Judge speaks out after ordering man's mouth taped shut during sentencing

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A OH judge ordered a prisoner's mouth be taped shut in court because the defendant wouldn't stop talking.

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, WJW reported. Authorities said he cut his ankle bracelet after proceedings began.

"We can not regard this as normal".

Judge Russo gave Williams another warning, saying: 'If we have to, I will gag you in one second. "Shut your mouth and I will tell you when you can talk". He complained that the judge wasn't letting him tell his side of the court. "Zip it until I give you a chance to talk".

Judge Russo, who was sentencing Williams over charges including aggravated robbery, kidnap and theft, eventually lost his patience and ordered officers to gag him.

Williams was attempting to tell the court he had only just met his attorney and that his belongings had been taken from his cell.

Russo defended his decision to tape Williams's mouth shut, saying that he meant to maintain control over his court.

Judge Russo has since defended his actions, following a backlash of public disapproval. Deputies ended up wrapping red duct tape around his mouth. He was granted an appeal after a court found he was misinformed about when he would be eligible for release.

In a 1970 court case "Illinois v Allen", justices unanimously decided that defendants did not have an absolute right to be present at their own trials. Judges were allowed to "bind and gag him as a last resort, thereby keeping him present; (2) cite him for criminal or civil contempt; or (3) remove him from the courtroom, while the trial continues, until he promises to conduct himself properly", if a defendant was unruly in the courtroom.

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