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Florida Judge Convicted of DUI
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Summary: A Florida judge will serve house arrest, pay fines, and will be monitored for alcohol use after a jury convicted her of DUI and reckless driving charges.

  
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According to the Sun Sentinel, Broward County circuit judge Cynthia Imperato, 57, was “devastated” by a jury verdict on Friday that found her guilty of DUI and reckless driving.

Judge Imperato was arrested on November 5, 2013 in Boca Raton. According to prosecutors, the judge “flashed” her law enforcement badge at the officer who stopped her that night. Richard Clausi, one of the prosecutors trying the case, commented, “Why would she show a badge and tell him she’s a judge? She was hoping he would let her slide.”

However, according to Imperato’s lawyers, the Boca Raton police were targeting Imperato because they wanted to see the judge fall. Marc Shiner, one of the attorneys for the defense, said, “They’ve got a big fish here and they want to fry her without any evidence.” According to Shiner, the officer that pulled Imperato over wanted a promotion, and was named detective some time after the traffic stop.

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Earlier this month, an immigration attorney was a suspect in a DUI case.

However, the prosecution argued that evidence against the judge was solid. Two witnesses testified about the judge’s fitful driving, and officers noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Imperato’s breath. She also had red, bloodshot, glassy eyes, and she admitted to the officers that she had had a couple of glasses of wine before driving. Clausi said, “She reeks of alcohol.” In his arguments, he told the jury to use common sense when thinking about why Imperato would not get out of her Mercedes, and why she refused—twice—to submit to a breath test at the police station, knowing she would lose her driver’s license for one year.



The defense claimed that the police did a shoddy investigation and should have sought her phone and car GPS records. In addition, the defense argued that the judge’s attendance at a “networking and cocktail buffet” for the Broward County Justice Association and the Palm Beach County Justice Association earlier that night at Maggiano’s Little Italy should have been more thoroughly investigated.

Although Clausi argued that “liquor was free for judges” and that Imperato was “out to mingle with colleagues at an open bar event,” the defense responded that no witnesses saw Imperato drinking, and police did not obtain video evidence from the restaurant or the parking lot.

Nevertheless, Imperato was sentenced to 20 days’ house arrest with a GPS monitor to track her whereabouts, $2,531 in fines and court costs, and 12 months of probation. In addition, the judge will lose her driver’s license for one year, must complete 150 hours of community service, will have a device in her vehicle that will now allow her car to crank if she has been drinking, and will have to attend at least two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week.

Prosecutors had originally sought 30 days in jail with the option of house arrest, telling the court that Imperato had also been charged with DUI in 1988.

Read about Imperato’s arrest here.

However, Imperato has filed a notice to appeal the convictions. While the appeal is pending in the 4th District Court of Appeals, the judge will still have to have alcohol testing once a week at a Broward treatment center to show that she is not drinking, may not drive a vehicle, and must have the car ignition device installed.

Altough Imperato had asked the court to allow her to see her private therapist in lieu of the alcohol testing and monitoring, the judge denied the request. After Imperato’s legal team insisted that she is not drinking at present, Imperato added, “I think that going to the counselor should be sufficient.”

However, prosecutors Clausi and Ari Goldberg said that the additional conditions were necessary “to ensure the safety of the public.” Clausi explained that many defendnats continue driving although they have had their driver’s licenses suspended or revoked.

However, Shiner and defense attorney Heidi Perlet said that the sentence, including the house arrest, was extreme since Imperato was not involved in an accident that night and caused no injuries to anybody. “She was treated extremely harshly for what happened,” Shiner complained.

Ultimately, Imperato could have been sentenced to a year in jail. A plea bargain would have given her 12 months of probation, fines, and a driver’s license suspension lasting six months, but Imperato rejected that offer.

In January, a federal law clerk was arrested for solicitation of a child.

After the jury’s decision was announced, Shiner said Imperato was “devastated, not very happy about what happened, of course.” However, the judge is optimistic that the convictions and sentence will be thrown out. Shiner said, “We’re confident the appeal is going to be successful. We’re looking to a new day in court when the whole truth will come out in this case and my client will be vindicated.”

The jury was comprised of three men and three women. After five and a half hours of deliberations that lasted two days, the jury made their decision. On Thursday, the jury deliberated past 11:00 p.m., and offered to deliberate until 1:00 a.m. Friday morning. However, they eventually decided to resume their deliberations at 1:30 p.m. Juror Bruce Samoville said, “We based everything on the evidence presented, period, end of story.” A major factor for the jury was a motorist’s call to 911 to report the judge’s vehicle swerving across Federal Highway. “We gave it a lot of consideration,” Samoville said.

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As for Imperato’s future as a judge, she has said that she intends to continue her role on the bench. While the DUI case was pending, Imperato was transferred from the criminal felony division to the civil division. Imperato has been hearing foreclosure cases in the civil division.

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein has an admitted history of substance abuse and recovery. Finkelstein explained that he hopes Imperato’s conviction will serve as a wake-up call for her. However, he feels that as long as she is serving a criminal sentence, she cannot be trusted as a judge. “There is too much pressure to curry favor with those who can hurt you,” he noted, making reference to judges’ constant contact with probation officials, police and prosecutors.

Photo credit: palmbeachpost.com



 

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