Seminole County, Florida (April 2016)- Judge Jerri Collins has signed a plea deal agreeing to public reprimand after berating a domestic violence victim in court and sentencing the victim to 3 days in jail after the she failed to appear to in court for the trial of the alleged perpetrator. The victim did not have legal representation at the hearing, and can be seen crying in court, at times her voice is shaky – she stumbles over her words, and is obviously traumatized.
On April 2, 2015, the victim called the police after “the father of her child choked her and grabbed a kitchen knife”. The victim later wanted to drop the charges but was called into court anyways. The victim did not appear in court, angering Judge Collins. A jury had been called, and without the victim’s testimony, the alleged perpetrator, Myles Brennan, was sentenced to only 16 days in jail for battery. Brennan has a prior history of domestic violence.
Video tape of the court hearing shows a tearful and obviously distraught abused women who says she has been abused for years, and “I tried to move on a couple months ago”. Her efforts to escape the abuse, by moving out of the home she formerly shared with Brennan, resulted in severe financial hardship. The victim no longer had the financial support of her husband, and it took over a year for the child support office to find Brennan to collect payment. The victim struggled to provide for her family, and said that “everything was shut off” (meaning her utilities) and that she had to sell everything she owned in order to get money to care for her child. She became homeless, and was forced to move in with her parents.
Judge Collins showed no sympathy. The victim said she did not appear in court because “I am not in a good place right now“. The victim tells the judge that she is scared, depressed and anxious. To which Judge Collins replied, “You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety!” Judge Collins shows no sympathy and then orders the victim to turn around, then she is handcuffed and jailed for contempt of court.
When Judge Collins sentences the victim to jail, she can be heard begging for reconsideration, because she has a 1 year old child to take care of: “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!”
Judge Collins was charged by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for violating rules that govern how judges are supposed to conduct themselves, and will receive a public reprimand. The Supreme Court will decide whether it will accept or reject the agreement. If the Supreme Court accepts the agreement, Judge Collins will have to appear in front of the state’s top court in Tallahassee to be formally reprimanded.
Critics say the way Judge Collins handled the case will discourage other domestic violence victims from coming forward to report abuse or press charges. Indeed that is the case with this victim who is quoted by the New York Daily News as saying, “I’m just taking it one day at a time, and there’s good days and bad days. I think after everything that’s happened I would most likely not call the police at all.” (October 10, 2015, Melissa Chan).
Others are calling for Judge Collins to be impeached. A petition on Change.org reads. “She has punished the victim, causing her further distress and discouraged other victims from coming forward. Please have her removed from office or at the very least she should receive mandatory training in mental health and its effect on domestic violence victims.” Remove from office Judge Collins who berated and then JAILED sobbing domestic abuse victim
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