HONOLULU – Junior Stowers raised his hands and exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus!" in court last month when he was acquitted by a jury of abusing his son.
But his joy was short-lived when Circuit Judge Patrick Border held him in contempt of court for the "outburst" and threw him in jail.
Stowers, 47, sat in the courtroom and a cellblock for about six hours until the judge granted him a hearing on the contempt charge and released him.
The judge at a July 7 hearing dropped the contempt charge, a petty misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail.
Stowers couldn't be reached for comment. But his attorney in the contempt case, Deputy Public Defender Susan Arnett, said he wasn't treated fairly.
"I don't think there's anything about saying 'Thank you, Jesus' that rises to the level of contemptuous behavior in this case," she told The Honolulu Advertiser.
Stowers is a devoutly religious man active in his church who spontaneously expressed his thanks to the higher power in which he believed, she said.
Family members and Stowers' pastor at Assembly of God Church, Iakopo Sale, who watched from the gallery were "very upset that those words could land somebody in jail," Arnett said.
Border declined to comment but indicated the court minutes reflected his actions. The minutes showed he found Stowers' "nonverbal gestures and outbursts to be disruptive and improper regardless of content."
Court minutes said Border later dropped the charge because he realized Stowers' trial lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Carmel Kwock, did not have time to tell Stowers the judge had ordered both sides not to show emotion when the verdict was announced.
Stowers, of Honolulu, was charged with hitting his 15-year-old son with a broomstick in January. The misdemeanor charge of abusing a household member carries a sentence of up to a year in jail. Stowers was free on a $1,000 bond.
During the trial last month, the boy recanted his earlier statements that his father hit him, according to court records.
The boy instead testified his brother had hit him with a car door, a story verified by the brother in court.
Just before the verdict was announced on June 29, Border called city Deputy Prosecutor Sean Sanada and Kwock to the bench and told them he didn't want a show of emotion by either side, according to a defense request to dismiss the contempt charge.
When Stowers made his remarks after the verdict was announced, the judge told him, "There will [be] no more of that," the papers said.
Stowers asked to approach the bench and apologize, but the judge told him he could not and ordered him to remain in the courtroom, the defense request said.