I-Team: Internal e-mails raise questions about inmate duct-taped

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team recently captured unforgettable, exclusive video of a local inmate getting his mouth taped shut in court, now we’ve obtained internal court e-mails raising questions about how it got to that point.

We showed you what happened in July to Franklyn Williams, a convicted robber.  At his sentencing, he interrupted Judge John Russo repeatedly and would not keep quiet, so Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputies taped his mouth shut.

An e-mail shows, days later, the judge wrote to a deputy sheriff supervisor, “So what policy or procedure did you use in deciding that you would use duct tape on the defendant?”

The deputy wrote in one e-mail, “I was acting on the direction of the judge during the hearing.”

The Judge also wrote, “Can you explain further to me by what you mean “follow the Judges Order”?”

Looking back, just hours after the hearing, the judge had told Fox 8, he never called for duct-tape.

Judge Russo said, "Whatever was done was done at the protocol of the Sheriff. He added he had eye-contact with the deputy in charge. "He looked at me 'Judge do you want me to do this?’ (motions covering mouth). And I just kind of shook my head to him to be prepared."

Yet, another deputy e-mail said, “Deputies follow the discretion of the Judges orders in such matters.”

The I-Team also looked at a 21-page sheriff`s department policy on courtroom security -- there's a lot about moving prisoners in and out, handcuffing, checking panic alarms for judges -- but nothing about using tape or doing anything if an inmate won`t keep quiet.

By e-mail, that deputy also wrote, “…there is no written policy.”

Ultimately, even before those e-mails back and forth, the judge held another hearing. He apologized to Franklyn Williams and he took himself off the case.

Williams had been sentenced to 24 years in prison, but that has been thrown out, and a new judge will sentence Williams again.

There's no question, Williams kept interrupting. But the I-Team has learned the Sheriff is now reviewing the entire courtroom security policy including how to silence an inmate.

The e-mails show Judge Russo and the Sheriff’s Dept. discussing sitting down to talk about all of this.

As of Thursday afternoon, no specific meeting time and date had been scheduled.