Ex-lawyer allegedly pops pills at her trial


CLEVELAND - A disbarred Oak Harbor, Ohio, lawyer startled courtroom observers during the start of her trial on intimidation charges by swallowing a handful of pills and declaring that she had overdosed, a Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor said yesterday.

Elsebeth Baumgartner, 50, ingested the unknown medication Monday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court after Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold ordered her to undergo a competency exam, Assistant Prosecutor Dan Kasaris said.

"The judge said, 'Ma'am, don't take any medication in my courtroom,' " Mr. Kasaris recalled.

"Baumgartner then stood up, threw her hands up, and announced, 'I've just taken an overdose.' "

A sheriff's deputy reached into a large purse that Mrs. Baumgartner had brought into court with her. "The deputy stuck his hand in the bag," Mr. Kasaris said.

"When he pulled it out, a syringe was dangling from the middle of his palm."

Mr. Kasaris said the hearing was ended and Mrs. Baumgartner was taken to the psychiatric unit of the Cuyahoga County Jail.

She will remain there until a bed is available at Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare in Cleveland.

Mr. Kasaris said authorities haven't determined what medication Mrs. Baumgartner took.

The bottle she took the pills from was labeled Inderal, which is a blood pressure medication.

Authorities also are unsure what - if any - medicine was in the syringe.

Mrs. Baumgartner has made numerous allegations of wrongdoing against public officials in Cuyahoga, Erie, Lucas, and Ottawa counties.

She was charged in July in a 14-count indictment that accuses her of using e-mail messages and legal filings to try to coerce favorable rulings from Richard Markus, a retired judge from Cuyahoga County.

Judge Markus presided over two defamation suits against her last year in Ottawa County.