Cell phone contempt: Texting during trial lands juror in jail - WNEM TV 5

Cell phone contempt: Texting during trial lands juror in jail

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Benjamin Kohler Benjamin Kohler
SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

A 26-year-old man reported to court for jury duty and ended up behind bars.

Benjamin Kohler, of Salem, was selected to a Marion County jury Tuesday morning to hear evidence in an armed robbery trial.

Judge Dennis Graves gave his standard jury instructions before lawyers presented their evidence. Those instructions included telling jurors they were to pay close attention to all of the witnesses and that using their cell phones during court proceedings was prohibited.

The latter warning was issued several times, according to deputies.

With a Salem police officer on the stand providing testimony, the lights were dimmed to show a video. That's when Graves noticed a light reflecting on Kohler's chest.

The judge said it was obvious Kohler was texting.

Graves immediately called for a recess, cleared the courtroom and excused all of the jurors except Kohler. Investigators said he had no explanation for his actions.

The judge instructed a court security deputy to take Kohler into custody for contempt of court. He was arrested and transported to the Marion County Jail.

There is no bail for the charge. The judge ordered Kohler released from jail late Wednesday evening.

"Every juror has the responsibility to devote his entire attention to the witnesses and evidence being presented," Graves said in a statement. "In this case, Mr. Kohler failed to meet his obligations and failed to honor the direction of this court. My hope is that he will use his time in jail to reflect upon his behavior."

A previously selected alternate juror replaced Kohler on the trail, which concluded Thursday with a conviction for the defendant.

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