Appeals Court OKs Extra One-Year Sentence for Inmate’s Profanity-Laced Courtroom Tirade
Posted Oct 15, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Wisconsin’s court of appeals didn’t agree with an inmate who argued he deserved no more than one contempt citation for 11 profane statements and one act of spitting in the courtroom.
The Oct. 10 appeals court opinion (PDF) included a transcript of the exchange between inmate Cesar Deleon and Judge Sue Bischel of Brown County, who has since retired, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog Proof & Hearsay. Deleon is in prison serving a sentence that ends in 2058. Bischel imposed a 30-day sentence for each act of contempt, to be served at the end of Deleon's 2058 sentence.
Deleon’s contempt problems began when he grew impatient with Bischel while he was in court for a pretrial hearing on a charge he threw urine at a prison guard. His tirade began with this statement to the judge: “You p---ing me off.”
He proceeded to use multiple profanities, sometimes in the same sentence, as in this example: “That f---ing old lady p--- me the f--- off.” Bischel kept a running contempt count, announcing each one in response to his statements, though she later conceded she overstated her tally. "You want to keep it up or not?" the judge asked at the count of seven.
Bischel later counted 12 rather than 14 contemptuous acts, leading the appeals court to lop 60 days off Deleon’s 420-day sentence. The opinion rejected Deleon’s arguments that he deserved just one contempt citation and that his sentence should run concurrently with his present prison term.
The judge could have handled the situation differently, possibly by taking a recess or asking the defense lawyer to speak with the inmate, the appeals court said. But Deleon was an adult, and “he cannot blame the court for his abominable behavior.”
Deleon’s defense lawyer did speak up for his client during the tirade, asking Bischel to take into account his prison environment and the language used there. And as the courtroom session ended, the lawyer provided some interpretation.
Bischel asked Deleon if he would consider a plea offer for disorderly conduct before his trial on the assault charge. Deleon responded with another expletive, spurring this interpretation from his lawyer: “I believe he responds in the negative, ma’am.”