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Cleveland judge orders defendant's mouth taped

An Ohio judge ordered a defendant's mouth taped shut during a courtroom hearing, and a media outlet's video caught the scene of officers duct-taping the man's face to silence him.

Posted: Aug 5, 2018 4:44 PM
Updated: Aug 5, 2018 5:05 PM

An Ohio judge ordered a defendant's mouth taped shut during a courtroom hearing, and a media outlet's video caught the scene of an officer duct-taping the man's face to silence him.

The incident took place earlier this week, when a judge in Cleveland, Ohio, ordered Franklyn Williams, 32, to remain silent during his sentencing hearing, according to CNN affiliate WJW.

Despite warnings from Judge John Russo, Williams continued to speak over the judge and his attorneys, according to the video.

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?"

Russo proceeds to tell Williams that he would like to hear from the defendant's attorneys first and then will give him a chance to speak, but Williams continues to talk.

"You are trying to take my life, and you are not letting me tell you what's going on," Williams says on the video.

After several interruptions, Russo then gives him a last warning.

"Listen to me, if we have to, I will gag you ... you will get a chance to talk," Russo says. "Just zip it, you will get a chance to talk, I'm going to give you a chance to talk."

Williams continues to talk, and Russo orders for Williams' mouth to be taped shut, according to the video.

Six sheriff's deputies walk up to Williams and as Williams 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 record. He would always stop me before I was able to explain anything on my behalf," Williams told WJW from his jail cell.

CNN has reached out to Williams' attorneys for further comment.

Williams was sentenced to prison for aggravated robbery, kidnapping and misuse of credit cards, according to the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Court's online records.

When CNN reached out to Judge Russo, he refused to comment through his bailiff, Patrice P. Stack, who said this is because the case is likely to be appealed.

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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