Inmate dismissed from courtroom, then bound over for trial in SCI-Benner shovel attack

The state inmate accused of attacking prison guards with a shovel was in court Wednesday — at least for a few minutes.

Derrick Houdershield, 26, was charged with six counts of aggravated assault, two counts of assault by a prisoner and one count of institutional vandalism in the Dec. 7 incident at the Benner state prison.

The case will proceed toward trial, which is set for the August term of court.

Houdershield was brought into court around noon for his preliminary hearing, which was continued for three weeks after he asked for a delay to subpoena witnesses. As the hearing opened, defense attorney Patrick Klena made a statement that Houdershield was questioning the court’s right to hear his case. District Judge Allen Sinclair acknowledged the statement, then asked the prosecution to begin.

Houdershield interrupted, protesting the hearing, Sinclair’s authority and his freedom of speech. Sinclair asked him to be quiet so the hearing could proceed.

“This is a free country,” Houdershield said, interrupting again and disregarding corrections officers’ attempts to quiet him.

Sinclair had the inmate removed and continued the hearing without him.

Corrections officer Thomas Kephart testified that Houdershield was upset the day of the incident about items he believed were missing from his cell. He had asked to talk to a lieutenant. Kephart said he put in the request, but before anything could be done about it, Houdershield took one of the hardened plastic snow shovels nearby and used it to assault him.

Kephart said he was struck in the face, the back of the head and the arm. The attack resulted in six stitches to his face, a broken nose that required more stitches, a concussion and bulging discs in his neck vertebrae that put pressure on his spinal cord. Kephart has been unable to return to work since the incident.

Another officer was struck in the forehead with the handle of the shovel. A third allegedly sustained injuries to his arm. Those officers, however, were not in court Wednesday, leading Klena to ask for the charges relating to their injuries to be dismissed for lack of evidence.

Sinclair believed that enough evidence was presented for the officer whom Kephart said was struck in the face. However, with no testimony to the arm injury, Sinclair did dismiss two charges related to the third officer’s assault.

All three officers were present at the original date of Houdershield’s preliminary hearing. Despite the reason for the delay, the defense produced no witnesses.