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Attorney Sanctioned for Courtroom Threats

(CN) - A state appeals court upheld sanctions against a California attorney who threatened opposing counsel with pepper spray and a stun gun, finding it ironic that he complained about no informal resolution in his case.

Attorney Douglas Crawford accompanied his mother, Ninion Crawford, to a JPMorgan Chase bank branch to withdraw money from her account in September 2008, court records show.

At that time, a Chase employee agreed with Crawford's request not to allow withdrawals of more than $5,000 without contacting Crawford first.

However, in 2011, Chase investment advisor Shruti Kohli advised the 79-year-old woman to invest in a 29-year annuity. Kohli processed a $200,000 withdrawal from Ninion's account without notifying Crawford, Wednesday's ruling states.

After his mother passed away, Crawford continued pursuing her lawsuit against Chase, Kohli and branch president Melissa Griffin for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, elder abuse and negligence.

Crawford wanted depositions to take place at his home, but the defendants balked because a petition Crawford filed in a previous lawsuit against Chase referenced the bombings in Boston and Oklahoma City.

He stated in the petition that "victims of government abuse" don't always set off bombs "but, generally, go home and kick the dog to death for barking or beat the crap out of some random person for cutting them off in traffic or shoot up the workplace for getting passed over for a promotion."

Chase tried to depose Crawford's brother, Matthew, who was the beneficiary of the annuity. The bank claimed that Crawford's real objection to the annuity was his exclusion from it.

Crawford and his brother walked out of the deposition, allegedly citing fears for their personal safety. The trial court levied a $1,600 sanction against Crawford.

The brothers appeared at the second deposition, and Crawford started pointing a can of pepper spray three feet away from the face of Chase' s attorney.

"Mr. Traver, if things get out of hand, I brought what is legally pepper spray, and I will pepper spray you if you get out of hand," Crawford reportedly said.

He then pointed a stun gun at Traver's head, according to court records.

"If that doesn't quell you, this is a flashlight that turns into a stun gun," Crawford added, discharging it near the face of Traver, who ended the deposition.

Chase moved for terminating sanctions. Crawford responded by requesting the trial judge's removal, calling the judge "sick and demented."

Crawford also sarcastically stated that the judge should sentence him to death and fine him no less than $265 million, according to Wednesday's ruling.

The trial court granted Chase's motion for terminating sanctions, calling Crawford's conduct "the most outrageous behavior that I have ever heard of in my life by an attorney."

Crawford appealed, but the Ventura-based Second District California Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court.

"If ever a case required a terminating sanction, this is it," Justice Arthur Gilbert wrote for the court's three-member panel.

"He made it impossible to continue with the litigation," Gilbert added. "Far from the trial court abusing its discretion, it would have been an abuse of discretion not to impose a terminating sanction."

Gilbert noted Crawford's complaint that opposing counsel didn't attempt an informal resolution after he threatened physical harm.

"The irony is not lost on us," Gilbert wrote. "Crawford conclusively proved that attempting an informal resolution of disputes with him is futile, if not dangerous."

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