mouth moments after a judge handed him a conviction that would have put him behind bars for more than 16 years.
Moments later, Marin began convulsing and fell on the floor.
He was pronounced dead later at a local hospital.