— ORLANDO, Fla. - Casey Anthony wasn't the only one on trial Thursday in Judge Belvin Perry's courtroom. A 28-year-old spectator was found in contempt of court for giving the middle finger to a prosecutor.
Matthew Bartlett, a server at TGI Friday's, was called out by the judge after the defense rested and jurors and attorneys had left the courtroom.
Perry asked the noticeably shaken Bartlett why he flipped off Jeff Ashton, a state prosecutor in Anthony's murder trial, while court was in session. Bartlett couldn't give a good reason.
Perry showed Barlett a picture of someone giving the finger in court, and Bartlett sheepishly acknowledged it was him.
"What is that symbol that you are projecting with your fingers?" the judge asked
"Using my middle finger. I am sorry,” Bartlett said in a low voice.
Perry asked Bartlett what the gesture meant to him. "The F word," he responded.
When pressed, Bartlett said he couldn't explain why he made the gesture. He acknowledged that he saw signs posted outside the courtroom warning that hand gestures and facial expressions in reaction to proceedings were not allowed inside.
"It was just a stupid thing I did," Bartlett said, apologizing several times.
Perry found him in contempt of court and sentenced him to six days in jail plus a fine of $400 and court costs of $223. He told Bartlett his action “could have jeopardized” all the work that has gone into the trial, which was in its 32nd day.
Bartlett told the judge he made about $15,000 a year at his job and had less than $30 in his bank accounts. The judge gave him six months to pay the fine.
Perry than asked if Bartlett wanted to appeal. "Yes," Bartlett said.
A public defender was appointed to defend him.
After court, Ashton
told the Orlando Sentinel he did not notice the man sticking the finger up at him. He called the incident "just another odd aspect of this case."
Anthony is accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. She could face the death penalty if convicted.