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Peter McDermott, Idaho Judge, Orders Defendant's Mouth Taped Shut

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POCATELLO, Idaho — An eastern Idaho judge who lost patience with the disruptive behavior of a defendant ordered court officials to tape the man's mouth shut with duct tape during a court hearing. The unusual move was ordered by 6th District Judge Peter D. McDermott during a probation violation hearing for Nicklas Frasure, 23.

Frasure was convicted of felony theft in 2008, but the judge retained jurisdiction for sentencing depending on Frasure's response to treatment. In October, Frasure was released from a state mental hospital in Blackfoot.

He is accused of violating his probation by not taking prescribed medication.

During the hearing, witnesses told the judge that Frasure's behavior had been strange and erratic since his release from the state hospital. They also said he has not been taking his medication and has been consuming alcohol, factors also contributing to mood and emotional swings.

Probation officer Julie Guiberson testified that Frasure is a threat to himself and others.

During Monday's hearing, Frasure interrupted the proceedings with repeated verbal outbursts and unusual behavior and ignored several orders from McDermott to restrain himself. After another series of outbursts, McDermott told bailiffs to silence Frasure.

The bailiffs then found a roll of duct tape, tore off a piece and put it over Frasure's mouth, according to the Idaho State Journal.

"He's obviously not mentally competent," Frasure's lawyer Kent Reynolds told the judge.

Earlier in the hearing, Reynolds had asked the judge to order a mental competency evaluation for Frasure.

McDermott said he would consider the request, but did not immediately rule on it. McDermott placed Frasure under the jurisdiction of the Idaho Department of Correction. He is being held in the Bannock County Jail awaiting transfer to a state facility. Officials, citing privacy rules, declined to say where he would be transferred.

An Associated Press call for comment, left with the Idaho Judicial Council, was not immediately returned Tuesday. The council investigates all complaints filed against Idaho judges.

The American Civil Liberties of Idaho refrained, for now, from commenting on McDermott's decision to silence Frasure.

"The ACLU of Idaho cannot comment on the specifics of this case," said Monica Hopkins, executive director. "However, on one hand judges have a right to keep order in their court and on the other the defendants have a right to assist in their own defense and be present at trial. Our hope is that judges employ the least restrictive manner of keeping order in their courts."

At the end of the hearing, the judge ordered bailiffs to remove the gag and said he hoped Frasure's condition would improve with being under state custody.

Frasure responded, "You want to arm wrestle?" as he was led out of the courtroom by bailiffs.

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Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com