Judge orders defendant's mouth taped shut during sentencing

Posted at 1:41 PM, Aug 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-04 13:41:00-04

CLEVELAND (WJW/CNN) – A dramatic scene played out in a Cleveland, OH, courtroom Tuesday that seemed more like something out of a movie than real life.

A judge ordered tape to be placed over the mouth of a defendant – and it was.

"I'm not being allowed to speak how I need to speak. He's stopping me from talking. He's gagging me, putting tape over my mouth at this moment," Franklyn Williams said in court Tuesday.

And that's when deputies taped Williams' mouth shut on the orders of Judge John Russo, who was frustrated that Williams kept talking during sentencing, despite receiving multiple warnings to be quiet.

"So, when they put the tape over my mouth, I just felt so humiliated," Williams said after the incident. "I just felt like wow, it's an abuse of discretion by the courtroom. Listening to the duct tape go pffffttttt, I still hear that at night."

Williams is now beginning to serve 24 years in prison after Russo sentenced him for armed robbery, among other charges.

"Mr. Williams, I'm the judge in the matter. Shut your mouth," Russo instructed Williams on Tuesday. "Do you understand what it means to, 'Don't talk?' Don't talk. Mr. Williams, it would be very simple to gag you."

So, why didn't Williams just stop talking?

"Because the judge would not allow me to talk and get the things that I was trying to say on record," Williams said. "He would stop me before I would be able to explain anything on my behalf."

According to authorities, Williams cut his ankle bracelet and disappeared to Nebraska in the middle of his trial last year.

Williams said he wanted to explain to Russo that he'd sustained a head injury, which he said caused him to lose all memory of the trial.

"I was hit in the head and I didn't receive no medical treatment. I lost my mind, I lost my memory. I don't even remember me going to a trial. That's what I was trying to tell them," Williams said.

Williams also wanted to bring up injustices he believes he suffered in jail.

Russo said in court that he had a right to order the gag placed on Williams.

"I've had to silence him because of his disrespect for the system, his disrespect for the parties," Russo said.

Williams said he's angry his lawyer didn't do more to speak up for him.

"I feel that my constitutional right of freedom of speech has been violated," he said.

Williams plans to appeal his sentence – based, in part, on what happened Tuesday.

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