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Woman gets month in jail for flipping off Florida judge

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A Florida woman who gave a judge the middle-finger at a bond hearing on Monday got a judicial thumbs-down in return: 30 days in jail.


Penelope Soto, 18, was sentenced to nearly a month behind bars for contempt of court after she flipped off Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

Soto, who had been arrested for illegal possession of Xanax, was apparently indignant after Rodriguez-Chomat raised her bond from $5,000 to $10,000.

But even before Soto gave Rodriguez-Chomat the one-finger salute, they weren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye. Earlier in the hearing, Soto laughed at the judge after he asked her how much her jewelry was worth.

"It's not a joke," he is seen saying in video recorded in the courtroom (above). "You know, we're not in a club right now. We are not in a club. Be serious about it."

"I'm serious about it. You just made me laugh," Soto responds. "I apologize. It's worth a lot of money."

The judge still wanted to know: How much money?

"Like Rick Ross [money]," Soto replied, referencing to blinged-out South Florida hip-hop star. "It's worth money."

But the reference was lost on Rodriguez-Chomat, who asked Soto if she'd taken any drugs in the past day.

"Actually, no," Soto said.

Rodriguez-Chomat set Soto's bond at $5,000, sending her off with a wry "bye-bye."

"Adios," Soto replied with a laugh.

But the annoyed judge asked her to return to the stand and promptly reset her bond at $10,000 -- much to Soto's surprise.

"Are you serious?" Soto asked incredulously.

"I am serious," he replied. "Adios."

It's then that Soto gave Rodriguez-Chomat the finger, throwing in an expletive, for good measure. That's when the judge slapped Soto with a 30-day jail sentence.

Of course, not all birds are created equal. In May 2006, a New York man, John Swartz, was arrested for disorderly conduct after he flipped off a police officer. But last month, a federal appeals court overturned a lower-court decision holding that giving a cop the middle-finger warrants arrest.

The middle-finger, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Circuit Appeals wrote in their decision, is an "ancient gesture of insult" and "is not the basis for a reasonable suspicious of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity."

Swartz's lawyer, Elmer Robert Keach III, praised the court's decision as an "important victory for civil rights."

"It reaffirms that just because you insult a police officer [it] doesn't give that police officer the right to detain you or arrest you and take away your liberty," Keach told the Associated Press.