• Video shows judge berating, sentencing domestic violence victim to jail

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    SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 has obtained video from a Seminole County courtroom where an emotional domestic violence victim was sentenced to three days in jail for failing to show up for her abuser's trial.
     
    During her contempt of court hearing in July, the woman told the judge she had been having anxiety for months after she was attacked by the father of her child.
     
    She said she told the state's victim's advocate that she wanted to drop the charges and move on with her life rather than testify, but she was still called in to court.
     
    After she failed to show, she received no pity from the judge during the brief hearing.
     
    "You need to tell the court why I should not hold you in contempt of court, I can sentence you to jail," Judge Jerri Collins said.


    Raw: Judge sends domestic violence victim to jail


    "I just, things were..." the sobbing woman said.
     
    "Why didn't you show up to court?" Collins asked.
     
    "I'm just, my anxiety, and I'm just..." the woman replied.
     
    "You think you're going to have anxiety now?  You haven't even seen anxiety," Collins told the woman.
     
    "I know," the woman said.
     
    "Those statements you told to the police on the day of this incident, is it true?  The incident that happened on April 2, is it true?"
     
    "Yes," the woman said.
     
    "Then why wouldn't you come to testify?" Collins asked.
     
    In April, the woman called for help after she said the father of her child choked her and grabbed a kitchen knife.
     
    Channel 9 found that the man has a past domestic violence conviction.
     
    The state was pushing for a conviction.
     
    "I'm just not in a good place right now," the woman told the judge during the contempt hearing.
     
    "And violating your court order did not do anything for you. I find you in contempt of court. I hereby sentence you to three days in the county jail," Collins said.
     
    Channel 9's Karla Ray showed the courtroom video to Jeanne Gold. Gold is the CEO of SafeHouse, an organization that offers shelter to abuse victims.
     
    "That's just appalling. It's horrible. Shame on that judge," Gold said.
     
    Gold said she worries that action like the one in the Seminole County courtroom could scare victims from calling for help in the future.
     
    The woman's abuser spent 16 days in jail for simple battery.
     
    The victim now has a misdemeanor conviction too.
     
    "She'll never call again. Look what happened to her. She could be lying, broken in a ditch somewhere, and she would probably not call police because of what happened to her in this place," Gold said.
     
    Channel 9's Karla Ray was told that prosecutors had the option of not calling for a jury case with an uncooperative witness, but prosecutors told Ray that they had an obligation to pursue the case.
     
    Channel 9 legal analyst Belvin Perry was the former chief judge for Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit.
     
    Perry said that even though the judge was within the law, he doesn't believe she acted properly.
     
    "(The victim) was traumatized, and she was just traumatized again by being sentenced to three days in jail," Perry said.
     
    Perry said many domestic violence victims don't believe the system will help them and said that in situations like the one involving a victim, like the woman sentenced to jail, the judge could use more training.
     
    "Sometimes the judges, in the hast of trying to do their jobs, forget the big picture," Perry said.
     
    Gold said she knows the judge in the case and intends to talk to her about how domestic violence victims should be handled.

    Channel 9's Karla Ray will have more on this story tonight on Eyewitness News starting at 5 p.m.

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