SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35)
When she called the police on her abusive husband, Jane never expected she’d be the one thrown in jail.
But that’s what happened when she appeared before Judge Jerri Collins in Seminole County Court. Jane ignored a court order to testify against her husband because she said she was afraid.
Prosecutors said he choked her at knifepoint and he's been convicted of domestic violence battery before.
"You shouldn't be throwing a domestic violence victim in jail for fearing for their own safety and not testifying against their abuser," she said.
Jane isn't her real name. We changed it to protect her identity.
But she wasn’t afraid to tell us her story.
Jane said she’s been in an abusive relationship for the past four years.
One day this spring, prosecutors say he pulled a knife on her.
Jane was able to get away from him and call the police, landing him in jail for two weeks. But when he got out, she said her husband threatened and manipulated her.
"There was definitely no testifying against him, 2 years isn't that long,” she told Fox 35, adding she was afraid of what he would do to her when he got out.
She didn't show up for the trial so the State Attorney's office subpoenaed Jane to appear before Judge Collins and explain why.
Court video shows Jane telling Judge Collins, she’s been depressed and anxious since the latest attack by her husband, and didn’t feel emotionally able to testify against him. The video then shows Judge Collins ordering that Jane be taken into custody for contempt and spend three days in jail.
We've tried several times to speak with Judge Collins. A court spokeswoman said the judge won't talk about the case.
The State Attorney's office sent a statement saying in part, "Victims of domestic violence can be in emotional turmoil, but their cooperation with the criminal justice system is integral to this office successfully prosecuting such crimes. The victim's decision to thwart the court process by refusing to cooperate, despite a properly issued subpoena for her to appear in court, triggered the state to pursue an order to show cause against her, and the court's subsequent sentence."
Criminal defense attorney Whitney Boan, who is not part of this case, said anyone can be thrown in jail for ignoring a subpoena, but it's unusual for a domestic violence victim.
"The court may have had good intentions,” Boan added, “But maybe those intentions didn't translate in a way that would be the best received, especially if the victim now feels re-victimized, and is less likely now to reach out for help, reach out to the police, reach out to the State Attorney's office, cooperate with prosecutions; it can send a chilling effect."
The Judicial Qualifications Committee oversees all of the judges in the state, and it monitors complaints against judges.
They couldn't us whether there have been complaints made against Judge Collins, but we did not find any record of disciplinary action against her.