Published on: Monday, February 27, 2023

A Southern District of California federal court decided to traumatize a child for attending a public hearing to support her father (article available here).

The events arose from a final revocation hearing. After a California man admitted to violating his supervised release, he told the judge that he feels he needs to be able to leave San Diego to make a break from his problematic contacts. A reasonable request. He cited his young daughter, seated in the spectator area, as his motivation to build a new life because he feared that she might end up hanging around the wrong people if the family remained in his established San Diego circles.

The sentencing memo details what happened next.

Several minutes later, Judge [] asked a U.S. Marshal, “You got cuffs?” The Marshal confirmed he did. Judge Benitez then ordered the 13-year-old girl to leave the spectator area, approach the front of the courtroom, and stand next to her father’s lawyer. He told the Marshal to “[p]ut cuffs on her.”

The Marshal did so, cuffing the girl’s hands behind her back. As he did so, she was crying. Judge [] then instructed the Marshal to “put[ ] her over there in the jury box for me for just a minute.” The Marshal complied, placing the girl in the jury box in handcuffs. She continued to cry.

After a long pause, [the] Judge [] released the girl. But he did not allow her to immediately return to her seat. Instead he told her, “don’t go away. Look at me.” He asked her how she liked “sitting up there” and “the way those cuffs felt on you.” Still in tears, she responded that she “didn’t like it.” He told her she was “an awfully cute young lady” but that if she didn’t stay away from drugs, she would “wind up in cuffs” and be “right back there where I put you a minute ago.”

The judge then sentenced the man to 10 months and 2 years of supervised release. The case was transferred to another judge. The man’s lawyer cited the whole being forced to watch his daughter be abused by a federal judge thing in the sentencing memo as evidence that Puente has been punished enough and should be sentenced to time served. The new judge agreed.