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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — The verdict is in for a Broward judge on trial.
On Friday afternoon, the jury found Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato guilty of driving under the influence and reckless driving. Judge Imperato gave no reaction when the jury’s verdict was read.
Following her conviction, she was sentenced to 20 days on house arrest and 12 months on probation.
Prosecutors wanted Judge Imperato to serve 30 days in jail but the judge decided on house arrest.
The state asked for Imperato to pay a $2,000 fine and have her drivers’ license revoked.
Prosecutors said Imperato deserved a serious punishment.
“She endangered three people that night. We don’t know how many people were in those cars. Testimony came out that she nearly sideswiped two cars on two separate occasion and those cars luckily enough were able to have the reflexes or the wherewithal to avoid that type of circumstance,” said Prosecutor Richard Clausi.
The jury reconvened Friday after members left the courtroom late Thursday evening.
Imperato was arrested by Boca Raton Police for a DUI in November 2013.
When Judge Imperato was pulled over, she initially refused to get out of the car.
“I’ve asked you nicely several times, to step out of the car,” the officer was heard saying on video of the arrest shown to the court.
“I’m trying to call my lawyer,” she explained to the officer. “I’m going to sit in my car until I get my lawyer.”
Prosecutors showed jurors the video of her arrest and the refusal to do a breath test. The prosecutors said she would not take the test because they are certain she would have failed.
Imperato was stopped after another driver called 911, saying they saw an erratic driver go by. Initially, the caller thought it was a man behind the wheel.
“He’s all over the road!” the caller said. “He nearly sideswiped me twice. He’s got to be drunk.”
In opening statements on Wednesday, prosecutor Ari Goldberg explained Imperato was at a function with lawyers and judges and there was an open bar.
Goldberg said the judge admitted to the officer who stopped her that she had been drinking. He also said the officer noticed glassy eyes and the smell of alcohol on her breath.
“She knew this whole time, as soon as those lights came on that she was in trouble. She knew she was impaired. She’s the only one who could know it 100%,” said Prosecutor Richard Clausi.
Imperato’s attorney said the person who called 911 had no idea who was in the car and no idea what was going on inside. Collet suggested maybe she was sending a text message or trying to find an address on her phone GPS.
Imperato’s attorney’s said that there was no solid evidence that Imperato was drunk behind the wheel.
“This lady was able to walk, able to talk, able to give her address, able to speak. Do you believe she was falling down drunk? Intoxicated? Wobbly?” said Marc Shiner, Imperato’s attorney.
A witness and a police officer testified she was swerving all over the road — endangering other drivers.
“The Mercedes drifted into their lane quite far and both drivers, I heard them blow their horns,” said witness William Barthelme.
Defense attorneys said the case was filled with holes.
“There’s a lack of evidence in this case all day long. Ten thousand reasonable doubts,” said Shiner.
What happens now for Judge Imperato?
CBS4’s Carey Codd spoke with the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) which is the state agency that investigates judges.
They said their cases are confidential but in a case like this one, the JQC would investigate, hold a hearing and make a recommendation on punishment to the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Supreme Court would make the final decision on whether a judge convicted of DUI would be reprimanded or potentially removed from the bench.
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