Courthouses, Rudeness, State Judges

Woman Who Flipped Off A Judge Now Receives Applause From The Bench (And An Apology From Me)

Earlier this month, we talked about “Punk Defendant” Penelope Soto. Soto was charged with possession of Xanax, and during her arraignment she gave the judge the finger.

Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat cited her for contempt and sentenced her to 30 days in jail.

Soto has cleaned up her act, got her contempt sentence dropped, and appeared in court earlier this week, where she was complimented by a different judge.

And I’ve got to admit, I feel bad about calling her a “punk” in the first place. I now think that she was high during her initial, profane court appearance, and they should have dried her out before sending her up before the judge….

NBC Miami reports that Soto appeared in court for a status hearing and has been doing well with her drug treatment program:

Soto, 18, attended a status hearing where it was revealed she’s passed eight drug tests and has attended all counseling sessions following her arrest earlier this month.

“Eight out of eight, that’s perfect, congratulations!” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeffrey Rosinek told Soto.

She smiled as the judge applauded her efforts and wished her continued success in the drug program.

I feel a little bad. I did the stupid blogger thing of jumping up and down about something without respecting that there was a real young person on the receiving end — a young person who was probably high as a kite during her 15 minutes of fame.

Granted, some will argue that the “tough love” and media embarrassment visited upon Soto motivated her to take her treatment seriously. That’s the paternalistic way of viewing it: she learned her lesson, and now she’s the better for it.

The other viewpoint, dare I say the more progressive viewpoint, is that maybe this “reformed” Soto is how she normally acts when she’s not allegedly taking a controlled substance. And maybe, just maybe, somebody should have given her a chance to dry out before putting her on the courtroom camera. I mean, we live in a world where the Supreme Court doesn’t have cameras or even live audio at their hearings, but it’s okay to put a running video feed on 18-year-old criminal defendants while they’re being arraigned, seemingly before they’ve had a chance to sober up? That’s not fair.

It’s an unfairness that I compounded by calling her a “punk” because it made for a punchy headline. I wish I hadn’t done that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to make fun of the stupid things kids do — whether or not they’re on something, mentally ill, or just downright mouth-breathing idiots. But making fun of people because they do stupid things and making fun of people because they were put in horrible situations are two different things (at least to me, and this is my conscience we’re talking about, so whatever). Somebody allowed that kid to go up there and speak for herself when she was clearly not ready, and then I made fun of her for it.

So, I’m sorry, Ms. Penelope Soto. And I truly wish you the best of luck going forward.

Penelope Soto, Woman Who Flipped Off Judge, Appears In Court [NBC Miami]

Earlier: Punk Defendant Potpourri: Punching and Cursing in Court Will Get You Held in Contempt

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