Veteran attorney LeRoy Merkle showed up in court wearing a blue pinstripe suit. He wound up arguing his case in chains and shackles.

Last Thursday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Susan Sexton found the 56-year-old Brandon attorney in contempt of court for failing to properly account for how he spent a client's money.

Bailiffs put him in handcuffs and leg shackles and took him to a holding cell.

But Merkle had another case on the morning docket, so a little later they marched him back into court, where he had to represent a client on a different matter.

The chains were left on.

"I was held up to public ridicule and humiliation before two lawyers and my client, who had nothing to do with this," said Merkle. "Their jaws dropped to the table."

Merkle's arrest stemmed from his handling of the case of Robert Jacoby, a mentally incapacitated veteran whom he began representing as a guardian in 1996.

In 2000, Judge Sexton moved to have Merkle removed as guardian, saying he had paid himself more than $15,000 from Jacoby's assets without court approval.


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