Judge Jails Yawning Man for 6 Months

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2009 7:44 AM CDT
An Illinois judge tossed a courtroom spectator in jail for six months for yawning. The judge has a history of tough contempt rulings.   (©stevelyon)

(Newser) – Make sure you've had a good night's sleep before going to court in Illinois. Clifton Williams, 33, went to support his cousin during a hearing on a felony drugs charge, but during the sentencing he stretched his arms and let out a loud, distracting yawn. His cousin got just two years' probation, but the yawning got Williams six months in the clink for contempt of court.

A spokesman for the Illinois attorney's office called the yawn "a loud and boisterous attempt to disrupt the proceedings." But the judge who found him in contempt jails spectators far more frequently than his colleagues—typically for carrying ringing cell phones or shouting during sentencing. Williams' family is flabbergasted by the decision but can't afford an attorney to appeal. "It's crazy," his aunt said. "This could happen to any one of us."