Florida Judge Denies Public Defender Because 18-Year-Old Defendant “Could Sell Her Jewelry” To Afford Lawyer
February 5, 2013 7 Comments
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.