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Fla. state senator seeks ouster of judge who sent juror to jail for oversleeping

Skyler Swisher, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A Palm Beach County judge who sent a man with no criminal record to jail for 10 days because he overslept and missed jury duty is now facing a complaint filed by a state senator.

State Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat, said he wants the Florida Supreme Court to remove Judge John S. Kastrenakes from his post.

Powell filed a complaint with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which is charged with investigating allegations of judicial misconduct and making disciplinary recommendations to the state Supreme Court.

"If he is not going to be fair as a judge, he does not need to be there," Powell said Wednesday.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami has also called on Kastrenakes to step down, tweeting that the sentence he delivered represented "an outrageous abuse of power."

Kastrenakes sentenced Deandre Somerville, a 21-year-old college student, to serve 10 days in jail, complete one year of probation, perform 150 hours of community service, write an apology letter and pay $223 in court costs.

 

The West Palm Beach man reported for jury duty Aug. 20, and he was selected to serve on a panel for a civil trial in an auto negligence case.

But he was a no-show the following day, delaying the start of the trial by 45 minutes, before the proceedings continued without him. Called to a hearing Sept. 20, Somerville was found guilty of criminal contempt, a misdemeanor, and was immediately placed into custody. He was released Sept. 29.

Somerville apologized and told the judge he should have notified the court that he had overslept. After a national backlash, Kastrenakes vacated the rest of Somerville's sentence.

Powell said he's known Somerville and his family for more than a decade, and Somerville never should have been sent to jail.

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