The atmosphere in Highland County Common Pleas Court was tense Wednesday as a defendant went on a profanity-laced tirade against Judge Rocky Coss – an act that earned him 240 days in jail for being held in contempt of court multiple times throughout his hearing.
Thomas A. Barney, 35, Hillsboro, charged with fifth-degree felony forgery, had appeared in court Wednesday for a status hearing, during which Coss revoked Barney’s bond after noting he had failed to appear for a hearing in Hillsboro Municipal Court.
Coss set Barney’s bond at $25,000. At that point, Barney muttered a phrase under his breath.
“What did you just say?” the judge asked.
“I said that’s some bull——,” Barney replied, raising his voice.
“Alright, you’re in contempt,” Coss said. “That’s 30 days in jail.”
Barney then used another expletive, to which the judge replied, “That’s another 30 days.”
“You want to keep going, I’ll give you life, 30 days at a time,” Coss told Barney. “Now, do you want to shut up and listen, or do you want to just go to prison for life on an installment plan?”
After a few moments of silence, the defendant spoke again.
“I want to fire my lawyer,” he said.
The judge explained that if Barney wanted to hire another attorney, he could, but that it is up to the court whether or not a defendant can cut ties with court-appointed counsel. Barney’s court-appointed lawyer is J.D. Wagoner.
The discussion then shifted to Barney’s bond and alleged failure to appear. Coss said the court had revoked his bond because Barney was at risk of failing to appear again.
“Now, that’s the order of the court,” the judge said. “If you’re not happy with that, look in the mirror.”
“I’ve been trying,” the defendant said. “I’ve been trying to get help… but nobody will (expletive) give it to me… You think prison will (expletive) work for everybody. It’s not!”
At that point, Coss told Barney he had racked up 120 days in jail.
“That’s fine, give me (expletive) 10 more,” Barney said.
“That’s 150,” Coss said.
During the exchange, Bailiffs Dan Music and Ben Reno closed in on Barney. Music at one point restrained Barney by gripping his arm.
Wagoner got up from his chair next to Barney and stood near Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins in the opposite side of the bullpen as deputies with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office trickled into the courtroom for security.
Hillsboro Police Chief Darrin Goudy also made an appearance, and eventually, the room was crowded with law enforcement and spectators.
As Coss and the attorneys continued with the hearing, Barney attempted to speak up again.
“I’m not talking to you,” the judge said. “You aren’t to speak while I’m speaking.”
“Oh, of course,” the defendant said, again directing profanity at the judge.
“You’re going to get life if you don’t keep quiet,” the judge said.
All told, Coss doled out a total contempt-related jail sentence of 240 days.
Eventually, Barney calmed down, and the hearing was adjourned.
A jury trial has been scheduled for March 26.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.