“Not qualified to make a fair and impartial decision,” is how Florida State Senator Bobby Powell described the judge who sentenced a 21-year-old man to 10 days in jail for missing 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, who has filed a formal complaint against Judge Kasternakes, told ABC News. “I know him, I know 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.”
“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.
Deandre Somerville, who said he overslept the day he was required to be a juror, served all 10 days behind bars. He was also ordered to be put on probation for a year, complete 150 hours of community service, pay a $223 fine and write a letter of apology to the court. After the sentencing prompted outcry and disbelief from the public and criminal justice experts, Kasternakes vacated the ruling and declared Somerville “totally rehabilitated.”
The senator said that while he has for now, only filed a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, he said there is an opportunity for him to file for the judge’s impeachment with the legislature, something he said he is “strongly considering.”
Powell filed his complaint against the judge with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Sun-Sentinel reported, and the senator confirmed to ABC News. While he is unsure what the commission will do in response to the complaint, he said he knows what he wants the outcome to be.
“What I would like to see is Judge Kasternakes removed from the bench,” Powell said, adding that he has received complaints about the judge from others who did not want to be publicly named. “He has indicated to me through this decision that he is not qualified to make a fair and impartial decision.”
But Powell said the process should be fair — and “not the way [the judge] treated Somerville,” he said.
Other politicians have also voiced criticism, including Congresswoman Lois Frankel of Florida, who called the punishment “severe and unfair” on Twitter.
A call left at Judge Kesternakes’ office by ABC News for his response has not been returned.
ABC News’ Meghan Keneally and Ella Torres contributed to this report.
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