Canton, Ohio is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But right now, it’s also known for something altogether different.
Municipal Court Judge Stephen F. Belden was in the middle of a hearing to determine whether or not there was sufficient evidence to have Harry Brown’s case reviewed by a county jury. The 51-year-old Brown was charged with robbery and obstructing official business. He allegedly fought with personnel from a local Wal-Mart, who were attempting to prohibit Brown from shoplifting.
Once the proceedings began, Brown began complaining about the competence of his public defender, who Brown claimed did not do a sufficient amount of homework. Judge Belden informed Brown that he was not going to give him a new public defender; either he could represent himself or deal with it.
That did not sit well with Mr. Brown, who decided to continue arguing with the judge. Eventually, Judge Belden had his fill of the belligerent Brown, and he let Brown know he was upset under no uncertain terms.
“I’m gonna get some duct tape,” the judge said to Brown. If you keep interrupting me, I’m gonna have Mr. Smith (bailiff Jeffrey Smith) put it over your mouth, OK?”
Brown decided he wanted to just go back to the holding area for prisoners, but the judge told him he was staying right there. When Brown continued to yap back at him, Judge Belden made good on his promise.
“All right, duct tape. Duct tape the defendant,” Belden said.
Once Brown’s mouth was sealed, the judge ran the hearing without incident until he asked Brown if he had questions for a witness. “We’ll put some more (tape) back on if you decide to, uh, go back to your former, uh, disrespectful ways,” Judge Belden said.
Brown’s reply? “I’m not being disrespectful, Your Honor,” Brown said. “I think you’re being more disrespectful to me, as, you know …”
That was all the judge could stand. “OK, that’s it, that’s it. Prelim is over. You’re bound over. I find probable cause. You can go back, down in the basement,” retorted the judge.
As you might expect, Brown continued. “I want to ask him some questions.”
“Yoooooouuuuuuu … go ahead, take him away,” said the angry judge.
On his way out the door, Brown uttered obscenities.
“OK, you can get 30 more days on top of whatever you get, for contempt,” Belden shouted.
Brown claims he wants to file a complaint, saying what the judge did was “unethical.” As for Belden, he was not the least bit sorrowful for what he’d done.
“You have somebody who’s disruptive, you have to make a decision on the spot how to handle it,” he said.
NOTE: For audio of this interesting hearing, click here: