A Florida judge has cleared the criminal record of a 21-year-old man who received a 10-day jail sentence after oversleeping and not appearing for jury duty.
In an order signed on Saturday, Judge John Kastrenakes vacated the contempt finding and sentence of probation he issued last month after Deandre Somerville missed a civil trial and failed to call the court to explain his absence, CNN reported.
According to court records, Kastrenakes sentenced Somerville to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service, a year of probation and $233 in fees. He also ordered Somerville to write an apology letter that included at least 100 words.
The initial finding engendered intense backlash on social media and attracted the attention of federal lawmakers. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) argued on Twitter over the weekend that the decision showed that America’s criminal justice system is “designed to criminalize people of color.”
This judge put a young black man with no prior arrests in the system for *checks notes* oversleeping.
We must reform our criminal justice system, which is designed to criminalize people of color. https://t.co/LqKyO4RcXW
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 5, 2019
The decision from the judge to rescind the probation came after Somerville read an open letter to the court following his jail sentence.
“This was an immature decision that I made, and I paid the price for my freedom,” Somerville said. “Before my hearing, I walked into the courtroom a free man with no criminal record. I left a criminal in handcuffs.”
Kastrenakes on Monday defended his decision, writing that the “abundant publicity surrounding” the case signaled the “importance of a sworn juror abiding by the law,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
“Therefore, there exists no reason to continue Mr. Somerville on probation,” he wrote, adding that Somerville “has been totally rehabilitated” and is no longer the same person “who refused to come to court and intentionally violated his oath as a sworn juror.”
The judge also touted Somerville as “a thoughtful and respectful young man.”
Daniel Eisinger, the ex-juror’s lawyer, told the Sun-Sentinel that his client would proceed with “getting his record completely expunged now that the case is over.”