Shut Yer Mouth: Man Gets 6 Months for Yawning

Strict judge issues 6 months jail time for "loud and boisterous" yawn

By Matt Bartosik
|  Tuesday, Aug 11, 2009  |  Updated 1:31 PM EDT
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Shut Yer Mouth: Man Gets 6 Months for Yawning

Clifton Williams of Chicago faces six months of jail time for a "loud and boisterous" yawn.

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Make sure you get plenty of sleep before going to court.

Clifton Williams didn't and he's been sentenced to six months in jail for yawning.

"I was flabbergasted because I didn't realize a judge could do that," Williams' father, Clifton Williams Sr., told the Chicago Tribune. "It seems to me like a yawn is an involuntary action."

Williams, 33, attended his cousin's July hearing at Will County Courthouse in Joliet. His cousin, Jason Mayfield, pled guilty to a felony drug charge. As the judge sentenced Mayfield to two years probation, Williams let out a yawn, an involuntary faux pas in such a formal setting.

Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak thought the yawn was criminal and sentenced Williams to six months in jail, the maximum penalty for contempt of court without a jury trial.  Rozak's order said that Williams "raised his hands while at the same time making a loud yawning sound," causing a disrespectful interruption in court.

So in a strange turn of events Mayfield, the felon, will be able to walk freely, while Williams, the yawner, will have to spend at least three weeks behind bars for his offending yawn. But it's not out of character for Rozak.

Contempt of court charges are typically issued when a judge feels someone is challenging or ignoring the court's authority, e.g., yelling at a judge, ignoring subpoenas, appearing in court drunk, etc.

But Rozak runs a tight ship. He has charged people who cuss in reaction to a sentencing and even jailed spectators whose cell phones interrupt proceedings. In fact, the Chicago Tribune found that Rozak has sentenced more spectators to jail for infractions involving cell phones than any other judge in Will County in the last decade.

Of the 30 judges in the 12th Judicial Circuit, Rozak has brought more than a third of all the contempt charges in the last 10 years.

"This is ridiculous -- you've got all these people shooting up kids, and here this boy yawns in court [and gets 6 months]. It's crazy," said Williams' 79-year-old grandmother.

Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, is rarely loud and boisterous.

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