Shame on Judge Gerald Harris.
Like a judicial peacock strutting for cameras, the judge added 10 days to Robert E. Chambers's sentence for misdemeanor drug possession. Why? Because he was an hour late to court.
The judge sentenced Mr. Chambers to a total of 100 days at Rikers Island, saying his tardiness violated the agreement he had made with prosecutors earlier this summer when he pleaded guilty to heroin possession (residue on some straws found in his car)and driving with a suspended license.
Of course as anyone who works in that building knows, anyone other than Robert Chambers would have gotten a negligable sentence on a residue case. It is only because of his noteriety that he's headed to jail at all. In previous interviews, Mr. Chambers has said that he is in recovery and that he regularly attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
To make matters worse, Chambers had arrived in time this morning for the scheduled hearing, but when his lawyer let the judge know he was tied up with another case in Queens, the judge rescheduled the hearing for this afternoon. When he arrived, Mr. Chambers explained that he had been frantically trying to pay back parking tickets in order to have his car released by the authorities before he went to jail.
"I owe some money in parking tickets," he told the judge. "I had to call my old boss to borrow money.
"The only asset I do have is the car and I have been concerned about it," he said. "I apologize."
Mr. Chambers then put his hands behind him, and a court officer placed cuffs around his wrists before leading him away.
Let's be clear: People are late for court every single day, and few to none of them are ever sent to jail for an extra 10 days. What was this really? A penalty for disapointing the press, and a opportunity for a judge to grab some tough on crime headlines at the expense of a defenseless defendant.