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Jailed for Yawning

Drowsy spectators in one suburban Chicago courtroom might want to stifle their yawns from now on. Clifton Williams, 33, of Richton Park, is facing six months in jail for making what court documents call a yawn-like sound in Will County Judge Daniel Rozak’s court last month. The yawn happened as Williams’ cousin, Jason Mayfield, was being sentenced for a drug charge on July 23.

Rozak found Williams in contempt of court and sentenced him to six months in jail. However, Rozak could free Williams after a status hearing Thursday, if Williams apologizes and the judge accepts. By then, Williams will have served 21 days.

Witnesses disagree about whether Williams’ yawn was out of line.

Charles Pelkie, spokesman for the Will County state’s attorney’s office, said the prosecutor in the courtroom at the time told him that what came out of Williams’ mouth could hardly be called a “yawn.”

“This was a very loud, boisterous, deliberate attempt on the part of this individual to disrupt the proceedings and show disrespect to the court,” Pelkie said. “It was not a guy who involuntarily yawned. This guy was making a statement — a very loud statement — in court.”

Mayfield disagreed, saying it was “not an outrageous yawn.” Williams has written his family to say that he can’t believe he’s in jail “for nothing.”

A message left for Rozak Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Six months is the maximum sentence judges can give for criminal contempt without a jury trial.

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