The dueling complaints by two port of Baltimore union officials alleging the other assaulted him now will be considered by residents of Baltimore, after their attorneys requested a jury trial in the case.
Maryland District Court Judge Timothy D. Murphy approved the requests Tuesday.
Riker "Rocky" McKenzie, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 333, filed a complaint on Nov. 8 alleging the union's then-secretary-treasurer, Daryl Wilburn, assaulted him during an altercation that morning at the local's Locust Point union hall.
Ten days later, Wilburn — who said he is appealing his recent removal from office by the local's executive board — filed a countercomplaint alleging McKenzie had assaulted him during the altercation.
The alleged fight between the two men came just a few weeks after Local 333 went on strike over a local contract dispute with employers at the port of Baltimore. The three-day strike in October shut down operations at the port's public terminals — including work on cargo protected under a separate coastwide master contract that prohibits work stoppages.
An arbitrator subsequently ruled the strike violated a "no-strike" provision of the master contract and ruled that the local union must pay nearly $4 million in damages to shipping lines and a terminal operator.
National ILA officials have come since to Baltimore to lead the ongoing local contract negotiations and review the internal operations of Local 333. A "trusteeship committee" reviewing whether national ILA officials should take over Local 333 specifically noted the altercation between McKenzie and Wilburn as problematic.
"A local union cannot function properly if those two officers do not have a civil, professional relationship, and it cannot be disputed that McKenzie and Wilburn lacked such a relationship, to the detriment of their local," the committee wrote in a February report on its findings, which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
In his November assault complaint, McKenzie said Wilburn jerked him around, lifted him off the ground and slammed him to the hall's concrete floor during an altercation, causing him injuries to his neck, head, jaw and back.
McKenzie filed the complaint in court after a Baltimore Police officer responded to the union hall after the alleged fight and advised him to see a court commissioner if he wanted to press charges, according to a police report.
Wilburn responded by filing his own court complaint, alleging McKenzie had been the aggressor.
In his complaint, Wilburn said McKenzie entered his office aggressively and tried to force him to change documents, then "attempted to murder" him by trying to throw him over a second-story railing in the hall.
Both union officials and their attorneys appeared in Murphy's courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, when they were scheduled to go to trial on their complaint and countercomplaint.
Their requests to instead have a jury trial will transfer the case to Baltimore Circuit Court, where a new trial is scheduled for May 13, said Tony Garcia, McKenzie's attorney.
McKenzie said he had "nothing to say" about the assault case outside the courtroom. Wilburn said he just wants to "get this thing resolved."