Unhappy defendant: Unexpected sentence leads to smashed courtroom glass

A glass door leading to the Bartholomew Superior Court 1 courtroom that was installed when the courthouse was first opened in 1874 was shattered Wednesday. Defendant Jermaine Ford either rammed or kicked the east door to the courtroom in anger after being sentenced to 26 years for a Level 2 felony conviction of dealing in methamphetamine. Courthouse officials say the glass is no longer manufactured. Mark Webber | The Republic

A convicted methamphetamine drug dealer angered by a lengthy prison sentence destroyed an irreplaceable part of the Bartholomew County Courthouse’s 146-year history.

During a 10 a.m. sentencing hearing in Bartholomew Superior Court 1, Judge James Worton sentenced Jermaine Ford to 26 years in prison for dealing in methamphetamine, suspending four years of the prison sentence.

After the sentence was given, the 33-year-old Ford became so angry and belligerent that he began an obscenity-laced verbal tirade that was critical of court officials including the judge, the prosecutor, and even his own attorney, Worton said.

As the angry rhetoric escalated, Ford used an obscenity to tell the judge that if he wasn’t handcuffed, he would beat the judge up, Worton said.

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Had the defendant not been in restraints, Worton said he could have charged Ford with threatening a judge — a Level five felony with the potential to add up to six additional years to Ford’s sentence, the judge said.

Worton did add an additional six months of prison time to Ford’s sentence for contempt of court.

As two deputies were leading Ford out of the courtroom’s east entryway at about 10:40 a.m., the defendant either used his shoulder or his foot to swing the glass door so hard that it smashed into a hallway wall, causing the glass to shatter, Worton said.

“The door and glass were installed when the courthouse was originally built (in 1874),” county maintenance supervisor Rick Trimpe said.

Developed in the mid-19th century, this particular type of glass is no longer manufactured, and whatever replacement glass is chosen “is going to be very expensive,” Trimpe said. Representatives of Kenny Glass of Columbus have been asked to assess the damage and make recommendations, he said.

Even after the door was shattered, Ford continued his angry tirade in the hallways while being escorted out of the courthouse and back to jail, the judge said. Worton said he was later told that a young child in the hallway “went into a panic attack” after witnessing Ford’s display of anger.

Courthouse employees said some visitors to the second floor hallway were ushered into the law library and juvenile court for their safety when the glass shattered.

Ford was arrested in May 2018 on two counts of dealing in methamphetamine after Columbus police stopped his vehicle near State Road 11 and Carl Miske Drive, according to police.

This is the first case of the new year where a defendant’s behavior deteriorated into a security threat inside a local courtroom.

However, Wednesday’s incident was not the first in which a defendant expressed anger and erupted in a violent outburst in the courtroom.

In February 2017, defendant Jordan Rhoades was filmed by security cameras hurling chairs inside the Bartholomew Superior Court 2 courtroom, breaking computer equipment and causing a minor leg injury to Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Fisk.

In March 2017, during Rhoades’ sentencing hearing for three Level 5 felony counts of battery with bodily injury to a public safety officer, Rhoades flipped over a courtroom defense table in Bartholomew Superior Court 1 before being hauled away by Bartholomew County correctional officers. Rhoades’ sentencing in that case stemmed from an incident in the Bartholomew County Jail when Rhoades was accused of taking metal rods from a cell door and throwing them at three deputies, leaving scrapes, scratches and bruises on the officers.

Bartholomew County Commissioner Rick Flohr said he doesn’t believe that Ford’s behavior warranted additional security measures in Bartholomew County courtrooms this year.

“Security at the courthouse is already pretty good,” said Flohr, who just completed a year as chairman of the Bartholomew County commissioners. “I wouldn’t look for any changes in security, based on this example.”