Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry was out of line when he offered no explanation for why he decided to jail Stephanie Kraft in December, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Kraft, 58, a former member of the Broward School Board, was found guilty on Dec. 11 of one count of official misconduct, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Destry ordered her taken into custody immediately.

Five days later, defense lawyer Ken Padowitz returned to Destry’s courtroom in a bid to free his client on bond while she awaited sentencing. Again, Destry turned him down.

In a decision released Wednesday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that Destry was not obliged to free Kraft after a jury found her guilty, but he was obliged to say why.

“Here, the court appears to have refused to exercise its discretion to consider release on bond pending sentencing,” the appeals court decision stated. “The court provided no reasoning and did not render a written order on the defendant’s motions.”

Destry’s decision to jail Kraft appeared to be “arbitrary and capricious,” the appeals court ruled. But without a written ruling from Destry, it was impossible for the defense to challenge Destry’s reasoning and for the appeals court to defend or reject it.

“Even judges have to follow the law,” Padowitz said Wednesday after reading the appeals court ruling.

Destry declined to comment on the case because it remains on appeal.

Kraft ended up spending a week in jail. Destry sentenced her to five years of probation and withheld adjudication, meaning she will not be a convicted felon as long as she stays out of trouble with the law. Her probation sentence is on hold as she appeals the case.


Rafael Olmeda

Original Story Here: Sun Sentinel