A 51-year-old Florida man charged with attempted first-degree murder, among other offenses, refused the help of a public defender on seemingly racial grounds during his first court appearance, WKMG-TV reported on Thursday.
"I said not guilty," Thomas Thorpe told a judge in Orange County Court. "I pleaded not guilty and I don't want this negro standing next to me. I don't want a negro standing next to me."
The judge had encouraged Thorpe to enlist the services of the public defender, an African-American attorney standing to his left. Upon hearing the suspect's remarks, the unidentified lawyer turned toward him but said nothing. The judge replied by telling Thorpe he would assign a public defender to his case while the court determines if he is mentally fit to stand trial.
Thorpe also told the judge he did not want a defense attorney at all.
"Do you understand what an attorney is and what they do?" the judge asked.
"Yes, they screwed us," the suspect replied.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Thorpe was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, attempted first-degree murder, and robbery for allegedly attacking 64-year-old Donald Sacco and stabbing him at least four times at a local bus stop. Sacco's condition is unknown, but he is expected to survive.
"He wasn't in that much pain," the witness, Si Macon, told WFTV-TV. "But he kept holding his stomach because he was bleeding pretty good, like at least four holes in him."
Thorpe then allegedly tried to escape the scene, only to be stopped by a passing motorist, Jeffery Hopkins, who stopped his car, grabbed a gun and used it to hold the suspect at bay before authorities arrived. Hopkins told WFTV that he has a concealed-carry permit for his firearm.
"He looked at me very scared," Hopkins was quoted as saying. "Then [he] realized I was serious and dropped the knife and laid down immediately."
Watch WKMG's report on Thorpe's unusual court hearing, as aired on Thursday, below.