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Judge gives Florida man who served 10 days in jail for missing jury duty a break

The judge vacated the 21-year-old's sentence, saying "I know he now understands and respects our system of justice and the critical role jurors play in that system."
Image: Deandre Somerville
Deandre Somerville, 21, of West Palm Beach poses for a portrait, in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Oct. 3, 2019.Brynn Anderson / AP

A 21-year-old man who was ordered to serve to 10 days in jail for missing jury duty had his sentence vacated after a judge said the Florida man had been "totally rehabilitated."

Deandre Somerville of West Palm Beach was sentenced after he overslept and missed the start of the trial and failed to notify the court or its jury office. But Judge John Kastrenakes rescinded the ruling and vacated the sentence after being "extremely impressed" with the young man's family support and change in character.

"The apology letter read by Mr. Somerville was moving, sincere and heartfelt," Kastrenakes said in his order, which was released Monday. "I know he has been totally rehabilitated."

Somerville was chosen as a juror Aug. 20 for a civil trial in Florida's 15th judicial circuit. He was ordered to return the following day at 9:30 a.m., but did not. He was found in contempt on Sept. 23.

"I should have called," Somerville told NBC News on Friday. "But I was kind of nervous. I also went online to look up what could really happen, and I didn't really see too much there. ... [It looked like] nobody actually ever really went to jail for it."

Kastrenakes initially ordered a sentence of 10 days in jail, one year of probation and 150 hours of community service. Somerville was also required to write a letter of apology to the court and pay $223 to cover court costs.

Somerville told NBC News that his time in jail was traumatic and made him realize the gravity of his situation. He read his letter of apology at his hearing Friday, where he said it was immature of him not to have called the court.

"I know I may have to live with a record that follows me for the rest of my life," the letter continued. "This was definitely a learning experience and a wake-up call for me. ... I’m determined to not let this define who I am and what my future will be."

Kastrenakes said in the order dated Saturday that he sentenced Somerville to probation as a lesson to others to take serving on a jury more seriously. But that he found that Somerville had changed and that "redemption should be immediately rewarded."

"Moreover, I firmly believe that Deandre Somerville is the type of person who achieves anything he wants in this world," the judge wrote in his ruling. "He is a thoughtful and respectful man. ... I know he now understands and respects our system of justice and the critical role jurors play in that system."