Update: Judge Who Jailed Teen for Disrespect Famous for Fighting on Floor of Fla. Legislature

[Update to the Update: The Miami-Herald Runs This Story]

[Update to the Update to the Update: Penelope has been freed after apologizing to the court.]

It turns out that the judge from my previous post who deemed it proper to deny a teen girl an attorney for her arraignment, deny her an attorney for future proceedings (“sell your jewelry!”), raise her bond because she had an attitude, and then jail her for 30 days after she lost it and gave him the middle finger, became famous for his lack of ability to control his own temper. Back 15 years ago, Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat made headlines for attacking a fellow legislator on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives. He, of course, was not sent to jail to “learn his lesson.”

It’s interesting that Jorge, who seems to be of Latin descent and speaks with a heavy accent despite being in the U.S. most of his life, seems to have a thing against others of Latin descent. The man he attacked on the House floor was also Latin, and he only flipped out on the teen girl — a Latina — in his court after she said “adios.” This guy seems to have some issues.

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.

Broward County Wastes Tax Dollars Delaying Inevitable Appeal

A couple months ago, U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard dismissed much of my lawsuit from when I was detained in FLL airport for refusing to let the TSA “touch my junk.” Two of the 21 claims my lawsuit were allowed proceed, and I’d like to appeal the 19 dismissed counts immediately. In order to do that in federal court, I need to have the judge essentialy sign off that those 19 counts are “done.” You might think that it would be obvious that they’re done since they’ve been dismissed, but since the entire lawsuit wasn’t dismissed, that “Rule 54(b) certification” is required.

The TSA, surprisingly, had no opposition to this, since as a party who is experienced in being sued, they understand that my appeal is as of right and will happen sooner or later. Broward County and its sheriff, however, wrote to the court to ask that she not certify that judgment is final on those counts, despite the fact that the appeal will happen eventually (after the 2 remaining counts are settled) even if the judge refuses to certify. I have no idea why they want to delay, since as a pro se litigant I have all the time in the world. The reply of the sheriff, however, was particularly hilarious: he spent more than a full page whining about how I travel around suing everyone and therefore the judge shouldn’t certify. Obviously, this is entirely irrelevant and untrue: I’ve gone after the TSA in one district ever.

So, I made this little infographic to help the court to parse the sheriff’s reply:


It sucks that tax dollars are being wasted on this futile motion, especially in light of the fact that I have offered to settle for changes to policy instead of money — an offer that was declined.

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