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Elder Law

‘Invisible’ Woman, 78, Jailed 2 Weeks By ‘System of So-Called Justice’

Posted Jan 12, 2010 5:34 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Arrested for driving on a suspended license following a misunderstanding about whether she had to appear at a court hearing after receiving a letter reinstating her driving privileges, a 78-year-old Florida woman qualified to be released on her own recognizance.

But no one pointed that out to the judge in the Hallandale Beach case, until after Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau spent 15 days in jail, including Thanksgiving, prior to her Dec. 2 arraignment, reports the Broward Bulldog in an article reprinted in the Miami Herald. At that point, a prosecutor announced the state was dropping the charge, because the defendant's license hadn't been suspended.

Shocked at the situation, County Court Judge Lee Seidman apologized to the defendant "on behalf of the system of so-called justice," according to a transcript, noting that the grandmother "is handcuffed like Houdini, for the record. She's got chains around her waist, and she's got handcuffs in front around her hands as if she was some kind of a violent criminal.''

Several lapses appear to have led to her two-week stint in jail, the article says. Among them: No one from the pretrial services division, which had found Shaink Trudeau eligible for release on her own recognizance, spoke up as a magistrate judge set her bond at $2,000 at her initial Nov. 18 appearance. And Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein admits that his office "fell down badly," neither representing her at the appearance—even though two assistant public defenders were standing nearby—nor visiting her in jail.

"It was almost like she was invisible. I deeply apologize to this woman,'' Finkelstein told Broward Bulldog.

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