Things That Matter

A Twenty-One Year Old Man Overslept On His First Day Of Jury Duty And Now He’s Being Sentenced To Jail And Has A Record

These days, it doesn’t take much poking around to know that our country’s judicial system is problematic, troublesome and inherently racist. A few months ago, when news broke out about the college admissions scandals, those following the news knew well that the wealthy parents who took part in the scam would walk away essentially scot-free. They weren’t wrong. 

Earlier last month, on September 13th, actress Felicity Huffman, one of the most recognizable names caught up in the admissions scandal, was sentenced to just 14 days in federal prison for her involvement in a case that saw her charged for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman’s case highlighted questions of inequity in our judicial system. Many were quick to point out that Huffman, like the other three dozen parents involved, were from extreme wealth and would undoubtedly be treated differently from poor or nonwhite defendants accused of admission and education fraud. For severe charges that were lobbed at white-collar crime convicts like former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and took education opportunities away from students far less privileged than her own kids, Huffman received 14 days in jail. 

Twenty-one-year-old Deandre Somerville should have been so lucky. 

The Florida man from West Palm Beach was sentenced to 10 days in jail this past week after a judge found him in criminal contempt of court after he overslept and missed the start of a trial he had been selected to serve jury duty for. At the time, Somerville looked up the repercussions online and according to NBC News said that he “didn’t really see too much there. … [It looked like] nobody actually ever really went to jail for it.”  Because of this, he did not notify the court or its jury office.

Deandre Somerville was sentenced to 10 days in jail, one year of probation and 150 hours of community service for failing to show up for jury duty.

The 21-year-old was also told to write a letter of apology to the court and pay $223 to cover court costs. Speaking about his own sentence, Somerville told NBC that he felt as if he “didn’t need any rehabilitation… I just made a mistake.”

According to Somerville, his 10 days in jail were “traumatic.” Sommerville who recently moved in with his grandparents to help care for them had never been arrested before now has a criminal record for contempt and spent his 10 days in jail amongst hardened criminals and in fear. 

The judge who gave Somerville his sentencing stemmed from his duty to represent his Black community.

Speaking at Somerville’s formal apology in court, Judge John Kastrenakes, of Fort Lauderdale Florida, said that he wanted to “make an example” out of Somerville to ensure more people do not fail to show up to jury duty. “Mr. Somerville was the only African American on our jury and represented a very important cross-section of our community.”

But people of color have long been used to “make an example,” when privileged nonpeople of color have caused greater harm and damage and gotten off easy. 

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was quick to underline this point in a recent tweet shared with her profile. 

“Mass incarceration is our American reality. It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, & slavery. To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration & prison abolition in this country,” she wrote in a retweet of a post shared by comedian Chelsea Handler who also lambasted the judge for his decision. 

AOC’s retweet went onto highlight in a thread the flaws of our judicial system citing a recent experience she had meeting a woman who had been sent to Rikers as a teen.” Yesterday morning I spoke with a woman who was thrown in Rikers as a teenager. Put in solitary confinement for MONTHS, aka torture. Force-fed pills. The conditions were so bad, she too had drank out of toilets. A cage is a cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

The young Congresswoman’s thread highlights the severe punishments people of color have and continued to endure at the cost of our country’s broken prison and judicial system. Her message is a reminder that the actual point of the prison system is to rehabilitate, not punish those who are incarcerated and sent to jail or prison. 

One Day After A Texas Sheriff Called Undocumented Immigrants ‘Drunks,’ His Son Is Arrested For Public Intoxication

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One Day After A Texas Sheriff Called Undocumented Immigrants ‘Drunks,’ His Son Is Arrested For Public Intoxication

A Texas sheriff is eating his words after his bigotted comments came back to bite him in the worst way.

A day after Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn referred to undocumented immigrants as “drunks” who would “run over” children, his own son was reportedly arrested on charges of public intoxication. It has also been revealed that his son Sergei Waybourn has been arrested before. In 2018 he was charged with assault and in recent years he was arrested for trespassing and theft.

Sheriff Waybourn’s comments sparked controversy when he spoke against undocumented immigrants at a press conference in Washington.

Last Thursday, the sheriff spoke at the conference alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence. Speaking in response to a ruling by a federal California judge made last month that imposed restrictions on ICE’s use of “detainers,” Waybourn underlined the consequences of releasing illegal immigrants with DWI and other crimes.

U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr.’s decision barred ICE from using online database searches to find and detain people based. Recently, the ACLU stated that since 2008, 2 million US citizens have been illegally detained because of such searches.

Waybourn pointed to his charge of inmates to give examples of high rates of repeat offenders. “If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood,” Waybourn said according to New York Post. “These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children.”

After his comments, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens called for Waybourn’s resignation.

According to Dallas Morning News, Domingo Garcia said Waybourn ought to “resign and apologize for his bigoted comments immediately.”

In response, Waybourne said his comments had been taken out of contexts and his office released a statement saying that “Sheriff Waybourn was not referring to all legal or illegal immigrants when making his comments about DWI/DWI repeat offenders. He was speaking toward the charges of DWI and DWI repeat offender in the context of illegal immigration.”

In response to the news of his son’s arrest, the sheriff said he is “deeply saddened by Sergei’s choices.”

According to WFAA, he said that “It has been many years since he disassociated from our family. We, along with many family members have made efforts over the years to help him – all to no avail. It is always sad when drugs take control of a person’s life. His choices and actions have lead to this situation.”

Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

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Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

customsborder / Instagram

On July 10, former senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora, 51, was arrested in Tuscon for sexually assaulting a junior agent. Zamora’s wife is Gloria Chavez, one of the agency’s highest-ranked female officers. Three weeks after he was indicted by a Pima County grand jury, the agency took the only action it has thus far: it allowed him to retire from the agency three weeks after being arrested. Customs and Border Protection defended its actions by telling The New York Times, it “holds its employees accountable and expects the entire workforce to adhere to the agency’s standards of conduct.” Zamora attended a pretrial hearing at the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson. He pleaded not guilty.

The victim, identified as R.W. in court documents, told police that she looked up to Zamora as a mentor, given their ten-year age difference and his seniority. Over the years, R.W. had ignored some of his advances, asserting her desire to remain friends. The night of the assault, they met up for dinner and Zamora bought her so many tequila shots, video surveillance shows her falling to her knees as Zamora brought her back to his hotel room where he would later sexually assault her.

Before their dinner, Zamora texted her to ask if she “dressed up” for him, according to The New York Times.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, Zamora bought them five rounds of tequila shots, and at one point, she moved away from him after he placed his hand on her left thigh. The Daily Mail reports that Zamora told investigators that he offered R.W. a ride home, to which she declined, saying she didn’t want to be alone. Zamora alleges that she initiated the sex. However, hotel surveillance footage shows Zamora holding R.W. up. At one point, she fell to her knees, according to police documents obtained by The New York Times. 

Those police documents detail how R.W. said she blacked out, only waking up a few times to find herself on the bed. She told police she didn’t feel like she had the capacity to give consent. The rape kit results have not been made public. 

A few days later, R.W. reported the crime to the police, who then recorded her follow-up call to Zamora.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, the detective on the case recorded a phone call during which R.W. informed Zamora that the sex was non-consensual. The detective wrote, “he told her to not go there and that it wasn’t like that,” that sex “was never on his mind. They had too many shots,” The New York Times reports. Effectively, Zamora tried to call him out and he just deflected the blame onto both of them. 

When Zamora was eventually called in for an interview, a detective told Zamora that R.W. was in no state to offer consent, to which he “said that he knows, but he wasn’t in a state to consent either,” according to The New York Times

Women make up 5 percent of Border Patrol agents.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The female agents who do make up the force have voiced their outrage at the agency’s inaction around sexual assault accusations. “There’s not a single woman in the Border Patrol who has either not been sexually assaulted, outright raped or at the very least sexually harassed,” former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd told The New York Times. Budd’s since become an immigrant rights activist, and urges women to reconsider joining the Border Patrol.

Two days before Zamora allegedly assaulted R.W., Tucson police arrested Border Patrol agent Steven Charles Holmes, 33, for sexually assaulting three women over seven years. 

The agency is already under immense criticism for its high rate of arrest charges brought against Border Patrol agents when compared to other law enforcement agencies.

Credit: @CBP / Twitter

In July 2019, Quartz reported that Border Patrol agents are arrested approximately five times as often as other law enforcement groups. With a budget of over $15 billion and over 60,000 employees, it’s the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. Many critics say the agency is not held to account for its unconstitutional means of coercing migrants to sign removal forms written in English, a language they often cannot understand. 

A Customs Border Patrol spokesperson told El Paso Times that its Office of Professional Responsibility “will review all the facts uncovered to ensure all allegations of misconduct … are thoroughly investigated for appropriate action by the agency.”

READ: US Border Patrol Sent This Man And His Child Back To Mexico And Hours Later They Were Thrown Into Trucks And Abducted