Man convicted of child sex assault chugs possibly poisoned drink as verdict read

By Lance Benzel Published: June 26, 2013 | 12:00 am

A man convicted of a child sex offense after a five-day trial in Colorado Springs apparently tried to poison himself in court Monday as his "guilty" verdicts were being read aloud by a judge.

Seated at the defense table in a 4th Judicial District courtroom, 48-year-old Todd Wesley Eckley began chugging from a Lipton's ice tea bottle the moment Judge Barney Iuppa announced the jury's findings, according to Iuppa and multiple court officers who witnessed the scene.

After an obscenity laced outburst, Eckley was forcefully restrained by El Paso County sheriff's deputies, who led him out of court.

"On his way out he said, 'I'll be dead in 10 minutes anyway,'" Iuppa said, citing reports from court staff who heard the statement.

The defendant, who hurled epithets at the judge, jury and sheriff's deputies, later claimed the bottle contained a mixture of alcohol and oleander, a toxic plant that can be deadly if ingested in sufficient quantities.

Eckley was treated at Memorial Hospital on Monday and taken to the El Paso County jail, where he remained in custody as of Tuesday afternoon, said sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer. It wasn't clear if testing was done to confirm whether the bottle actually contained the toxic substance.

Eckley, a registered sex offender who had served four years in prison after a prior conviction for child sex abuse, was convicted by a jury Monday on all counts in a case that involved repeated rapes of a 10-year-old boy. He faces the potential of life in prison. His sentencing date wasn't immediately available.

The defendant was free on $10,000 bond during his trial, meaning he would be free to enter the courthouse with a bottled drink the same as any other visitor, sources said.

The courthouse is equipped with metal detectors at all entrances, but Iuppa said, "we weren't policing" what the defendant brought to court to drink.

Oleanders bloom from summer to fall and produce a variety of colorful flowers, according to the National Gardening Association website, which lists a number of vendors that sell the plant in Colorado Springs.

Poison control websites warn anyone who may have ingested the plant to seek immediate medical attention.

Eckley's attorney, David Foley, did not return a voicemail message seeking comment on behalf of his client.

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