Courtroom spectator gets six month sentence- for yawning

In Joliet, IL, Clifton Williams came to the Will County Courthouse to show support for a cousin who was being sentenced for a drug-related felony.

Unfortunately for Williams, Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak was doing the sentencing. And Williams was doubly unlucky, because a common reflex that hits us all several times a day happened to strike him whilst in Judge Rozak’s line of sight. He yawned. Perhaps a person near to him had yawned, or perhaps Williams had commited the crime of finding court proceedings somewhat dreary, but that one act of involuntarily sharply inhaling sent the man to prison for up to six months.

Williams isn’t the first spectator to fall afoul of sentence happy Judge Rozak, who is implicated in a shockingly disproportionate number of acts involving questionable judicial discretion:

A Chicago Tribune review of a decade’s worth of contempt-of-court charges reveals Rozak jails people — typically spectators whose cell phones go off or who scream or shout profanity during sentencing — at a far higher rate than any other judge in the county. There are now 30 judges in the 12th Judicial Circuit, but since 1999, Rozak has brought more than a third of all the contempt charges, records show.

It should be noted that a six month sentence is the maximum allowed by law to be imposed without a jury trial. Williams, who was jailed on July 23rd, must serve at least 21 days of his sentence and remains incarcerated. He was due to start a new job two days after he was arrested.

Those who witnessed the yawn debate the malice behind it:

Chuck Pelkie, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office, said the prosecutor in the courtroom that day told him “it was not a simple yawn — it was a loud and boisterous attempt to disrupt the proceedings.” Jason Mayfield, the cousin of Williams who was pleading guilty at the time, said it was “not an outrageous yawn.”

Residents of Joliet can rest easily now, knowing these shameless yawners are off the streets and behind bars where they belong, not starting jobs and contributing to society or anything harmful like that.

[Source: St. Louis Today]