A Morris man accused of obstructing police was held in contempt of court Thursday after making an obscene hand gesture inside a La Salle County courtroom.
Jacob Farmer, 28, had just completed a hearing before Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. when he exited the well of Ryan’s court and entered the spectator gallery. Seeing a Shaw Media reporter taking still photos (not video footage), Farmer raised the middle finger of his left hand as he exited courtroom.
Ryan saw the gesture and ordered Farmer returned to the bench. Farmer inquired as to why he was being held in contempt.
“You don’t flip people off in court,” Ryan said, adding later, “This is not a show-and-tell room.”
As required by the court, Shaw Local News Network was granted permission to take still photos in court of Farmer, and his sister, who also was in court Thursday, after filing the proper paperwork. The Farmers were served with file-stamped copies of the media request.
Ryan entered a finding of direct contempt but deferred handing down a penalty — a fine or jail time, Ryan told him — until after his case is concluded.
The case in question is obstructing a peace officer, a Class A misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail, for his alleged role in the March 8 arrest of his sister, 29-year-old Angel Farmer, who also faces misdemeanor charges.
The Farmers were charged following a March 8 incident at the La Salle County Courthouse on Etna Road, where they were conducting a videotaped public access compliance check. The siblings take video of their encounters entering public buildings and then upload the footage to YouTube.
A La Salle County court security officer was injured, resulting in three counts of misdemeanor battery for Angel Farmer. Both are charged with misdemeanor obstructing a peace officer.
Thursday, both appeared without legal counsel and told Ryan they had been denied the access needed to supply the La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office with discovery, that is, case information that must be exchanged between prosecution and defense.
Ryan told both to fulfill their discovery obligations and declined to hear open-court allegations of abuse and civil rights violations, instructing both to reduce their claims to writing.
“I don’t do discovery,” Ryan told Angel Farmer during her hearing. “I don’t do research and I don’t make arrests.”
Ryan gave them separate return dates. Angel Farmer will next appear June 24 while Jacob Farmer is set for July 28.