December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Woman argues with judge, ends up setting contempt of court record


ELYRIA – Ebony Burks earned the dubious distinction earlier this month of drawing the longest jail sentence that Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett has ever handed down for contempt of court.

Burks’ 300-day stay in the Lorain County Jail came out of an Aug. 14 hearing during which she was being arraigned on domestic violence and assault charges in separate cases.

Burks, 32, was appearing via a video feed from the jail when she began arguing with Bennett about the no contact order he was imposing on her in the domestic violence case in which she was accused of attacking her grandfather, Shedrick McCray.

As Bennett was explaining that she wasn’t allowed to contact him or be around him, Burks became upset when she realized she wouldn’t be able to go to McCray’s house, where she lives.

“How you going to tell me I can’t go to my home?” Burks asked.

“I just did,” Bennett replied.

“Well, I bet I do,” Burks said.

At that point, Bennett told her she was in contempt of court and would be jailed for 30 days. That prompted Burks to hold up her hand and walk away from the camera and Bennett to increase the jail sentence to 60 days as he orders her to get back in front of the camera.

“So what?” Burks then said.

“Ninety days,” Bennett said.

“So?” she said.

“One hundred and twenty days,” the judge said.

“Okay, and?” Burks said.

“160, 180 days,” Bennett said before Burks walked off camera and began arguing with a guard.

“What else you got to say?” Burks then asked.

“Oh, nothing, we’ll talk in six months when you’re ready to come back for your case,” the judge said.

A guard then appeared on the video and apologized to Bennett for Burks’ outburst.

“Not as sorry as she’s gonna be,” Bennett said.

Off camera, Burks then made another comment and Bennett increased the jail sentence to 200 days.

“You got anything else to say, Ms. Burks?” he asked.

“(Expletive) you!” Burks shouted.

“That’s 300 days!” Bennett shot back.

Bennett said Friday that when he asked Burks if she wanted to say anything else he was hoping for an apology, but it wasn’t forthcoming.

“I’m usually pretty even across the board, but she got me riled,” he said of the lengthy jail sentence.

The judge said it’s not the first – or last – time he’s had to impose jail time because of courtroom outbursts. In one instance, Bennett said, he held a man in contempt of court and sentenced him to 90 days for overturning a podium and later cursing at him.

He said he reduced the sentence after the man wrote him a letter apologizing.

On Monday, Bennett imposed a 90-day sentence on Alan Saunders, who disrupted court during a video arraignment, blew a kiss off to the judge and made faces and stuck out his tongue at Bennett.

Bennett said people need to understand that even if they’re being arraigned over a video link they’re still in a courtroom and need to behave properly.

“You can’t disrupt a courtroom,” he said. “You wouldn’t shout out in church and you shouldn’t do that in a courtroom.”

Burks, who has an extensive criminal record including convictions for assault, disorderly conduct and receiving stolen property, is due back in court on her latest round of cases in September before Elyria Municipal Court Judge Lisa Locke Graves.

In the assault case Burks is accused of getting into a fight with Tiffany Castro in early July.

According to an Elyria police report on the Aug. 13 attack on her grandfather said that as Burks was being arrested she pulled away from police and ran toward McCray and spit in his face twice after officers restrained her.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.