A Florida judge is apologizing after he referred to a man who was in court for a traffic violation as a “sexual predator.”
Judge Carmine Bravo was arraigning 33-year-old Rodrakus Hooks, an ex-convict who has been seen in court before Bravo many times, on charges of driving without a license. Bravo encouraged Hooks to plead guilty to the charge and take a 15-day jail sentence, but he told the judge that he can’t do any time because he has a baby on the way.
“I got a baby mama back there … a baby fixing to be born,” Hooks said, referring to his pregnant 21-year-old fiancée Gwen Brown, who was sitting in the courtroom, ABC News affiliate WFTV reported. When Bravo asked if the couple were married, Hooks said no.
“You ain’t got a baby. You’re just a sexual predator with a younger girl. How old are you?” he asked Brown. “15? 16?”
“I’m going to tell you straight up, man-to-man,” Judge Bravo said to Hooks. “You and I know each other. We’ve been around. If you’re not married to the mother, she’s having a baby. You’re just someone she likes to visit.”
Courtroom video captured the entire exchange, which took place last week in a Seminole County, Florida courtroom.
“He made me feel useless, like I was just a nobody — like I’m having a baby from just anybody or something. It was upsetting and I know everyone in the courtroom was like, ‘Wow,’” Brown told WFTV.
Though he has never been charged with a sex crime, records show that Hooks has been sentenced over a dozen times with charges including possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, domestic violence, theft and driving without a license.
Since seeing the courtroom incident on camera, Judge Bravo, who has been on the bench in Seminole County for 15 years, said he owes Hooks and Brown an apology.
“I’m embarrassed by how it sounds. I just did not come off in a very nice way. I owe them big time in terms of an apology,” the judge said.
Judge Bravo, whose current term ends next year, has offered to let another judge hear Hooks’ case.