4 Unbelievable Courtroom Situations (That Happened Thanks To Zoom)
Among the numerous fields that could not afford to come to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, the criminal justice system had to adapt to the concept of teleconferencing, and adapt quickly. The idea of holding hearings remotely became a logistical nightmare for everyone involved. The learning curve has been hell for a lot of legal professionals, just ask Cat Lawyer.
The strength of many cases could be undone by something as simple as a weak WiFi signal. There’s also the argument of striking a balance between maintaining both open hearings and a level of privacy when a lot of the proceedings are being live-streamed to and from people’s homes. Having these trials disseminated online has definitely been one of the most interesting new YouTube rabbit holes you could fall into, because every now and then you might witness something that has never occurred in the history of law.
A Surgeon Contests a Traffic Ticket During Surgery
You’d think a plastic surgeon would have a better grasp on how things look, but Scott Green, MD, learned his lesson the hard way when he showed up for traffic court via Zoom on February 25... in full surgical scrubs… from the operating room.
Viral clips like this are the Zapruder films of the internet age; no matter how much we analyze the video, we’re left with so many questions. And all of the answers, no matter how plausible, still manage to sound sketchy as hell. Dr. Green has expressed extreme regret over the incident, stating in an interview that, "In hindsight, clearly it would have been better to step out and take the call out in the hall or the breakroom, but to be perfectly frank, I was a little befuddled. I thought we'd be done, and I didn't know what to do. The courtroom is not my comfort zone. I uncomfortably stood there trying to hear what they were saying because the Zoom kept cutting in and out. They evidently said, 'This is going to be on YouTube,' but I didn't hear them say that."
It turns out, when Dr. Green was being summoned to traffic court, he was given a two-hour window of when he would be requested to log into the Zoom call. His surgeries that day were running behind, and the court called his case earlier than he had expected. Yes, there is a patient receiving a facelift in the background, however, Green’s involvement in the surgery was over and another surgeon was finishing up the operation. It’s important to remember that the patient was fine, and she supports her doctor through this ordeal.
Public Defender Angrily Hangs Up on Judge, Redefines “Contempt of Court”
On January 12, 2021, Curtis Burns appeared before Judge Julie Kaelin on a Zoom call, with his public defender, Shameka O’Neil, phoning it in… in more ways than one. As the details of his plea agreement were read aloud, Burns expressed confusion over the details, implying that this plea deal was not what he agreed to. When Ms. O’Neil got on the line, she didn’t just shoot herself in the foot, she nuked it from orbit.
In the span of three minutes, Ms. O’Neil gives a masterclass in how not to be a lawyer. She repeatedly talks over the judge, disparages her client as mentally ill, asks to be removed from the case twice, and, after the second time being denied on that motion, hangs up on the judge. As this is happening, all of the people on the Zoom call react with the kind of pained shock you’d see during a profanity-laced eulogy from a drunk uncle.
The Judge immediately called for Ms. O’Neil to be charged with contempt of court. Have a look for yourself, the fireworks start at the 2:18 mark:
Later that same day, O’Neil was back on Judge Kaelin’s Zoom court for clarification on her contempt charge. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well. O’Neil was quoted to say to the Judge, “Mark my words: If you take adverse action against me, you better be sure about it, because you made some mistakes here today, I will attempt to hold you civilly or however responsible that I can, and that’s my word.”
O’Neil stated in an interview that her outburst was a response to the Judge’s lack of respect and rudeness towards her, and that she was fighting for what’s best for her client. You know, the client she slandered as a bipolar schizophrenic without an official diagnosis. She later texted the reporter to elaborate on her $500 fine from the court: “As for that fine — straight cash homie. Bottomline don’t disrespect me and try to humiliate me in front of my client and other professionals then think I’m going to sit there and take it whether you got on a robe or not I’m a person just like her I’m not her child nor do I work for her get respect and I give respect. Period.”
Hacker’s Zoom Court Appearance Gets Hacked
In July of 2020, 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark was arrested for hacking numerous famous people’s Twitter accounts and using them to bilk their unsuspecting followers out of more than $180,000. Among the accounts he hacked were Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk; the leader of the free world, the man who revolutionized the technology Clark used to hack the accounts in the first place, and a tech billionaire who owns his own space program. Otherwise, the plan was solid.
In August, when Clark was first set to appear before a judge to face these charges, the court system was still trying to figure out the technology needed to keep the court system functioning, so it would be understandable when Judge Christopher Nash didn’t know how to change the Zoom settings that would’ve prevented people from taking over the screen during the meeting. Did we mention this was a high-profile hacking case?
That’s right, the hearing was hacked, and flooded with hecklers, loud music, and porn. This video clip was just the last minute of the hearing, but it had gone on like this for a total of 25 minutes. Judge Nash tried his best to disconnect the troublemakers as they were coming in, but with the hearing being public, his efforts proved about as effective as an abstinence education booth at an orgy.
The hearing was adjourned and later reconvened in a private Zoom call, and in March of 2021, Graham Clark pleaded guilty to fraud charges and agreed to serve a three-year prison term followed by three years probation. He’s also barred from using computers without permission and supervision from law enforcement, which is a shame, seeing as he should’ve at least negotiated a year off his sentence if he offered to walk the judge through the Zoom user’s manual.
Lawyer Fails To Log Off Zoom Call, Proceeds to Have Sex with a Client
One of the bizarre side effects of the pandemic forcing everyone to have to communicate through webcams, is that we seem to have inadvertently ushered in a new golden age of online nudity, be it accidental, intentional, monetized, or Weinsteined. And in January 2021, a Peruvian lawyer named Héctor Paredes Robles learned a very valuable lesson in making absolutely sure to log out of a virtual meeting. After representing his client in Zoom court, the court officials and other lawyers, as well as those tuning into the livestream, watched in shock as Paredes Robles stripped out of his clothes and a nude brunette woman straddled him in his chair and the two of them just went to Pound Town, or La Cuidad de Bow Chicka Wow Wow, as it were.
The sexy time went on for several minutes and multiple positions, all the while Judge John Chahua Torres summoned a police officer, and a female aide attempted to alert the Paredes Robles that he was screwing his career harder than he was the brunette. The judged ruled during the incident, “We are witnessing obscene acts which represent a violation of public decency and are aggravated by the fact they are being recorded nationally.” So, yeah … keep those words in mind the next time you think you’re having a crappy day at work.
In the aftermath, Paredes Robles was barred from any further involvement in the case he was working on prior to being caught with his legal briefs around his ankles. He also found himself facing two separate probes into his behavior, especially since there were reports that the unnamed brunette was one of his clients. If his career survives this, he’s never gonna be able to say, “Your honor, if it pleases the court…” ever again.
Top image: Nampix, Fizkes/Shutterstock