August 20, 2014

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Another man in trouble for sagging pants in court

LORAIN — How pants are worn in Judge Mark Mihok’s courtroom is becoming an up-and-down issue.

Wednesday was the fourth time since July that Mihok has had a man charged with contempt of court for wearing sagging pants. Juan Cordova, 19, of the 1300 block of West 29th Street, was being held without bond in the Lorain City Jail on Wednesday night and is due before Mihok today.

Mihok, a Lorain Municipal Court judge since 2002, said sagging pants haven’t been worn in the courtroom until recently. Mihok said he doesn’t have a courtroom dress code and allows people to dress casually, including wearing flip-flops, jeans, pajama bottoms, slippers and T-shirts. But he said Cordova’s pants were so low that his buttocks were showing as he walked out of court.

“People can wear whatever they wear. They just have to cover up. That’s my only rule,” Mihok said. “When their pants are riding below their buttocks, to me, I’m not going to stand for it.”

Mihok, 59, said he grew up in the 1960s and is aware of how cultural changes affect fashion. Leather jackets were frowned upon in the 1950s as was long hair in the 1960s.

Sagging pants, a hip-hop style popularized in the 1990s, have spurred local laws outlawing them. Critics of the laws, like the American Civil Liberties Union say the laws single out black and Latino men who popularized the style.

Adam Greene Jr. said he feels bad about Cordova’s arrest because Cordova did him a favor by giving him a ride to court. Greene — facing disturbing the peace, obstructing official business, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia charges that he said were related to a party at his house — said he asked Cordova to sit with him in court.

Greene, 24, said Cordova’s pants weren’t that low and accused Mihok of playing God. Greene said Cordova will miss work at a job he just started.

“You’re screwing with this man’s life for no reason whatsoever,” he said.

Greene said Mihok should’ve warned Cordova rather than having him arrested.

“We’re all adults,” he said. “We should be able to talk to each other.”

There are no posted warnings in or outside the courtroom about sagging pants. Mihok said he doesn’t believe people need warnings.

“They should know how to put their pants on before they come into the courtroom,” he said. “They wouldn’t show up for a job interview (that way). You can’t go to the casino in Cleveland with your pants down.”

Evelyn Cordova, Cordova’s mother, said Cordova had a hernia operation as a child and wears his pants low because of discomfort.

Mihok said he doesn’t buy the hernia explanation, saying Cordova’s pants were at waist height in the front.

“It’s hard for me to believe that somebody has to wear their pants below their buttocks for medical reasons,” he said. “I stand by my decision, and that rule’s going to stay in place.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.