An Ohio Judge has social media buzzing after a media outlet’s video caught the Judge ordering a defendant’s mouth taped shut during a courtroom hearing. The video indeed shows an officer of the court duct-taping the man’s face and mouth in order to silence him.
The incident took place earlier this week, when a Judge in Cleveland, Ohio, ordered Franklyn Willimas, 32, to remain silent during his sentencing hearing. Despite multiple warnings from Judge John Russo, Williams continued to speak over the Judge and his own attorneys.
The courtroom video, shot by and first aired on WJW, shows Russo repeatedly scolding Williams for talking.
“Mr. Williams,” Russo says on the video, “I’m the Judge in the matter, Shut your mouth and I will tell you when you can talk. You got it?”
“When they put the tape on my mouth I just felt so humiliated,” Williams told WJW.
Judge Russo proceeds to tell Williams that he would like to hear from the defendant’s attorney first and then will give him (Williams) a chance speak.
“You are trying to take my life, and you are not letting me tell you what’s going on,” Willimas says on the video.
After several interruptions, Judge Russo issues Williams a final warning.
“Listen to me, if we have to, I will gag you… you will get a chance to talk,” Judge Russo says. “Just zip it, you will get a chance to talk, I’m going to give you a chance to talk.”
Willimas continues to talk, and Judge Russo orders for Willimas’ mouth to be taped shut, according to the video. Six sheriff’s deputies walk up to Williams and as Willimas tries to get up, one of the officers is shown forcing him back down. Another officer proceeds to tape his mouth with red duct tape.
The video quickly caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which characterized the Judge’s actions as humiliating to the defendant.
“We cannot regard this as normal. It is Humiliating. It doesn’t just deprive this person of the opportunity to speak before his life is taken away, it steals his dignity. Everything about this is wrong,” the organization said in a tweet.
After the incident, Williams spoke to reporters and said he had a reason why he wouldn’t be quiet.
“The Judge would not allow me to say the things that I was trying to say on the record. He would always stop me before I was able to explain anything on my behalf,” Williams told WJW from his jail cell via telephone.
Willimas was sentenced to prison for aggravated robbery, kidnapping and misuse of credit card, according to the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Court’s online records.
Judge Russo told WJW that he never intended for things to go as far as they did, and he said he was justified to order the taping because the defendant showed disrespect for the legal system.
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