A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas To The Public Defenders

The maximum penalty for contempt almost anywhere, including Dallas, Texas, is 6 months in jail. Walter Mann, spent an extra 9, for a total of 15, by mistake.

He was never convicted of contempt, never even had a hearing, never saw a lawyer. He just sat, until his cellmate told an attorney about Mann.

Mann, oh man! What a disgrace.

The last 9-month mistake I heard about was an unplanned pregnancy.

You can read the story from cnn.com here

Walter Mann Sr., 69, was released the week before Christmas.

Why was he in jail? Mann's son was arrested in 2002 for assaulting him, and Mann was ordered to pay $50 per month for his son's housing.

Mann refused.

Prosecutors got an order to have Mann held in contempt, and the judge put Mann in jail pending a contempt hearing.

The court docket shows that the contempt order was lifted in October of '04. But the sheriff "didn't get the memo."

Mann, asked by his cellmate why he didn't want to make some calls to get out of jail said "Nah, I don't want to bother them with anything."

Mann's cellmate told his own lawyer, public defender Shoshana Paige, who had Mann released the same day.

Paige said: "This one seems to be pretty egregious."

Paige also wanted to say: "Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the can, many inmates were stirring, but not Walter Mann.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please click the link: http://www.tannebaumweiss.com/our_lawyers.php


  1. "Nah" I do not want to bother anyone! Maybe I missed the point, but if you choose to sit in jail for over a year because you do not want to bother anyone then you’re an idiot. Where was his court appointed counsel? Sheriff said he wasn’t lost in the system, but when you see a person in a jail cell for 13 months on a contempt charge, should that not raise a red flag? Hold the sheriffs office in contempt for contributing to the delinquency of an idiot.

  2. Mr. Mann was not an idiot. In fact, he has a history of mental illness, and really had no "people" to call. As for where his court-appointed counsel was, he didn't have any. The judge who ordered him arrested on the writ never appointed him an attorney.

    FYI, I am one of the attorneys who got Mr. Mann out of jail.

  3. I appreciate your response, for me to call him an idiot was insensitive, what I was thinking; giving that he really had no "people" to call. I only responded to his reasoning why he did not want to call someone. Instead he decided to sit in jail for 15 months. Where does one go after being released from a cell block? If he had an apartment, he doesn’t now. If he was paying mortgage, his home has been foreclosed. Maybe jail is where he actually wanted too be, three hot’s and a cot. Tell me something counselor, I thought everyone was entitled to legal representation, I used to watch Adam 12 when I was a child, they would always say "If you are poor and cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you". What happened here? Was Mr. Mann just lost?

  4. Prior to being arrested, Mr. Mann was living in a public housing building for the elderly. He was not homeless. But, once he was released, he was. The media attention did help us find him, though, and you can read about it here: http://www.dallasnews.com/s/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-jailfound_24met.ART.North.Edition2.1a77e21b.html

    As for why he was not appointed an attorney, well that is the $64,000 question. I am not an expert on these writs of attachment (not an actual criminal charge), but in my mind, the judge absolutely should have appointed him an attorney the minute she had him incarcerated on her writ. That would have solved a lot of problems.