Texting in Court Equals Jail for Utah Woman

LTB logo

A woman who sent two text messages from a Utah courtroom got 30 days in jail for contempt of court, sources reported recently.  While pretty much every court prohibits the use of cellphones while court is in session, 15 days per text is unusually harsh for an offense that normally results only in a glare from the bailiff (one glare of variable length per incident).

A court spokesperson, though, said it was not the text messages themselves but the content that put Susan Henwood in county jail.  Henwood was in court to observe a hearing in a debt-collection case against her and her husband, Joshua.  The plaintiff alleges that the Henwoods have been hiding assets, including a number of vehicles, in order to avoid repossession.  Joshua, too ill to attend this particular hearing, asked that Susan keep him updated, and she did.

The court was likely not too concerned about the first update, "It doesn't look good," probably just an accurate report of how the proceedings were going.  But the second update, "They're coming for the Polaris Ranger," was interpreted as a possible signal to hide assets (or at least one asset), and that seems to have been the problem.  Actually, the problem may have been Susan's inability to keep silent while texting — one report says that someone sitting near her in the gallery saw her texting while the judge and attorneys were discussing repossession of the Ranger, and was allegedly close enough to hear her say under her breath, "We will just move it.  They are not getting it."  It is not clear whether the judge actually saw the content of these texts or relied on this witness having peeped at them, but either way, Henwood went to jail.

Ultimately, she served just two days of the sentence, although the judge is reserving the right to reinstate the other 28 if necessary.

Link: ABA Journal
Link: KSL.com (Utah)