Woman offers judge middle finger, shocked to be offered jail

Justice is not a static concept, despite what Strict Constitutionalists might think.

Every day, there is a re-interpretation, a nuancing of words that are, after all, merely words.

Perhaps that’s what 18-year-old Penelope Soto might have been thinking when she had a cordial exchange with Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat on Monday.

It all seemed friendly enough at first.

She was up on a charge of drug possession. I had thought that this was as compulsory in Miami as is owning a gun in Alabama. It seems not.

Soto offered to the judge that her jewelry was worth a little money. Or, as she put it, “Like Rick Ross.” He’s a rapper from South Florida who, oh, never mind.

The judge gave her a $5,000 bond, which was quite Rick Rossy, one suspects, for Soto.

He then said to her: “Bye-bye.”

She, clearly a well brought-up teen, offered: “Adios!”

She was being friendly. She said it with a smile.

For some reason, the crusty old judge didn’t take kindly to her kindness.


He summoned her to return.

They were both giggling. This was surely just a playful exchange between parent and child.

That was just before the judge doubled her bond to $10,000.

She gasped.

“Are you serious?” she exclaimed.

This was a very fair question. The judge had been smiling, giggling even at her obviously cute persona. Why would he suddenly get serious? What was this, a courtroom or something?

That’s what judges sometimes do. They toss their power in the face of the defenseless because, well, talk to their psychologists.

It was as if she was his teenage daughter who’d stayed out an hour beyond curfew and had a few too many drinks, snorts and swallows.

The judge made things worse by saying “I am serious. Adios!”

Could he not see that this was bad parenting? Couldn’t he anticipate that this might not go down well with the poor girl in an orange jump suit — one in which she had assuredly not been clubbing?

Soto’s mouth opened wider than a Glee dancer’s legs during an especially taxing routine.

She couldn’t believe she was being punished for being, well, sweet. Or at least the sort of sweet that might normally, perhaps, work for her.

So, as most 18-year-olds tend to do, she turned away in a huff, lifted her middle finger in the judge’s direction and said: “F*** you.”

We then devolved into one of those sad, cliched scenes from torrid, violent movies. You know, the sort where a man says: “You talkin’ to me?”

“Did you just say ‘F*** me’?” asked the judge, knowing fully and deeply that she had. This man has clearly watched these very same movies.

Soto tried to remain polite. Oh, I mean she tried to regain a polite composure. She admitted she’d said the rude phrase. Could the judge not see his own provocation?

He could not.

“I find you in direct criminal contempt. Thirty days in the county jail,” he huffed, as if he’d remembered this dialogue from some modern Western or a stray Quentin Tarantino clip.

Soto took the punishment with as much grace as she could muster, given her need to tidy her hair at the time.

So now the taxpayers of Miami-Dade will have to pay to house a seemingly sweet — and perhaps even, on a good day, humorous — girl, who may have merely needed a little peace, love and understanding.

Strict moralists will feel that Soto deserved what she got, that this will be a lesson to all insolent teens that their insolent ways will not be tolerated by the always non-insolent graying and bearded.

I worry, though, that the judge lured her into humor before flipping on her. Which is actually what quite a few teens are prone to do.

Just as some teens get off on drugs, some older people get off on the only thing left for them: power.











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