Are you curious about the war? Well, according to Judge Carlos Rodriguez's retort to ASA Jennifer Hilal, "Curiosity is for cats." The title of the post links to the SAO's motion to recuse the judge. One of 450 (!!!!) motions filed.
Yes, it's war in Broweird County, and the difference here is that it's the SAO going to war against Judge Carlos Rodriguez.
The date: September 20, 2010.
The Judge: Carlos Rodriguez.
The ASA: Jennifer Hilal.
Case 1: State v. Benjamin Elmore.
Status: Open plea to the court.
Charge: DWLS and Possession of Cocaine.
Priors: Mr. Elmore had 4 prior possession of cocaine cases.
First Proposed Court Sentence: Adj, and CTS. Upon learning that Mr. Elmore had obtained a hardship license, the court decided to change the sentence to a withhold so Mr. Elmore would not lose his license. The State pointed out that it was an illegal sentence because of the number of withholds Mr. Elmore had for the same offense. The court then accepted the plea on the DWLS and set the possession charge for trial.
Objection: ASA Hilal, having heard the court say that he did not want to see Mr. Elmore lose his license after he just got one, moved to recuse the court because she felt the court had already prejudged the case.
Best Quote: "THERE IS NO CURIOSITY IN COURT. CURIOSITY ARE FOR CATS" (sic)
Case 2. State v. Pelfrey.
Charge: Grand Theft.
Plea: State and defense worked out a plea to a withhold and 12 months probation.
Court: Rejected plea and sentenced defendant to a withhold and one day probation.
Objection: State objected to plea and asked for time to have the victim address the court.
Best Quote: Ms. Hilal: So you don't want to hear from the victim in this case?"
Judge Rodriguez: "Have a seat at counsel table will you?...And stay there."
Motion to recuse: "There was no reason for Judge Carlos Rodriguez to order Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Hilal to be confined to her chair..."
In the third case, Judge Rodriguez rejected a negotiated plea to 18 months probation between the state and defense and imposed a one day probation period, which he promptly terminated. When the prosecutor objected and asked for time for the victim, a law enforcement officer to be present, the court said that the case was set for that day and it was the prosecutor's problem as to why her witnesses were not in court. When the prosecutor rightly stated that she had a deal with the defense and thus had no reason to suspect the plea would change, Judge Rodriguez stated that she was now on notice that any time a case was set, even for an agreed upon plea, the court reserved the right to reject the plea and impose a plea of its own.
CONGRATULATIONS JUDGE CARLOS RODRIGUEZ. We have been practicing law in Florida courts for more than a quarter of a century and you are the first judge to make us feel sorry for a prosecutor.
The fact is that when a Judge does what this transcript shows, it demeans the court and the entire judicial process. There were law enforcement officers who were victims who had been told the defendant would be getting 18 months probation. They had no reason to suspect a judge would act crazy and start rejecting pleas and giving away the courthouse.
The transcript shows a Judge who was demeaning to a prosecutor, who did not treat her with the respect all lawyers are entitled to be treated to, and who had a blatant disregard for the legal process. For the first and perhaps only time in our career, we are on the side of the Broward State Attorneys Office. And prior to today we would have bet a million bucks we would never write that sentence.