WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – A Florida lawmaker is being joined by other local and community leaders to call for disciplinary action against the judge who jailed a 21-year-old man for oversleeping and missing jury duty.
Democratic State Senator Bobby Powell, Jr. of West Palm Beach said he has filed a complaint with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission over the actions of Judge John S. Kastrenakes of Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
“It’s clear he violated the code of conduct and should be responsible for his actions,” said Powell.
Judge Kastrenakes recently jailed Deandre Somerville for oversleeping and missing jury duty. Somerville was a sworn juror in a civil case, but could not be reached when court began on August 21.
He was held in contempt of court, spent 10 days in jail and sentenced to 12 months probation plus complete 150 hours of community service.
After serving the jail sentence, the judge rescinded his contempt finding, writing that Somerville has been apologetic, “totally rehabilitated” and no longer needs to be on probation.
Sen. Powell says earlier this year, Judge Kastrenakes reportedly jailed another man, Keith Lattimore, for missing jury duty as well. Both men are black.
According to Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, “A judge shall perform his or her duties without bias or prejudice, and shall not be swayed by partisan beliefs, public clamor, or fear of criticism.”
In the order announcing his decision to drop the contempt of court charge against Somerville, the judge said, “Given the abundant publicity surrounding Mr. Somerville’s case, I have concluded that the importance and seriousness of a sworn juror abiding by the law has been made clear.”
“That’s exactly the reason why we say, why I say he violated the judicial code of conduct,” said Sen. Powell. He says it because he “succumbed to public scrutiny.”
Attorney Edwin Ferguson, who is working with Somerville through his record expungement process, says the statement made him raise an eyebrow.
“I definitely find it interesting that the media attention was mentioned that it was even relevant.”
“The judge must be reassigned to a satellite courthouse until he shows rehabilitation,” said Ferguson.
Powell says Somerville was singled out because of his race.
He also takes issue with the 10 days of jail time given to a 21-year-old man who delayed a civil trial for 45 minutes when he did not appear after he was sworn in as a juror. He said it concerns him that he found a similar case involving the same judge and another young African American man earlier this year.
“He sentenced him to 9 days in jail. He was not even selected to be a juror; he was part of the juror pool. You don’t treat people that way and because of that I think the Judicial Qualification Committee should find that he is not fit to be a judge,” said Powell.
Powell is not the only politician from Florida asking for Kastrenakes to be reprimanded for his actions.
Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, of Miami, has posted several tweets calling out Kastrenakes’ actions including her most recent tweet Tuesday.
Deandre Somerville is a hard-working young man who was almost going to have to check the criminal record box on future job apps because he overslept & missed jury duty. Who's going to check Judge John Kastrenakes for his monstrous misuse of authority?https://t.co/nlEr7mSIh8
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) October 8, 2019
“Who’s going to check Judge John Kastrenakes for his monstrous misuse of authority?” she wrote.
Powell said he hopes the commission will consider his complaint and reprimand Kastrenakes as they see fit.
On Twitter, people have sent out the judge’s email and office phone number, asking the public to call and complain, and a Change.org petition asking for punishment for the judge had more than 15,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
“It makes me feel good to know I have the support of people. Not just my family,” said Sommerville.
Sommerville says he’s trying to move on with his life and go back to school. His ultimate goal, he says is to become a firefighter.
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