Florida Judge Denies Public Defender Because 18-Year-Old Defendant “Could Sell Her Jewelry” To Afford Lawyer

This video of Penelope Soto’s arraignment in front of Miami Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat for possession of Xanax without a prescription went viral because of her attitude problem and telling the judge to “fuck himself” while giving him the middle finger…

But what’s actually incredible about this video is this:

  1. The judge denied her a public defender on the premise that she “could sell her jewelry” in order to pay for a lawyer, despite admitting to income of only $200/week (a little more than $10,000 per year, and below the poverty line, even in Florida).  It isn’t clear exactly how much jewelry she has, but a lawyer may cost per hour more than she makes in a week.  She is clearly unable to afford an attorney, and is entitled to have one appointed to her.
  2. The judge doubled her bail based on her saying, “Adios!”  I’m not really sure why he took offense to this moreso than her general laughing throughout the proceeding, but it doesn’t matter.  A judge is not permitted to set bail based on the defendant’s attitude, but rather only on the bases of ensuring that she returns and preventing harm to the public.
  3. The girl had no attorney for her arraignment.  Why not?  None of this “attitude problem,” which is likely because she was nervous and without her Xanax (a popular anti-anxiety drug), would have been an issue if she had an attorney speaking for her.  The State and County need to step it up here.  Because they wouldn’t pay a public defender something like $20 for the 15 minutes of his salaried time, the taxpayers will now spend closer to $1,000 housing this woman for 30 days.
  4. Beyond the judicial misconduct, WTF is wrong with our war on drugs?  Felony drug charges, $5,000 bond, and a night in jail for possession of medicine?!  They didn’t accuse this woman of dealing — just of mere possession.  Meanwhile, rich people can pay doctors and get all of the pills they want, but this 18 year old, who would be forced to sell her jewelry to pay for a lawyer, can’t, and therefore she pays the price.

This whole system is screwed, and I truly don’t blame this girl for being so nervous that she was unable to control herself.

9 thoughts on “Florida Judge Denies Public Defender Because 18-Year-Old Defendant “Could Sell Her Jewelry” To Afford Lawyer

Add yours

  1. The war on drugs make the TSA look like a very minor sin in comparison.

    However, I’m not too inclined to find fault with the judge here–she doesn’t seem to be taking this seriously, that suggests she very well might not show up for trial.

    1. Even if you don’t want to find fault with the judge regarding bail (although precident is clear that his actions were unlawful), how about the refusal to appoint her a public defender? The right to an attorney is fundamental.

  2. when folks have Xanax without a prescription, they aren’t necessarily taking it for the medicinal effect of helping cope with anxiety. They just like the sedative effect of the drug.

    that said, I still agree with you. it’s ridiculous to further ruin the lives of people like her–which is what I believe the harsh penalties do. sends folks further down the road to ruin, and it isn’t necessary, and it doesn’t help us get rid of the drug abuse.

  3. There’s a FELONY law in Florida against possessing medicine for personal use without a prescription?
    Wow that’s fascism to the extreme… but I’m not surprised, they are crooks down there.

  4. Hello, all is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that’s actually good, keep up writing.

  5. I went to every single court date thanks ! But yes I was very anxious at that time . Thank you Jonathan for backing me up whether or not I was making a fool of myself I was going through a lot at that time in my life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: