Man jailed for contempt for jury duty excuse

2009-11-14T01:30:00Z Man jailed for contempt for jury duty excuseThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 14, 2009 1:30 am  • 

MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota plumber's worries about missing work if he had to serve on a jury didn't wash with a judge. The judge found the man in contempt of court and sent him to jail for a day.

Todd Gilly of Mora said he was just being honest when he said during jury selection that he could see himself "getting awfully frustrated" if he had to take off more than a day. As it turned out, the father of five ended up missing two days of work.

Gilly said he wasn't trying to shirk his civic responsibility - he was just worried about losing money during hard economic times. His company doesn't pay for jury duty, and while Gilly's wife does baby-sit, he said it's not enough for the family to live on.

"Times are slow right now," Gilly said. "I don't even get a 40-hour workweek. We're struggling to make bills as it is."

While being questioned along with other prospective jurors for a recent misdemeanor assault trial in Kanabec County, Gilly said he could see himself "getting awfully frustrated" if he had to take off more than a day, according to court records.

"I don't get paid when I'm not working. I could see myself just going with the flow to get it over with to get back to work," Gilly said while being interviewed.

The Star Tribune reported Kanabec County Chief Judge Timothy Bloomquist found Gilly in contempt of court and sentenced him to a day in jail.

Gilly was immediately taken away and locked up. When he was released 25 hours later, the trial was over.

Not only did he miss two days of work, Gilly also missed a parent meeting at school for his eldest son and a chance to watch his other son play in a championship youth football game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

"I thought that I did my duty by showing up and being honest," Gilly said. "I could've just went in there and just gone with the flow and not said anything."

Since his ruling could be appealed, Bloomquist said he was limited on how much he could comment. But he said: "If I hadn't thought it was fair, I would not have imposed it. I do not think it was disproportionate."

Court records show Bloomquist asked Gilly whether there was anything special about his circumstance that he needed to know.

"I don't believe so," Gilly replied.

The judge then issued his order, saying: "To be frank with you, Mr. Gilly, apparently you thought that I was just going to sit here and do nothing while you told us all that you intended to disregard about the law and the facts and the rights of both the State and the Defendant because it was inconvenient for you to be here. I don't intend to disregard that."

Public defender Barbara Rudquist, who was questioning Gilly and other prospective jurors for the trial, says opinions vary about the judge's action.

"I'm of two minds: You want jurors to be honest," she told the Star Tribune, "but you don't want the public to get the idea that they can get out of jury duty by giving obnoxious answers."

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