Florida State Senator files complaint against judge who jailed a Black man for missing jury duty
Florida State Senator Bobby Powell has taken action against a judge who sentenced a 21-year-old Black man to jail time for missing jury duty.
Powell filed a formal complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, against Judge Kasternakes, who is on the hot seat for how he handled Deandre Somerville, a non-violent, first-time offender after handing him a 10-day sentence because he overslept on the day he was supposed to report to serve jury duty.
“The thought that a judge would sentence a young man who had no previous history or incident with law enforcement to jail time, I was outraged,” Powell told ABC News.
“I know him, I’ve known this young man for many, many years. When I saw his picture on the front page of the local paper, I was very much not only hurt and disappointed but heartbroken. I’m at a loss for words about how I felt.”
I have known Deandre and his family for many years. He is a terrific young man who has led a respectful, law-abiding life. We should all be respectful of the judicial system. With that said, in my opinion the punishment was too severe and unfair. https://t.co/4yo0gRiBpI
— Rep. Lois Frankel (@RepLoisFrankel) October 10, 2019
Somerville said he has never been arrested and works for a youth after-school program for the City of West Palm Beach and Recreation Department. In his naiveite, he said he overslept and when he woke up, he thought it was too late to report to the court. So, he went to work for his afternoon shift thinking that it was pointless to try to attend the trial so late.
“We’ve all made mistakes. You would think, ‘OK, if I go to court, the judge sees me in court,’ what’s the worse thing you think could happen? When Deandre went back to court he had on his work uniform, we thought the judge would see he is working and see he is a good young man,” Powell said.
Judge Kastrenakis didn’t let Powell off the hook, and instead sentenced him to 10 days in jail, one year of probation and 150 hours of community service and $223 in court fines.
According to the judge, Somerville “inconvenienced the court” for at least 45 minutes, and that rubbed the judge the wrong way.
The case prompted national outrage which ultimately caused the judge to throw out the ruling and he said Somerville was “totally rehabilitated,” ABC News reports.
Powell is “strongly considering” later filing for the judge’s impeachment with the legislature.
“What I would like to see is Judge Kasternakes removed from the bench,” Powell said.
“He has indicated to me through this decision that he is not qualified to make a fair and impartial decision.”