Deandre Sommerville, a man from West Palm Beach Florida, was sentenced to 10 days in jail for missing his jury duty.
According to the 21-year-old, he also faced a year of probation, has to pay a fine, and complete 150 hours of community service. It all stemmed from him oversleeping on the first day of trial for an August 20 civil automobile accident negligence case. Somerville was selected to be one of the jurors but didn’t show up to trial at 9 a.m.
Realizing he overslept and missed his ride, Sommerville decided not to go to the courthouse that day in favor of his regular job.
"I should have called, and I own up to that. I made a mistake, but I didn't know I would go to jail. They don't tell you that if you miss jury duty you go to jail," he told Buzzfeed. "I don't even have a criminal record."
Sommerville’s currently a specialist at a local park and leads youth activities. When he's not working, he takes care of his grandfather, who lost 50 percent of his mobility due to a heart attack and uses a walker and scooter to get around. Somerville takes him shopping and to physical therapy, and spends hours with him in the pool doing rehabilitative exercises.
Nearly three weeks after he failed to show up for jury duty, police showed up at his front door. During a September 20 hearing, Somerville admitted to Circuit Court Judge John Kastrenakes he overslept and apologized several times.
According to court documents, Kastrenakes slammed Somerville for failing to show up for court, delaying the trial and being unreachable on his cellphone. He claims the 45 minutes the trial was delayed waiting for the juror “impeded the due administration of justice.”
Somerville was subsequently convicted of direct criminal contempt. Kastrenakes, according to court docs, said he’d be monitoring him closely, and that his sentence was “just a taste of jail.”
"I'm dead serious about this. Dead serious," Kastrenakes said in court transcripts. "If you don't do the community service hours as I've ordered, you face up to six months in jail, all right? This is just a taste of jail and it's not that long. You'll do this 10 days and then you'll come out and you'll do everything on probation. I'm going to monitor you, make sure your probation is — you adhere to all the rules and conditions of probation."
Somerville described his experience as “shocking” and says that while he made a mistake, he believed the judge made wrongful assumptions about him.
"For me it was like, dang, it was the first time I go to a courtroom and the second time I show up I get jail time," he told Buzzfeed. "I feel like the punishment could have been probation or community service. Why did you have to throw me in jail? Because you assumed I was one way? It's easy to throw someone in jail versus spending the time to really see someone and asking them how they work."
After the sentence was handed out, the public defender representing Somerville appealed the initial sentence, arguing it did not fit the crime. He also presented the young man’s ties to the community and lack of a criminal record. In turn, a judge reduced the sentence and accepted Somerville’s apology. The misdemeanor charge will no longer be a permanent mark on his record.
Somerville will now only have to serve three months of probation and perform 30 hours of community service, according to records.
Watch WPTV’s coverage about Deandre Somerville’s case below.
Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images