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Lawyer wounded in courtroom attack ready to return

A Middlesex sheriff's office photo of Che Sosa, accused of attacking his lawyer in court.

A Malden lawyer whose client reportedly slashed him in the face and chest Tuesday with a makeshift knife in a Dedham courtroom plans to return to court today, the lawyer's wife said yesterday.

John J. Courtney , 60, was released Tuesday night from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, hours after witnesses said Che Sosa lunged at him with a sharpened piece of plexiglass, officials said yesterday.

"He's much better," Judy Courtney said of her husband yesterday in a telephone interview. "He's pretty tough, pretty strong."

The attack occurred as a potential juror was being interviewed for a Norfolk Superior Court trial in which Sosa, 37, is charged with nine counts of aggravated rape involving a Quincy woman in 2001.

Sosa, whose history of violence had compelled court officials to beef up security in the courtroom, was subdued by nine court and security officers after the attack on Courtney. He is to return to the courtroom today, when Judge Charles Grabau is expected to decide how to proceed with the trial.

Grabau plans to ask Courtney to recuse himself as Sosa's lawyer, according to Michael Connolly , spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating .

Courtney, a private-practice lawyer who had been appointed to represent Sosa, does not plan to oppose the judge's request, his wife said.

But he will be back at work today, she said.

"He'll be going to a hearing," Judy Courtney said, without providing details about the case. She said her husband was resting and could not speak to a reporter, though he plans to make a statement today at the courthouse.

"He's not rattled right now," she said. "His nose doesn't look too good, and his glasses are a little twisted."

Sosa has assaulted guards in the past and was once found with a jail key, a history that had at least a dozen security officers and deputy sheriffs positioned in the courtroom on Tuesday, said Middlesex Sheriff James V. DiPaola . His officers had brought Sosa to the courthouse from MCI-Cedar Junction, where he is incarcerated in a pending 2001 rape case being tried in Somerville District Court, DiPaola said. He was being held at the maximum-security facility in Walpole because there was not enough space for him in Cambridge, DiPaola said.

"We did anticipate him attacking someone in the courtroom," he said, and suggested that more people could have been hurt had security not been as tight.

Authorities are investigating why Sosa targeted Courtney. State Police also are investigating how Sosa sneaked a 5- to 6-inch-long weapon into the courthouse, DiPaola said.

"They don't know how he got that weapon yet," he said. "Apparently, a great deal of planning and thought went into doing this."

DiPaola said there would be more security officers in court tomorrow for Sosa's hearing.

Maria Cramer can be reached at