MIAMI - One day after Michel Escoto was held in contempt of court for threatening a witness in his murder trial, the judge warned the self-representing defendant that she would replace him if he had another outburst.
"This is not a circus and it's not a show," Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez said Friday. "It's an emotional circumstance. It's serious. … This is a murder trial. But we're not going to make it a comedy or a show. I'm not going to allow that."
Assistant state attorney Gail Levine said Tinkler's warning wasn't enough.
"That's not enough for me to feel safe," Levine told Mendez. "It is not enough for my partner to feel safe."
Levine called Escoto a "time bomb waiting to explode."
"He is passive-aggressive with this court, which is extremely dangerous," Levine said.
Escoto, who is accused of killing his wife less than a week after they were married, was held in contempt Thursday after he threatened the civil attorney representing the family of his dead wife, Wendy Trapaga.
Because he is representing himself, Escoto returned to court Friday.
Just as he has attempted to defend himself throughout his trial, Escoto tried to defend his actions, telling the judge that Jorge Borron's statement was "insulting."
"Because I do have feelings, judge," Escoto said.
Levine said she "might not be able to proceed" and asked that the configuration of the courtroom be changed so she wasn't pinned against the wall. She also wanted a deputy and bailiff next to her, saying she's seen tables toppled and feces thrown before.
Mendez recognized Levine's concern and granted her request.
"It doesn't get worse than that until someone gets hurt," Levine said. "I'm not willing to do that."
Escoto said he thought the jury should be made aware of the fact that Levine was "afraid" of him. But Levine quickly corrected him.
"No, no, no, no, no, no," Levine interrupted. "Don't mis-characterize my statement, Mr. Escoto."
Mendez told Escoto she would not highlight that because she didn't think it caused any noticeable impact.
"Let me be very, very clear," Levine said. "I'm not afraid of him. I'm afraid of the havoc that he wreaks. That's what I'm afraid of."
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