CLEVELAND, Tenn.—A Bradley County court interpreter was found in criminal contempt of court Thursday for viewing lewd pictures in the courtroom.
Mark Weissenberg testified he innocently opened an email from his brother in California and found the photos. He also said he believes complaints filed against him by two women who work in the courtroom are an attempt to intimidate him.
Weissenberg has filed a federal lawsuit against the county for allegedly not paying him properly for his Spanish translation services.
General Sessions Judge Sheridan Randolph said Thursday’s hearing was not a criminal proceeding, nor was it about defining pornography. He fined Weissenberg $10, which the judge said, was the maximum that could be charged by law.
Randolph also suspended Weissenberg from translation duties until July 29. That is when the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts has scheduled a hearing on the complaints filed by the two women.
The Bradley County District Attorney’s office had lawyers in the courtroom but they only watched.
Amber Hoskins, a court advocate with the Family Violence Program, testified Thursday that she was sitting near Weissenberg on March 10 and saw him scrolling through his laptop and stopping at “pictures of fully naked women. I was very upset.”
Bradley County Deputy Sheriff Nathan Headrick testified that he also saw Weissenberg looking at the photos.
“I saw several pictures of women in various stages of undress,” Headrick testified. He said he heard Weissenberg say, “Trashy, trashy. Oh, that’s trashy.”
Melissa Rodante, also a court advocate, filed a separate complaint against Weissenberg on March 30.
She testified that she saw a video pop-up on Weissenberg’s laptop screen of three women.
“Two completely undressed girls were in the background,” she said, and fondling each other’s breasts. A third woman was in front, topless and wearing a bikini bottom, she said.
Weissenberg testified that he began bringing a laptop to court a few months ago to file required paperwork for his translation cases.
“There was nothing to do,” he said about the March 10 complaint, “and I was scrolling through my emails.”
He said the email from his brother was labeled “Ferrari Testarossa.” Having owned a Ferrari at one time, Weissenberg said he opened the email to find a photo of a naked woman posed on top of the car.
“The more I scrolled down, the worse they got,” he said.
He said he, too, found the photos offensive and shut the computer to disconnect them.
Randolph watched courtroom security video on a laptop from the bench.
“You couldn’t tell anything from it,” he said, but he concluded that Weissenberg’s computer watching was “of a short duration” and took place before court began.
The judge said, however, he also noticed Weissenberg looked at the computer during court but no one around him reacted to whatever was on the screen.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...