Monday, February 5, 2018

Michigan man's attempted courtroom attack on Dr Larry Nassar in USA Gymnastics case shines light on gross misapplication of contempt of court laws

Randall Margraves (left) tries to attack Dr. Larry Nasser (in red, lower center)
 in a Michigan courtroom. (From

A Michigan man was facing up to $7,500 in fines and more than three months in jail after his attempted courtroom attack last week on Dr. Larry Nassar, the physician at the center of the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal. (See video at the end of this post.)

Randall Margraves should thank his lucky stars that Judge Janice K. Cunningham chose not to hold him accountable for a contempt of court that happened right under her nose. The incident raises at least three issues that hit close to home here at Legal Schnauzer: (1) Finding -- or not finding -- individuals in contempt of court; (2) The dubious actions of courts in cases involving female victims, especially those targeted by male authority figures: (3) Gross inequity in application of laws across jurisdictions -- in some instances, the laws themselves vary wildly across state lines; in others, judges and juries apply the law with such inconsistency that it pitches any notion of "equal protection of the law" on its head.

Some Web sites have treated Margraves as a hero, and he clearly benefited from having a judge who was determined to ignore her state's statutory provisions regarding a contempt that could not be more clear.

When I read last Friday about the attempted attack on Nassar, I figured Margraves would be subject to relatively straightforward and mild contempt law, such as what you find in Alabama. Boy, was I wrong about that?

Here is the gist of contempt law in Alabama: The state recognizes two kinds of contempt: (1) Criminal contempt, which generally applies to an unruly act that takes place in view of the court and disrupts its operations; (2) Civil contempt, which is designed to coerce enforcement of the court's orders and is mostly used in cases of child support. A subject can be held for civil contempt until he complies with the court's order. Punishment for criminal contempt is limited to a $100 fine and imprisonment not to exceed five days. (See Code of Alabama 12-11-30.)

A reasonable person might think a criminal contempt would be treated more severely than a civil contempt. But that's not how it works in Alabama. If you are going to be held in contempt, you definitely want it to be criminal because the court is greatly limited in what it can do to you.

In fact, I was stunned at the differences between Alabama law and Michigan law on the subject of contempt. For example, Michigan law makes it clear that criminal contempt is considered a crime. I believe that's also the case in Alabama, but state law seems to dance around that subject.

Michigan's language on criminal v. civil contempt gets pretty convoluted, and it also uses the terms "direct contempt" (happening within the court's view) v. "indirect contempt" (happening outside the court's view. Michigan does its best to complicate what should be a fairly simple subject, but still, it seems clear Margraves engaged in a direct criminal contempt.

The punishment for that can sting big time in Michigan. From the Michigan Judicial Institute's Benchbook for Contempt of Court, which is 189 pages long:

Permissible Punishments for Criminal Contempt Sentencing discretion for criminal contempt is limited by statute to a fine of not more than $7,500, imprisonment not to exceed 93 days, or both. MCL 600.1715(1). The court may also place a contemnor on probation in the manner provided for persons guilty of a misdemeanor.

So, Musgraves was looking at a possible $7,500 in fines, 93 days of imprisonment, and probation -- or all three. Ouch! Alabama's $100 fine and five days in jail sounds downright puny -- even unmanly -- compared to what they do in Michigan. Heck, Alabama could become known as a bastion of LIBERALISM when it comes to contempt of court. What if word gets out to our legislators? What if it becomes known that Nick Saban operates in a limp-wristed state that coddles contemnors? Could that torpedo Saint Nick's recruiting efforts? 

What does all of this say about "equal protection of the law" and female victims of male authority figures? We've seen these issues play out in an up-close-and-personal way, and it's not a pretty sight to behold. Our examination continues in an upcoming post.


Anonymous said...

The public's efforts to turn Margraves into a hero make me extremely uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with Margraves' emotions, but the courtroom is not the place to express them.

Anonymous said...

LS, I've got to side with the father on this one. I think a lot of your readers are going to find you out of bounds on this one.

legalschnauzer said...

@6:53 --

Folks are free to disagree with me, and I'm sure that happens quite a bit. In this instance, perhaps I need to make my position more clear -- and I should note that we aren't finished with this subject; we have at least one more related post coming. Like a lot of folks, I can understand Musgraves' visceral response to being in Nassar's presence. But if Musgraves could not control his emotions, he should not have made an appearance. After all, these were supposed to be victim statements -- and his daughters were victims, not him. I blame the judge for allowing the father to speak, when he had no business doing so. To walk into a court and ask a judge for five minutes alone with the defendant is . . . well, it's stupid, and any semi-adult should have known better than to do that. Musgraves put at risk the well-being of several officers, lawyers, and court personnel in an effort to carry out his little act of vigilantism. My position is that if you are determined to pull such a stunt, be prepared to face the consequences, which can be quite severe in Michigan.

My main problem is with a judge turning a blind eye to an obvious act of contempt.

Anonymous said...

We have had our fair share of disagreements over the years, but I agree wholeheartedly with you on this one. By turning a blind eye, the judge only only encourages these kinds of actions.

Anonymous said...

I bet the father planned this, maybe discussed it with a few buddies or male family members. I wouldn't be surprised if a few bets were placed on whether or not he actually would do it.

Anonymous said...

Three months in jail, $7,500 in fines? Man, those folks are bad ass up in Michigan.

Anonymous said...

Hah, I can just see Alabama legislators getting wind of this and drawing up a bill to be tougher than the Michigan law on contempt of court.

Heck, we look like a bunch of p-ssies, and that must not be allowed to stand.

Anonymous said...

@7:29 I really don't think that the father planned this. I read that he didnt know the details that his daughters shared during their reading. I can not imagine what he was feeling knowing he failed to protect them. I have daughters of my own and can't even picture being in that situation. Saying that this was an act that he was making wagers on is way out of bounds.

As much as i agree the contempt statue wasn't enforced like it should have been, it only demonstrated how human this judge was. She had to listen to over 150 of these statements in detail - coupled with the suicides that this man caused. I dont blame the father one bit. Even if he could get this bastard for 30 seconds it would have been worth the punishment.

Anonymous said...

The judge excercised mercy. an open attack on the court can be distinguished from a man lashing out at a criminal (convicted, fwiw) who has harmed his young daughter when in a position of trust.

I realize contempt is relevant to your interests because you and Carol so frequently show your contempt for proceedings of the court, even those you have instigated.

You yourself have been removed from courtrooms but treated mercifully for your contempt, and you have nothing like this man's excuse. THe amazing thing is that you expect others to comply with the court while refusing to do so yourself.

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised 8:58 made it into this echo chamber.

legalschnauzer said...

Still making excuses I see -- for cops, drunk prosecutors, judges, and now contemnors.

Your argument about mercy is pure bullshit. Mercy would have been to sentence the father to a $1,000 fine and 1 month in jail. That would have been a light punishment, under Michigan law. The judge took an oath to uphold the laws of Michigan, and hers were not acts of mercy; they were acts of ignoring her oath and abusing the public trust.

Can you point to a single instance where Carol or I have "shown contempt" of proceedings in any court? You do realize this is a legal doctrine, not a matter of opinion for a blowhard like you to toy with?

Can you point to a single instance where I've been removed from a court room? Or are you just a lying con artist with feces coming out his ears? Put your money where your mouth is, ass wipe, and put some specifics behind your lies. Let's see you do it.

I usually have no use for the garbage you spew, but I kind of enjoy watching you fall in your own mess sometimes.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:45 --

Maybe that's because it's not an echo chamber, contrary to the sewage that resides in your putrid brain.

Anonymous said...

@8:58 --

Why don't you answer Mr. Schnauzer's questions? When have he or Carol actually committed contempt of court, under the law? When has Mr. Schnauzer ever been removed from a courtroom, as you claim.

Mr. Schnauzer challenged you several hours ago to provide specifics, and you haven't done it. Is that because you are a lying ass hat, who has been caught in his own lies? That's what it looks like from here. You've been outed as a fraud.

Anonymous said...

I sense that racism is spilling all over this story. Gymnastics is the ultimate suburban white sport, and I suspect a black father who caused such an uproar would not be treated so kindly by the court.

Anonymous said...

This was a political decision by the judge. If she stands for re-election, and she probably does, this was playing to her white political base.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:11 --

Yes, Michigan has judicial elections, so politics almost certainly played a role in the decision to ignore the law and let this guy off the hook:

Anonymous said...

@11:09 - playing the race card with child molestation. NICE!!!! and for the record - Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Mohini Bhardwaj, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes - all USA team members. Put the race card back in your pocket and stop drinking so early in the morning.

Anonymous said...

@8:58 --

You actually are defending the hiring of a prosecutor with a criminal record, a drunk driver. You are one twisted, perverted f--k.

LS has been overly kind to run any of your horse manure. Hopefully, he will take a hard line against pervs like yourself going forward. Oh, and did I mention you are a twisted f--k?

As someone else noted above, why don't you answer the questions Schnauzer posed to you? Is that because you can't answer them -- that you are a lying, slime bag, bottom feeder?

I suspect most readers come here because they take these issues seriously, and they know LS is one of the few places they are addressed with accuracy, insight, and conviction.

You, of course, come here because you are connected to the police brutality that led to Carol's broken arm -- and the coming civil case will threaten your little bailiwick. You are a selfish prick, with a rotting soul.

Have I mentioned you are a twisted f--k? Well, you are, and the world would be a better place if you were hit by a bus.

BIOYA, buster, you sick f--k.

Anonymous said...

Had to LOL at this . . .

"So, Musgraves was looking at a possible $7,500 in fines, 93 days of imprisonment, and probation -- or all three. Ouch! Alabama's $100 fine and five days in jail sounds downright puny -- even unmanly -- compared to what they do in Michigan. Heck, Alabama could become known as a bastion of LIBERALISM when it comes to contempt of court. What if word gets out to our legislators? What if it becomes known that Nick Saban operates in a limp-wristed state that coddles contemnors? Could that torpedo Saint Nick's recruiting efforts?"

Anonymous said...

The little punk Nassar should be on his knees thanking God he never touched my daughter. If he had, he would not have been sitting in that courtroom, clean, neat and in one piece. I would have broken every bone in his body and bloodied his face to a pulp. Let the court do whatever.

When did courts usurp my right to express my contempt for a little squirt who thought he could escape my rage for assaulting my daughter?

Nassar, be thankful thick, steel prison bars will protect you from what you so desperately deserve.

Anonymous said...

11:09 That was cute.

"Gymnastics is the ultimate suburban white sport..." Have you heard of Simone Arianne Biles (born March 14, 1997)? She is an American artistic gymnast and the 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist.

Anonymous said...

The judge has discretion and excercised that discretion. No one was hurt, and his outburst was fortunately for all concerned quickly contained, but more importantly his injurys had been severe and the emotional distress caused by the criminal extreme. HIown child (and attachment something LS has no experience with) was harmed by the bad guy.

Anonymous said...

The DUI was before he entered law school. After probation (successfully completed) where was any sign of continuing offense?

He's not the first college aged man to get a DUI and never get another in his lifetime.
Some lessons are hard to learn. Of course some can't be taught, as we have daily proof.

legalschnauzer said...

@3:11 --

Still trotting out excuses for Mr. Jain, the prosecutor with a DUI in his background? Is your life so void of meaning that you can do nothing but suck up to a corrupt prosecutor? What a pathetic existence you must lead.

BTW, going to come up with an example of me being removed from a courtroom -- or either Carol or me being found in contempt? Too busy making up excuses for Nicholas Jain?

legalschnauzer said...

@3:09 --

Are you in the Jack Daniels? Is your brain pickled.? Can't even begin to figure out what you are trying to say.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:45 --

Wow, aren't we a tough guy? Why don't you ID yourself so we can evaluate your tough-guy words. Heck, maybe Nassar would whip your ass.

Anonymous said...

O well. I thought we had some things in common that could lead to a helpful give and take friendship over the battlefield of out-of-control courts/judges/lawyers/court personnel.

To be honest, since you mentioned it, I am a very powerful, very large, and on a football field an extremely vicious animal or when someone, Anyone, hurts my daughter intentionally. Nothing I'm proud of, just instinctual desire.

Recruited by them Tigers (as a matter of fact) and Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, to name a few. Granddad was a surgeon who practiced medicine in Lebanon after WWII for 45 years. Retired Admiral. Normally, I don't mention things like these, but, you wanted to know something about me.

You mentioned you and others often disagree strongly about various issues, so I took a shot and expressed my gut. I wasn't bragging at all.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's not just contempt that he committed. He attempted an assault, which is it's own crime. He subjected those officers to being touched when they clearly didn't want to be touched. That's assaulting an officer. He caused public alarm, you can tell by the screams in the courtroom, which is disorderly conduct. I hope the union kicks him out. Clearly a man like this shouldn't be working anywhere.

legalschnauzer said...

Just my two cents: I think your point is valid that Margraves committed more than just a contempt of court. I don't know what you mean about a union kicking him out. Is he a union worker? If so, I'm not sure it's the union's place to boot this guy for something that had nothing to do with the union or his job. Your statement that "clearly a man like this shouldn't be working anywhere" seems extreme to me, and I don't see how such an approach could be justified.

In our world where you can be fired "for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all," Hargraves' job certainly could be on the line. But I would not support his termination.

Anonymous said...

To clarify my comment, he was wearing a union sweat shirt in court when the contempt took place and later was wearing a union jacket in an interview with a reporter. Given that, I feel it is safe to assume he is a union worker. My comment about him not being allowed to work was a tongue in cheek comment in reference to Jain's DUI.

legalschnauzer said...

You seem to have a problem with that tongue-in-cheek thing. Nowhere have I said I think Nicholas Jain, or any other drunk driver, should be prohibited from working. That's ridiculous. Nowhere have I suggested that he shouldn't be allowed to work in the law, given that he apparently has passed bar requirements. I have not even contended that the law prohibits Jain from working as a prosecutor because it clearly does not.

I have argued that I think it's poor policy for any pros. atty to knowingly hire a staff member with a criminal record, especially something as serious as a DUI. I also think it's poor policy for a law school to admit a student who is on probation for DUI.

You seem to think this is a matter for humor, which makes me wonder about your intellect and moral compass. You might want to take a look in the mirror, especially given that Nicholas Jain clearly has acted corruptly in bringing a baseless case against Carol.

That suggests he is compromised by the DUI in his background -- and it violates the public trust. Call me a weirdo, but that kind of thing troubles me -- and I don't find it the least bit amusing. That you do, makes me think you are not a well person.