Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas-Pasco judge has defendant's mouth is taped shut

LARGO — Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico was speaking at a court hearing on Wednesday when Randy Lee Sparklin started talking over him.

That didn't last long.

"Go ahead and get him muzzled so we can bring him back in," Federico said to courtroom deputies. As they led Sparklin out, he shouted to prosecutors, "You burn in hell!"

Sparklin had made a series of outbursts during a trial in March in which he was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges.

When deputies brought Sparklin back into the courtroom on Wednesday, his mouth was covered with what appeared to be duct tape.

It was a rare but not unprecedented case of a judge attempting to silence a disruptive defendant. In this case, the attempt wasn't completely effective — Sparklin kept right on arguing through his taped mouth.

"You guys need to go back to the drawing board on the whole tape thing," Federico told the courtroom deputies.

Robert Batey, a professor at the Stetson University College of Law, said the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the practice of gagging defendants in some cases. He referred to a memorable case from decades ago when a judge ordered Black Panther Bobby Seale to be gagged during a trial.

In cases like this, judges face a balancing act: On one hand, some defendants are so disruptive that it's difficult for the court case to proceed. On the other hand, defendants generally have a right to be present in court. Gagging a defendant is a way to keep the court case moving, with the defendant in the courtroom.

Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady would not comment on this specific case, but did comment in general on the practice of preventing a defendant from speaking in court.

"It's done rarely, but sometimes it's the most appropriate way to allow (a defendant) to stay but not be disruptive."

Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said Sparklin had repeatedly been disruptive in previous court proceedings, apparently attempting "to turn it into a big circus." He said Federico showed "a high level of restraint in dealing with him."

Sparklin, 49, was arrested in 2008 after fleeing from police in a Nissan SUV, crashing into another SUV, and then smashing into a downtown Clearwater building. Odysseas Liakopoulos, one of the passengers in the SUV that was hit, was killed in the crash.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8232.

Pinellas-Pasco judge has defendant's mouth is taped shut 04/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    By Laura Reiley

    Times Food Critic

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the …

  2. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht

    Nation

    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]
  3. 1 in 4 Florida adults aren't registered to vote, according to non-partisan group

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Five million people in Florida who are eligible to vote aren't registered, according to a nationwide non-partisan group that helps improve the accuracy of state voter rolls.

    Voters line up in front of the Coliseum Ballroom in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. A non-partisan group estimates that more than a quarter of Florida's adult-age population isn't registered to vote. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win

    Blogs

    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  5. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River

    Military

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]