A Cuyahoga County judge is finding himself in hot water for his unusual methods of handling defendant who refused to be silent in his courtroom recently drew national attention. Judge John Russo ordered a convicted robber to have his mouth taped shut during a sentencing hearing in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday sparking outrage.
32-year-old Franklyn Williams was convicted of three armed robberies, misusing credit cards and more in the suburbs of Cleveland. Throughout his sentencing, Williams refused to stop talking despite being warned more than a dozen times over the course of a mere 30 minute period. Since Williams refused to silence himself in the courtroom, interrupting the judge and even his own attorneys, Judge Russo ordered Williams’ mouth to be taped shut by six deputies.
Even after the red tape was applied across Williams’ mouth, he persisted in his attempts to continue speaking. Fed up with Williams’ refusal to comply with even this most basic of requests, Judge Russo angrily stated, “Mr. Williams, I’m the judge of the matter, shut your mouth, and I’ll tell you when you can talk!”
Williams’ replied – “You tryna take my life, and you not letting me tell you what’s going on.”
In response, Judge Russo then instructed more pieces of tape be put over Williams’ mouth so court proceedings could continue unimpeded.
According to Clevescene.com – “After Russo ordered the tape to be placed on his mouth, a deputy can be heard saying, ‘If you spit on, attempt to bite or injure any of my deputies, you’re going to have a bad day.’
‘Just put the tape on me man and get it over with,’ Williams said. As Williams was in contempt of court, Russo was well within his legal rights to order Williams to be gagged in the courtroom.”
Judge Russo defended the decision to Fox 8 stating – “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,” said Judge Russo.
Judge Russo says he gave Williams more than a dozen warnings to stop talking over the course of 30 minutes, but Williams refused.
In fact, he even interrupted his own attorney.
“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. My intent was never to silence Mr. Williams,” said Judge Russo.
But Judge Russo says he was forced to extreme measures to keep a clear record and maintain courtroom decorum.
“I gave him an opportunity to speak at the appropriate time. More than not, he continued to speak over me and others in the courtroom,” said Judge Russo.”
Williams was eventually sentenced to 24 years in prison by Judge Russo.
“Williams was convicted in December 2017 on three counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping, theft, misuse of credit cards and having weapons under a disability, according to court documents. While his trial began late in 2017, Williams was present for the opening arguments but as the trial progressed unexpected delays occurred when Williams chose to cut his ankle bracelet and fled to Nebraska. While in Nebraska, Williams attempted to claim amnesia, stating he was hit over the head and subsequently lost his memory.
However, prosecutors played phone calls Williams made to his family in court on Tuesday proving there was no amnesia and he remembered everything. Additional information was also recovered from Williams’ phone demonstrating Williams was attempting to research how he could potentially beat the criminal charges levied against him.
This was actually Williams’ second trial stemming from the original charges. He was found guilty at the first trial and sentenced to up to 14 years in prison, however, he was granted an appeal on a technicality after it was determined he was misinformed about when he would be might eligible for early release from prison.
Despite all of the opportunities Williams was given and the fact Williams was clearly in contempt of court, as well as Judge Russo’s right to have him gagged due to Williams’ refusal to cease speaking when told to do so, outrage, accusations of railroading, and cries of racism swiftly followed.
One man posted on Instagram stating – “In slavery news, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John Russo sentenced 32-year-old Franklyn Williams to 24 years in prison on Tuesday for his role in three armed robberies, but not before he asked his deputies to tape Williams’s mouth shut.
Williams reportedly would not stop talking when Russo warned him to stop more than a dozen times over 30 minutes. The suspect allegedly interrupted his attorneys as well as the judge because he said didn’t know the court appointed attorney. Looks like he recognized he was being railroaded and wanted to at least go down fighting. #30yearsofControversy”
Another woman claimed gagging Williams in court was a “human rights violation.”
Another man claimed Judge Russo’s actions almost brought him to tears while claiming “human rights are starting to become a mere memory.”
It seems Williams history of violence and complete disregard for the law are not on trial in the court of public opinion, nor is Williams complete lack of respect for the court or his refusal to heed multiple warnings to cease to speak. Instead, Judge Russo has been convicted in trial by social media, where facts are neither relevant nor do they matter.