A judge has been slammed for shouting at a domestic abuse victim and then sentencing her to jail for not turning up to testify against her alleged attacker.
Recently released footage shows the furious Florida judge lash out at the victim after she tearfully told the court she failed to arrive out of “anxiety”
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On July 30, when the video was taken, the mother of a 1-year-old child appeared before Judge Jerri Collins in a Seminole County courtroom for a contempt of court hearing.
“Your honor, I’m very sorry for not attending the last one,” she said through tears. “I’ve been dealing with depression and just a lot personally since this happened. My anxiety is like, this is everyday for me.”
According to court documents, the victim was holding her child inside a Florida residence April 2 when the child’s father allegedly choked her and grabbed a kitchen knife. He was arrested. In a statement, the State Attorney’s Office said the man accused in the case had a prior domestic violence battery conviction.
Court documents said that in June, the woman was served with a subpoena to appear in court for the July 22 trial. She did not appear.
During that July 30 contempt of court hearing, the woman said she had gone to a domestic abuse class and had asked for the charges to be dropped. The woman said, in her defense during the hearing, that she did not want the alleged abuser to be convicted because when he’d been jailed previously, he’d lost his job and had been unable to pay child support. She said she’d lost her house and was now homeless.
“We’re trying to separate. … I’m trying to move on with my life. … I’m living at my parents’ house. … I had to sell everything I owned. I’m just not in a good place right now,” she said.
The judge found her in contempt of court and sentenced her to three days in jail.
“You were required to be here by a court order,” Collins said before issuing her decision. “You disobeyed a court order, knowing that this was not going to turn out well for the state.”
According to the Department of Justice, victims’ refusal to cooperate is “the prime reason prosecutors drop or dismiss domestic violence cases.”
On the video, the victim can be heard wailing as she is handcuffed.
“Judge, I’ll do anything. … I have a 1-year-old son and I’m trying to take care of him by myself. I’m begging you, please, please don’t,” she said.
The State Attorney’s Office said in a statement that domestic violence victims’ cooperation with the criminal justice system was “integral” to the successful prosecution of abuse crimes.
“The case was poised for trial and a jury was sworn. The victim refused to attend court the day of trial, going so far as to tell the State Attorney’s Office that she didn’t care if she was arrested as a result of her not complying with the court’s subpoena. The victim’s decision to thwart the court process by refusing to cooperate, despite a properly issued subpoena for her to appear in court, triggered the State to pursue an Order to Show Cause against her, and the Court’s subsequent sentence,” the office said.
The State Attorney’s Office said the alleged abuser had received 16 days in jail for simple battery and was ordered to pay court costs.
Jeanne Gold, the CEO of SafeHouse, an organization that offers shelter to abuse victims, said she’d approached Collins after the hearing in July and had told the judge the victim should have been given community service, not jail time. She believes the judge went too far.
“There’s no — absolutely nothing that I could think of that would be the reason to re-victimize this person by putting her in jail, and so I don’t understand where that thinking came from,” Gold told ABC News.
The victim has since left the alleged abuser and continues to live with her parents.
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