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Judge berates domestic abuse victim, sentences her to jail

New York Daily News New York Daily News 9/10/2015 MELISSA CHAN
Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins © WFTV Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins

A Florida county judge berated a domestic violence victim for failing to appear at her alleged abuser's trial and then sentenced the sobbing woman to jail, courtroom video shows.

Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins was captured heartlessly rebuking the pleading woman as she desperately apologizes and says her depression and anxiety kept her from facing her abuser in court.

"You think you're going to have anxiety now? You haven't even seen anxiety," Collins says before issuing her decision.

The victim had to appear before the judge on July 30 for contempt of court hearing, WFTV-9 reported.

She had ignored a subpoena to testify against the father of her child who allegedly choked her and threatened her with a kitchen knife, the local news station said.

"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 every day for me."

The unmoved Collins tells the woman she was required to appear under court order.

"You disobeyed a court order, knowing that this was not going to turn out well for the state," Collins said.

The woman apologizes again, telling the judge she's homeless and "not in a good place right now."

"And violating your court order did not do anything for you," Collins said. "I find you in contempt of court. I hereby sentence you to three days in the county jail."

The rattled woman can be seen dramatically making one last final plea to the judge as she's being hauled away.

"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.

"Turn around," the judge responds. "You should have showed up. I've already issued my order."

Collins, who was reportedly appointed to the position by former Governor Jeb Bush, has held her seat since 2005.

She was re-elected to the court last year for another six-year term.

Neither Collins nor her office returned a request for comment Thursday.

The ruthless ruling was unnecessary and damaging, according to a former prosecutor who now advocates for domestic abuse victims.

"It was pretty brutal. It got to my heart," Safehouse of Seminole CEO Jeanne Gold told the Daily News. "I thought she will never ever call the police again. She'll never look for help again. It's so sad."

The victim's alleged abuser was sentenced to 16 days in jail for simple battery and was ordered to pay court costs, WFTV-9 reported.

During her bid for re-election last year, Collins told The Orlando Political Observer she should be voted back into office because she makes a "positive impact on the citizens and the litigants that come before the court."

"Every litigant deserves an experienced, knowledgeable individual presiding over their case," she said at the time. "I've enjoyed my role as a judge. I enjoy the law. Most importantly, I enjoy serving my community."

mchan@nydailynews.com

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