Saturday, January 09, 1999

Rape suspect's mother sent to jail

Argument brings contempt citation

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Karen Zimmerman went to court Friday to see her son arrive from jail for his rape trial. But before he got there, she was on her way to jail herself.

        Mrs. Zimmerman was sentenced to six months after a brief confrontation with an assistant prosecutor and the family of her son's alleged victim.

        Her son, Shaun, is charged with raping an 8-year-old boy Oct. 26 in a restroom stall at the Value City department store in Springdale.

        As the attorneys prepared to start the trial Friday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, Mrs. Zimmerman began arguing with assistant prosecutor Heather Russell.

        Ms. Russell said Mrs. Zimmerman had made an inappropriate comment to the 8-year-old boy and his mother.

        Judge Robert Ruehlman, who was not in the courtroom at the time, ordered deputies to return Mrs. Zimmerman to the room a few minutes later.

        The judge said he had warned Mrs. Zimmerman about her conduct earlier this week when she disrupted another hearing.

        “I don't like disruptions in my courtroom,” Judge Ruehlman said. “I don't want it to be like Jerry Springer.”

        Although Mrs. Zimmerman apologized, the judge declared her in contempt of court and ordered her to serve the maximum six months in jail.

        After hearing the sentence, Mrs. Zimmerman muttered some expletives and said, “You're a prejudiced judge.”

        The disruption occurred shortly before her son was led into the courtroom for the start of his trial. Mr. Zimmerman, 20, is accused of fondling and raping the child.

        During jury selection Friday, Ms. Russell said Mr. Zimmerman gave police a statement after his arrest that indicated “he had some interaction with the boy.”

        She added, however, that prosecutors do not have any physical evidence of rape and the boy suffered no injuries. “But no injury doesn't mean it didn't happen,” she said.

        A jury was selected Friday and the trial will resume Monday with opening statements.


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