CLEVELAND – An unusual sight in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Tuesday as Judge John Russo orders 32-year-old Franklyn Williams’ mouth taped shut during his sentencing.
“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.
Eventually, Judge Russo sentenced Williams to 24 years in prison.
In December, Williams was convicted on counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping, theft, misuse of credit cards and having weapons under a disability, according to court documents.
His trial began late last year, but hit a snag when he cut his ankle bracelet and fled to Omaha, Nebraska.
“It’s something we try to advocate in any courtroom, any hearing. That it is not chaos and there’s transparency, justice, and an equality of everyone getting a chance to speak their mind,” said Judge Russo.
Judge Russo adds it is perfectly legal for a sheriff’s deputy to gag a defendant when they are in contempt of court.
Williams’ attorney had no comment.