This is America ... where a judge found it appropriate to order that a particularly chatty defendant be gagged, literally taping the man’s mouth shut, instead of you know, adding an additional charge of contempt of court or something more refined.
Franklyn Williams, 32, showed up in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, insistent on defending himself at his sentencing hearing. To be fair, Williams would not stop speaking, even after dozens of warnings from Judge John Russo over the span of some 30 minutes.
According to Fox8, Williams even spoke over and interrupted his own attorneys.
Ultimately frustrated, Russo ordered his deputies to tape Williams’ mouth shut.
In the video, Williams could be heard complaining about having just met his attorney, and that his belongings had been removed from his cell.
“Mr. Williams,” the judge said. “I’m the judge in the matter. Shut your mouth and I will tell you when you can talk. You got it?”
Later, the judge could be ordering Williams to “zip it.”
“But you’re not letting me tell you what’s going on,” Williams argued
“That means zip it. Right now. Does that make sense?” Russo said
Williams shakes his head. “No it doesn’t.”
“Does the comment, ‘quit talking,’ do you understand that?” Russo asks.
“You’re trying to take my life away, judge, and you’re not letting me tell you what’s going on,” Williams protested.
The two continue with the back and forth, and Russo threatens to gag Williams if he has to. After another interruption, the judge follows through with his threat.
“I’m going to tape it, and then I’ll unzip it when I want you to talk,” he said.
Six deputies can be seen swarming around Williams just to tape his mouth shut.
One issues him another
“I want to make it real clear, if you spit on, attempt to bite, or injure any of my deputies, we’re going to have a bad day,” the officer said.
Williams shrugged it off, insisting he has no intention of doing that. One of the deputies put a strip of red tape around Willimas’ mouth.
But he wasn’t done yet. The tape, which did not seem to cover his mouth fully, left him still able to speak, and Williams continued to do so until another piece of tape was added.
Although the judge’s response to Williams’ insistent interruptions raised several eyebrows, according to the Miami Herald it has been done before.
The Herald notes:
In the 1970 case Illinois v. Allen, the justices unanimously decided that defendants do not have an absolute right to even be present at their trial, let alone speak at it.
The court found that trial judges could “bind and gag him as a last resort, thereby keeping him present; (2) cite him for criminal or civil contempt; or (3) remove him from the courtroom, while the trial continues, until he promises to conduct himself properly,” if a defendant was being disorderly.
In the end, Williams was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Back in December, Williams was convicted on charges of aggravated robbery, kidnapping, theft, misuse of credit cards and having weapons under a disability. His trial began late last year, but hit a block after he cut his ankle bracelet and fled to Nebraska.
He claimed after he was ultimately recaptured that he was hit over the head and lost his memory, but phone calls with family played in court on Tuesday proved that his memory was in character. Investigators also uncovered information on his phone that showed he had researched how to escape criminal charges.
This is Williams second trial in this particular case. Initially, at his first trial, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to up to 14 years in prison, but was granted an appeal after it was discovered he had not been clearly informed about when he would be eligible for release.