An Ohio judge ordered a defendant in his courtroom to have his mouth bound with tape during a hearing.
Judge John Russo felt Franklyn Williams had engaged in too many outbursts, despite repeated warnings.
A video showed Williams, donning an orange jumpsuit, being surrounded by several police officers while also being in handcuffs. One of the officers placed a large piece of red tape over Williams’ mouth.
Williams had been accused of three armed robberies and this was his sentencing hearing at the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court after a jury had found him guilty in December 2017. During the course of that trial, Williams had cut off his ankle monitor and fled the state.
He was arrested in Nebraska in July 2018 and brought back to the Cleveland court for sentencing.
Williams had originally pleaded guilty in 2016 for the armed robberies and had been sentenced to 14 years in prison. The Plain Dealer newspaper reported: “He appealed his sentence and argued that, because his attorney wrongly told him at the time that he would be eligible for early release after he served just seven years when he actually had to serve his entire sentence, he did not fully understand what he was pleading to.”
The appeals court sided with Williams, threw out that sentence, and ordered the second trial.
He continued to speak for 30 minutes as Mr Russo asked him to stop several times. The judge said: “I’m going to hear from your lawyers and that means zip it”.
Mr Russo confirmed Williams understood the directions to stop speaking as well but kept saying: ”I’m not being allowed to speak how I need to speak.”
The pair were not strangers, according to Mr Russo he has presided over four of Williams’ court appearances. “I will say, knowing Mr. Williams due to my handling of his four cases, Mr. Williams was someone who liked to speak. To speak and interrupt. When lawyers were talking, witnesses were talking. More importantly when I was talking,” the judge said, according to news station WJW.
Despite ordering the tape gag, Mr Russo said his intention was not to deny Williams his right to speak in court in his own defence.
“Everybody has the right to go on the record with my court reporter. But we can’t do it at the same time or yelling over each other,” Mr Russo said.
The judge indicated it is legal for a sheriff’s deputy to gag a defendant in court, should that defendant be deemed in contempt of court as Williams had been.
Mr Russo sentenced Williams to 24 years in prison.
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