Attorney is held in contempt after video taping man’s mouth being duct taped shut.
Louisiana public defender Michael Gregory was held in contempt of court and ordered by Lafayette Judge Marilyn Castle to pay a fine of $100 for filming a defendant having his mouth taped shut by a bailiff. The attorney also cannot carry his cellphone, nor use someone else’s, to the Lafayette Parish courthouse for six months. Cellphones, in general, are banned, but can be carried by officers of the court. Filming, broadcasting, or photographing (even by officers) inside a courtroom is still strictly prohibited.
“This is not a pleasurable thing to do,” Castle said, adding, “If I were to ignore it, I would be in violation of the rules.” She ruled Gregory was in “constructive contempt” rather than “direct contempt,” which means the contempt is committed in “immediate view and presence of the court.”
The incident occurred in mid-July at the same time Michael Duhon was being sentenced in a case of money laundering and theft of more than $25,000. Duhon repeatedly interrupted the hearing, and Castle ordered a bailiff to tape Duhon’s mouth shut. Gregory filmed the action although he has no connection to Duhon’s case and is not representing him. He was present in court for another legal matter.
Gregory argued he was not in contempt because court rules do not explicitly bar attorneys from filming, but Castle disagreed, citing the regulations. At the hearing, there are at least two dozen attorneys and Gregory supporters present.
Gregory said he would appeal her decision. He felt there was “a compelling necessity to record the proceeding,” but Castle said, “the focus was on the inappropriate filming itself, not what the recording captured,” adding, “The subject of what was photographed is irrelevant. It’s that you did it.”
Gregory submitted a copy of the video as evidence and Castle put it under seal. He had also been asked to delete it from the device.
Court records show Castle asked that Duhon remain quiet on two occasions before she told the bailiff to tape his mouth shut while witnesses were on the stand. His attorney, Aaron Adams, objected to the use of the tape, and Adams also asked that Duhon be removed from the courtroom rather than taking his action.
The court order indicated Gregory violated the district’s rules “by broadcasting, televising, recording or taking photographs in the courtroom” by recording “a portion of the court proceedings” and broadcasting “those proceedings to others.”
The use of duct tape is a controversial practice. In 2018, an Ohio judge also ordered a defendant’s mouth taped shut during a courtroom hearing in which the judge called him a “narcissistic individual who blames others for his actions” and added, “A decade of criminal history victimizing the citizens of Cuyahoga County. This has got to come to an end.”
The man’s attorney, Deanna Robertson said, “When you see a defendant sitting in a courtroom with his mouth taped, your first impression is, ‘he must have killed someone. He must have done something really, really horrible to be treated like an animal by someone who is supposed to represent justice and fairness.’”