Woman who flipped off judge released

Penelope Soto released from jail after apologizing for cursing at judge


MIAMI – The 18-year-old woman who made national headlines after she flipped off and cursed at a Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge was released from jail Friday afternoon.

Penelope Soto apologized to Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat during her third court appearance this week.

Citing case law, Rodriguez-Chomat read several instances that justified his decision to sentence Penelope Soto, 18, to 30 days in jail after she flipped him off in court earlier this week.

Soto tried interrupting the judge during Friday's hearing, but her lawyer quickly quieted her down.

Her lawyer argued that Soto's judgment was impaired the day she first appeared in court. He also stated that Soto has received a psychological evaluation and will be receiving treatment for her addiction.

Soto then apologized.

"My behavior was very irrational, and I apologize to not only the court and you but to my family," she told Rodriguez-Chomat.

"I hope you learn what you said and did was contemptuous behavior," said the judge.

"She's not aggressive or disrespectful," said Lujanny Soto, Penelope's mother.

After hearing further testimony, the judge ordered she be released from jail. She left jail about 3:30 p.m.

"We live in a society where young people like you feel it's okay to call all kinds of names to teachers, professors, friends, and they feel that's okay," said Rodriguez-Chomat.

Soto's case has captured national attention, even spawning a Facebook fanpage and a "Free Penelope" Twitter feed.

But rehabilitation administrator Alfredo Hernandez said Soto didn't want to become famous.

"One of the things she expressed right away was regret, and to me, it was significant," he said. "She mentioned that she didn't want to become famous for something wrong that she did but for something good."

Soto was originally arrested for illegal possession of Xanax.

When Soto faced Judge Rodriguez-Chomat on Monday morning, she got in more trouble.

Video shows that after Rodriguez-Chomat issued Soto a $10,000 bond, the 18-year-old woman walked away, muttered "F*** you," and flipped him off.

Rodriguez-Chomat responded by holding her in contempt of court and sentenced her to 30 days in jail.

In drug court on Wednesday, observers said she was more respectful. Another judge lowered her bond to $5,000 and sentenced her to serve in a drug program. If she completes it, her charges may be dropped.