A Florida man who missed jury duty because he had overslept was sentenced to ten days in jail.
Deandre Somerville, 21, who has has no criminal record, said he had no experience with court proceedings in the past.
He said the 10-day sentence kept him from helping his grandfather, a former West Palm Beach vice mayor and commissioner who is recovering from a heart attack. Somerville, who was attending college in Georgia studying to become a juvenile probation officer, returned to South Florida to help with his grandfather by taking him to the rehabilitation pool.
But Palm Beach County Civil Circuit Judge John S. Kastrenakes said Somerville committed a serious crime by missing jury duty.
“Jury misconduct is a serious concern said the judge who was once accused of judicial misconduct after he threatened to rule against any Florida Highway Patrol officer in his courtroom after a state trooper had issued him a couple of traffic tickets.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office filed a complaint against him, saying Kastrenakes “attempted to use the prestige of his judicial position to influence and gain advantage” over the trooper who ticketed him, according to a 2010 Palm Beach Post article.
and he ended up recusing himself from seven cases involving the FHP as well as writing a letter of apology saying he had been “upset about receiving a ticket which seemed to me to be unjustified by the circumstances,” according to a 2010 South Florida Sun Sentinel article.
With that scandal well behind him, Kastranekes wanted to teach Somerville a lesson by missing jury duty. In addition to the 10-day jail sentence which Somerville served in August, the judge also ordered him to pay a $223 fine, work 150 community service hours and serve one year of probation where he had to check in once a month with a probation officer.
He also had to write a letter of apology.
According to the Palm Beach Post:
Somerville, who was chosen and sworn in as a juror for a civil case, told Kastrenakes he overslept when he was supposed to report for duty Aug. 21 and then didn’t call in as instructed to let court officials know of his absence. According to the court filing, Somerville’s action delayed the trial less than an hour.
As part of his probation, Kastrenakes required that Somerville give 10-minute speeches to potential jurors about his actions “to make sure this kind of conduct doesn’t happen again,” the judge said. For every 10 minute speech he gives, Kastrenakes said he will award Somerville three hours toward the 30 hours of community service required as part of his probation.
Assistant Public Defender Daniel Eisinger said Somerville “knows what has done and he’s suffered a tremendous penalty.” He told the judge his client is an “honorable young man, and I don’t use that word lightly at all.”
“I think one day he’s going to be the next mayor, the next governor, and we’re all going to be working for him,” Eisinger said. “We just have to make sure this isn’t a hurdle for him.”
Somerville spoke directly to the judge apologizing for his actions and then read from a letter. He said when received his summon for jury service, it was the first time “I ever put a foot in the courthouse,” let alone was chosen for a court case. He said he’s lived his life trying to steer clear from the criminal justice system.
On Friday after a national outcry, the judge reduced the probation to three months and his community service hours to 30.
There is also an active petition accusing the judge of sentencing an innocent man named Anthony Wint to prison for crimes he did not commit.