A federal judge in San Diego, California is under investigation after he handcuffed and placed a 13-year-old girl in the jury box in an attempt to frighten her.
Judge Roger Benitez, 72, restrained the daughter of Mario Puente, 36, in February after her father expressed concern that his daughter may face the same future as him.
According to court documents, Benitez then summoned a US marshal and ordered the 13-year-old girl to be handcuffed and placed in the jury box while she cried.
Benitez asked the young girl how she felt about “being up there” and said she was a “really cute young lady” who could “get handcuffed” if she didn’t dodge the drugs.
On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the judge’s actions, saying that, as the father of a 13-year-old himself, he is “sickened” by the story.
Judge Roger Benitez, 72, restrained a defendant’s daughter in February after her father expressed concern that his daughter may face the same future as him
On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the judge’s actions, saying that as the father of a 13-year-old, he himself is “sickened” by the story
This is the tweet Gavin Newsom sent regarding the story of Benitez handcuffing an innocent 13-year-old girl in a San Diego courtroom
According to the court’s file, the incident occurred during a supervised release revocation hearing in February.
The 13-year-old girl was in court to support her father when he told the judge that he hopes to “leave San Diego because he wants to separate himself from negative peers and make a fresh start.” Everywhere and wherever I go, I know someone.’
Puente told the judge he believed the only way he could straighten out was to leave behind the life he currently knows and ask permission to leave the area.
“He indicated that ‘the only way I can — I feel like I can do anything is to leave, leave behind what I know’ … He also expressed concern that his daughter was hanging out with the wrong people, who’ could lead her down the same path I took,” the documents read.
The father said he believes the only thing he can do to save his daughter is “try to get her out.”
At that point, the judge, who had been appointed to the court by George W. Bush, called the marshal and asked if he had handcuffs.
A few minutes later, Judge Benitez asked a US Marshal, “Ydo you have handcuffs?’ The Marshal confirmed that he did. Judge Benitez then ordered the 13-year-old girl to leave the spectator area, go to the front of the courtroom and stand next to her father’s attorney. He told the marshal to “handcuff” her, the court said.
The marshal did so, cuffing the girl’s hands behind her back. As he did, she cried, the filing continues.
Judge Benitez then instructed the marshal to “put her right there in the jury box for me for a minute.” The marshal complied and handcuffed the girl in the jury box. She continued to cry,” the documents read.
As she continued to cry, Benitez told her ‘don’t leave, look at me’.
He asked her how she felt about being ‘up there’ and ‘what those handcuffs felt like’. Still in tears, she replied that she “didn’t like it,” according to the transcripts provided by the San Diego Union Tribune stands.
The judge now under investigation told the girl that she “an incredibly cute young lady,” but that could derail her life if she didn’t stay away from drugs.
Benitez told her that she will “go into handcuffs” and “will be right back where I put you a minute ago” if she follows the same path as her father.
Judge Benitez handcuffed and placed the defendant’s daughter in the jury box, crying
A misconduct complaint was announced Tuesday by Chief Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia, the president of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit – the body that investigates judges
Governor Newsom is one of many people who have sharply criticized the judge’s actions
The defendant’s case has since been transferred to another district court, Chief Justice Dana Sabraw said
Puente’s public defender, Mayra Lopez, said the judge’s actions humiliated and psychologically damaged the girl.
A misconduct complaint was officially announced on Tuesday by Chief Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia, the president of the Judicial Board of the Ninth Circuit – the body that examines judges.
“Following an investigation of the allegations, including review of relevant court transcripts, on February 22, 2023, I identified a misconduct complaint against Judge Benitez under the Judicial Disability Act, 28 U.S.C. § 351(b) and JC&D Rule 5,” Murguia wrote.
The charge against Benitez alleges that children can be traumatized by these types of incidents.
“According to testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), children can be ‘severely traumatized’ by the use of handcuffs, even if ‘no physical harm has been sustained’,” the petitioner said.
The defendant’s case has since been transferred to another district court, Chief Justice Dana Sabraw said.
“The judge assigned to a case or the chief judge of the district may at any time transfer such case to a consenting judge in the interest of efficient administration of the judicial affairs of the district,” the documents quote.
In addition, Judge Robert Huie last week ordered that Puente be released for time served.
In a tweet Wednesday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom expressed disgust at Benitez’s approach to scaring the young girl
“Judge Benitez at full throttle. THIS is the man who decides the fate of CA’s assault weapons ban. A man who will handcuff innocent children in a courtroom to humiliate them. I am the father of a 13-year-old daughter — this makes me sick,” he wrote
In 2021, Benitez compared an AR-15 to a “Swiss Army Knife” while giving his reasoning why the weapon and similar weapons should not be banned in the Golden State
In a tweet Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed disgust at Benitez’s approach to frightening the young girl.
“Judge Benitez at full throttle. THIS is the man who decides the fate of CA’s assault weapons ban. A man handcuffing innocent children in court to humiliate himself. I am the father of a 13-year-old daughter — this makes me sick,” he wrote.
Newsom has previously come face to face with Benitez, the judge who infamously shot down California’s old assault weapons prohibit.
In 2021, Benitez compared an AR-15 to a “Swiss Army Knife” while giving his reasoning why the weapon and similar weapons should not be banned in the Golden State.
“Like the Swiss army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez wrote in his opinion.