Traffic ticket, screw-ups land Broward grandma in jail for 15 days

Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau

Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau

By Dan Christensen,

A 78-year-old Hallandale Beach grandmother ticketed for driving on a suspended driver’s license spent 15 days in jail before authorities announced her license wasn’t suspended and an outraged judge set her free.

County Court Judge Lee J. Seidman ordered Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau’s release in December at her arraignment.

“She’s handcuffed like Houdini, for the record. She’s got chains around her waist, and she’s got handcuffs in front around her hands as if she was some kind of a violent criminal,” said Seidman, according to a transcript.  “I want her released. I think she’s suffered enough at our system’s mistakes.”

Safeguards built into Broward’s judicial system are designed to prevent what happened to Shaink Trudeau. But the prolonged jailing of an elderly woman with no previous criminal record over a traffic ticket has left red-faced authorities admitting they botched her case.

“We fell down and we fell down badly,” said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, better known to South Florida television viewers as Channel 7’s “Help me Howard.”

Foul-ups and inaction are what kept the frail and passive senior behind bars for the first time in her life. Those missteps were largely, but not entirely, the result of Finkelstein’s office – the very office whose job it is to look out for indigents like Trudeau.

Two assistant public defenders who staff Broward’s magistrate court neglected to represent Shaink Trudeau during her initial appearance in magistrate’s court the morning after her Nov. 18 arrest, Finkelstein said. And contrary to office procedure, no public defender went to meet with Shaink Trudeau at the Broward County Jail.

“It was almost like she was invisible. I deeply apologize to this woman,” said Finkelstein.

Shaink Trudeau was having a bad 2009 even before a policeman pulled her over in the 1000 block of West Hallandale Beach Boulevard on Sept. 7 for driving her 1995 green Mercury sedan too slowly.

Neighbors at the Lone Pine Mobile Country Club West said the former waitress lost about $20,000 – nearly all her money – to a Jamaican land sale scam and that the trailer park was taking steps to evict her because she could no longer pay the rent. Shaink Trudeau confirmed that account in an interview late last week at the assisted living facility in Hollywood where she now resides.

Court records show the officer ticketed Shaink Trudeau not for driving too slowly, but for driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license – a criminal charge that carries up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The ticket required her to appear at the South Satellite Courthouse on Oct. 8. When she did not show, a judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest and set a $2,000 bond.

Shaink Trudeau’s license was revoked Aug. 27 by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for failing to respond to earlier correspondence regarding certain undisclosed medical issues, said Assistant State Attorney Hillary Gulden. The first letter was sent in March, a few weeks after Shaink Trudeau was convicted in Miami-Dade of improper backing following an accident there, Gulden said.

On Sept. 17, 10 days after her ticket in Hallandale, the state received a response and restored Shaink Trudeau’s driving privileges pending further review, Gulden said.

Shaink Trudeau told a reporter she understood the notice she received from the state to mean she no longer had to appear in court.

But she misunderstood. And six weeks after the warrant was issued, three brawny Broward Sheriff’s deputies were sent to her home and arrested Shaink Trudeau in her kitchen.

“They came on real strong, like I had killed somebody or something,” she said. “There were neighbors all around. They put handcuffs on me. It was very embarrassing.”

Deputies took Shaink Trudeau to the Broward County Jail where she was photographed, booked, fingerprinted and issued a standard khaki jumpsuit, jail records show.

At 8:49 the next morning, Nov. 19, Shaink Trudeau made her first appearance before a judge in magistrate’s court.

A video of the proceedings shows Shaink Trudeau, arms tucked inside her jumpsuit, sitting in the front row and looking cold and gray and every bit her age. She was among a group of about two dozen inmates whose bonds had been  previously set by another judge.

Howard Finkelstein

Howard Finkelstein

Judge John “Jay” Hurley, the court’s full-time magistrate judge, typically zips through such cases without having defendants speak. He explained in an interview that an appeals court once reversed him for changing another judge’s bond, so unless someone calls a special circumstance to his attention he moves quickly to dispose of them.

Hurley is not in the same room as the inmates, but both sides can see each other on closed-circuit television monitors. The video shows that as Hurley gets to her, Shaink Trudeau leans forward to hear.

“Gabrielle Trudeau. That bond is $2,000,” says Hurley.

That’s all he said before moving to the next case. Looking puzzled, Shaink Trudeau swivels to face the woman sitting next to her. Then she turns her palms up in a gesture that appears to say “What just happened?”

The video shows Hurley missed Shaink Trudeau’s reaction. Indeed, he didn’t see her at all as he read her name because rarely looked up while addressing her group of defendants.

Nor did any court personnel call to the judge’s attention the presence of an elderly wisp of a woman who needed special handling. Two experienced assistant public defenders were standing nearby, but said nothing, according to Finkelstein.

“They let a judge give this person the bum’s rush,” said Finkelstein, who believes individual defendants have a right to stand at the podium while the judge reads the charge and states the bond.

Pretrial services division employees also shot up no flare to alert the judge.

Pretrial workers, employed by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, screen new inmates with an eye toward keeping those who are a threat locked up and releasing those who are not before trial.

Just that morning they’d found Shaink Trudeau eligible for pretrial release based on a risk assessment score that was so low she was considered a good candidate for release on her own recognizance, according to BSO’s director of community control Kristina Gulick.

Hurley got that risk assessment before the hearing. But in an interview last week, he called it “irrelevant” to his decision making because the $2,000 bond was already in place.

“I could have taken other measures if it had been brought to my attention that there were special circumstances,” he said. “Nobody said, look, she’s old and maybe we need to do something special.”

Guards took Shaink Trudeau back to jail for the next two weeks, including Thanksgiving.

Shaink Trudeau says she wasn’t mistreated, but was confused and wanted out. She says she didn’t post bond because someone she could not identify kept telling her it wasn’t necessary.

Finally, at her arraignment on Dec. 2, prosecutor Gulden announced the state was dropping the charge because Shaink Trudeau’s license was not suspended.

“On behalf of the system of so-called justice, I apologize,” Seidman said.

“I accept that,” replied Shaink Trudeau.

Gulick said it cost taxpayers $107 a day to keep Shaink Trudeau in jail. The final tab: $1,605.

Prosecutors now say they have established that Shaink Trudeau’s license was in fact suspended on the day they dismissed the case. A further records check showed the state suspended it again on Nov. 26 – while Shaink Trudeau was in jail – for failing to obtain a medical reexamination.

Shaink Trudeau’s license remains suspended today, and prosecutors have not decided whether to refile the charge, Gulden said.

Shaink Trudeau’s odyssey through the belly of Broward’s judicial system prompted soul-searching last week at the public defender’s office. Finkelstein ordered retraining for several attorneys he declined to identify, but said there would be no discipline because there was no ill intent.

“She fell through the cracks. It makes you wonder how often this happens,” he said.

Judge Hurley said that from now on he will ask court personnel to identify special circumstance cases that require his attention. He’s also had talks with Finkelstein’s office about more individualized treatment for all inmates in magistrate’s court.

But Hurley says he wants to keep things in perspective.

“It’s like when FedEx delivers a million packages a day and loses one or two. Do we really want to change the whole system because of it?” he said.

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Latest comments

  • Tragic story. Thanks for giving Ms. Trudeau her day in court.

  • unbelievable! Someone’s head should roll.

  • “It’s like when FedEx delivers a million packages a day and loses one or two. Do we really want to change the whole system because of it?”

    One or two? What drugs is Hurley on?

  • I wonder if she was able to receive her medications quickly and on a daily basis while she was locked-up?

  • Good story, Dan

  • Judge Hurley…what did you do to this woman. Thankfully Judge Seidman was here to save the day.

  • Talk about falling through the cracks! Man. Love the part about a few fed-ex packages! People-packages coming thru people! Move ’em out!

  • I understand Hurley’s comment, but I don’t understand Finkelstein’s position. Finkelstein wants to turn the system upside down because of one case when the other 99.9% go smoothly through the system.

  • Where was Judge Seidman for two weeks? Who did he name as his back-up judge? Why did it take two weeks for Seidman to realize this situation?

  • @Vacationing judge – good point. Looks like Seidman is the one who dropped the ball. Oh well it will probably make the lady some $$$ at our expense.

  • Why did it take 15 days for Seidman to find this woman. If she was Hispanic, he would have kept her in.

  • It’s unfortunate that it looks like Judge Hurley is going to get a free re-election ride.

    His courtroom was the place where this should have been nipped in the bud, but he can’t even be bothered to look up and deal with the human beings that are being paraded before him.

    Yes, the public defender’s office should have done a better job, but the buck stops with the initial judge who started this travesty.

  • From the magistrate on down, EVERY person who could have made a difference but did nothing — should be disciplined — not counseled, and should have a part of the cost of incarceration taken OUT of their salary. They all just “do their job” but don’t worry about doing the right thing. Human costs, costs to taxpayers for her jail time, but no impact on the employees.

    Thanks to the Broward Bulldog for bringing the situation to light and Judge Seidman for apologizing. This woman needs a SOCIAL WORKER to help her with her driver’s license and transportation issues — NOT to be prosecuted again.

  • This reminds me of the overwhelmed medical examiner in New York City who had lost several bodies and thought it “wasn’t any big deal, a small number of lost bodies could be expected among the thousands that we deal with.” (!)
    Granny Trudeau at least didn’t get past her arraignment and stay in jail longer. Pitiful. The quality of government workers is REALLY LOW in almost every discipline. When you don’t have accountability and you don’t have to make a profit, you end up with mediocrity.

  • Granted it was a terrible thing that happened to this woman. The fact that she had no prior history of any criminal activity would still not allow her to qualify for the Broward Sheriffs Office Pre- Trial Release Program. Ms. Gulick should know and should have told you that during your interview. Florida statute is very clear that if an individual has ever failled to appear in court the bond is a minimum of $2000.00 or double was it was originally. This law was past to keep the repeat bail jumbers from getting out of jail on the taxpayers dime and comitting new offenses. Most of the Judges do not follow this law either.

  • I want to represent her and sue the f###ing assholes!

  • This story needs to go viral! This makes me furious! Email this story to your friends! Send it to your local News! Email it to the major and cable news networks! Post it in every blog you blog! From the morons who handcuffed her to the DA who let this slip by to the Pu…blic Defender who didnt show up to the Judge and his help who werent paying attention, they all need to be publically humiliated! Shame on you all!!!!! SHAME SHAME SHAME ON ALL OF YOU! What is your problem Miami Dade? I used to live in St Pete. I have always been so proud of Florida! But this is too much. Heads need to roll! All you locals need to rise up and demand resignations! This woman could have well lost her last Thanksgiving with her family and them with her! All because from everyone from the cops to the judge, no-one used common sense! NO COMMON SENSE! That makes you not qualified to be a part of our justice system! Shame Shame Shame!

  • “It’s like when FedEx delivers a million packages a day and loses one or two. Do we really want to change the whole system because of it?” he said.

    NO…Just hold people ACCOUNTABLE….AND WHY?:

    “Shaink Trudeau’s license remains suspended today, and prosecutors have not decided whether to refile the charge, Gulden said.”

    prosecutors have not decided?
    prosecutors have not decided?

    have not decided? HAVE NOT DECIDED?! What the…..? Is this the twilight zone?

    Ill say it again folks. I hav spent 5 hours emailing this story to every major news show and every cable news show, drudge, breibart, I facebooked it, I emailed it to my entire address book! And I encourage everyone to do the same. These government officials are acting like ..”oops…im sorry”

    Well its not an “oops…I’m sorry!”

    It is a blatent sign of a lack of pure common sense from the cops that handcuffed her to the highest level. This woman may have lost her last thanksgiving with her family and them with her.

    My father was a Deputy Sheriff, I have 6 close friends who are either cops or retired. I have a total respect for our justice system. And when it messes up this bad its not an “oops..I’m sorry”…Its a “people take their lumps”..Miami Dade residents need to rise up and get Justice for this woman…and the PUBLIC DEFENDER NEEDS TO DECIDE!

  • I think this is the perfect way for this lady to recoup he losses in the land scam!

    Sue these inconsiderate morons for a few hundred thousand to make sure they don’t treat another senior with the same dis-respect!

  • good grief!

  • This story is outrageous. The fact that the Judge would actually state that this case is no different than FedEx losing one or two packages out of a million speaks volumes. What kind of justice is it when the person who decides your fate doesn’t even give you the courtesy of looking at you? Clearly this over paid scumbag is too careless to hold such a position.
    What would have happened if this poor woman died in jail? It really isn’t a stretch to imagine that they would forget to give her her meds, or adequate care.
    The truly sad part about this story is that this probably happens all of the time. Worse is that there will be no consequences for such horrifically unacceptable systemic misconduct.
    How can we expect the public to hold the justice system in an kind of esteem and hold people to accountability, when it doesn’t have any accountability itself?

  • that is terrible. they should be ashamed of themselves. what dirtbags.

  • Here’s my story. Nothing much has changed in Broward County”

    January 20, 2010

    On the afternoon of January 8, 2010, I was traveling on Jet Blue Flight #377 from New York City to Fort Lauderdale to visit friends in Lake Worth, Florida. The plane was scheduled to arrive at 4:35 p.m. but was delayed by about one hour because of high winds in New York. During the flight I consumed three glasses of white wine, the kind that comes in the little bottles on airplanes, the last one at about 4 p.m. I also purchased two small bottles of vodka that I intended to give to my hosts, since I didn’t want to make any stop prior to arriving at their house. I put the bottles of vodka unopened in my purse.
    I arrived at the car rental counter at approximately 6 P.M. Cell phone records indicate that I called my friend to tell her I was on my way to the auto rental at 5:57 p.m. Since I was a Gold member at Hertz, I stood at that line for a while, then I became agitated and asked why I was not getting service. Some clerk told me she was busy. I attempted to use the automatic rental contracts machines, when the clerk materialized and offered me two cars that I turned down because I considered them too big. Finally, she offered me a Saturn which I accepted and she prepared the rental contract for the Saturn. As I was walking to the lot to pick up the car, I saw a silver Mercedes Coupe and decided to treat myself and rent that; so, I doubled back to the counter to ask for the Mercedes at which point a manager and two deputy sheriffs came out and the manager told me I couldn’t have the Mercedes because I was inebriated. I thought he was joking and showed him that I could touch my nose and walk a straight line, as seen on TV; I also told him that since the sheriffs were there (and they couldn’t have come any faster if the airport were on fire. Clearly the clerk had called them and they were waiting for me to get behind the wheel and then pull me over.) I would take a Breathalyzer test and if it came back that I was not inebriated the car rental would be on him. After all, they had rented me a car even though they believed me to be inebriated, it was the upgrade that seemed to bother them. I still thought it was a joke!
    But not for long! The next thing I know a Deputy Sheriff named Simpson, I believe, hand cuffed me very tightly with my hands behind my back and told me he was taking me to jail. I demanded an attorney, which he refused. I called him a profane double epithet, something that he objected to, his mood didn’t improve when I noted that truth was a defense. He manhandled to the back of his official car by pushing/pulling me by the the shoulder. The man was caucasian, between 30 and 40 years old, approximately 6 foot tall and possibly 200 pounds. I am caucasian, 68 years old, and weigh 130 lbs and am 5’6” tall.
    The sheriff then began what I consider an illegal search and seizure since as far as I knew he had no probable cause. He rifled through my purse and overnight carry-on. I am an inveterate green tea drinker and I was carrying some chinese green tea left over from previous trips. The officer could not contain his glee as he assumed the loose green tea to be cannabis; unfortunately the test he conducted in my presence was inconclusive. He called his partner and the two of them disappeared for approximately one hour with the tea.
    When he returned, he told me he was taking me to jail, whereupon I again requested an attorney. He refused and announced proudly that he wasn’t going to read me my Miranda rights.. Instead, he took me to a hospital, because the medications that he had found (all prescriptions, duly documented) indicated that I had health problems. When the doctor came in to examine me I told him that I refused all care without an attorney present, which was again denied, and the sheriff took me to the Broward County Jail. Before we had left the airport, he had stripped me of all my jewelry with such brutality that a jade bracelet I was wearing broke in two. After that my notion of time is hazy as I no longer had my watch and no clock were to be found.
    At the jail, I was commanded to completely undress and I was strip searched and then told to leave my clothes and I was given a thin pajama-like cotton pants and shirts. This was the coldest day in Florida in years and I was very cold and demanded a sweater or a blanket. Denied.
    After several hours, I was booked for possession of cannabis, inebriation and obstruction without violence with bail set at $100, which I indicated I would pay. The clerk told me to wait until they called me. Meanwhile, I spoke to the nurse on duty who measured my blood pressure at 260/114, but still would not allow me access to my medication. I enquired several times when I was to be released and each time told that my bail had been paid and any minute now.I knew that couldn’t be true as I had not been allowed to make a phone call, and in any case you could only make collect phone calls to area code 954 where I knew no one and the only way my bail could have only been paid was if they had withdrawn the cash from my wallet.
    With all the tergiversating about bail and release, it was approximately 3 a.m. on January 9th when I was taken “upstairs” where I should have been released. I had had no food besides the snacks on the plane since 7 a.m. January 8, and I had pain in my left side from the shoulder to the pelvis, due I am sure to the exacerbation of my fibromyalgia and lack of food and water. To this day, I am still coughing from the cold, which I didn’t have when I entered the jail, but was definitely suffering from when I left; I demanded medical assistance, which was denied. As I was laying on the floor trying to alleviate the pain, a male nurse attempted to lift me by my wrists. The same wrist that was later diagnosed as sprained.
    At approximately 4 a.m., breakfast was thrown (literally) at me, but by then my stomach and chest hurt so I decided to wait until later to eat. At 6 a.m. when the guards came to check my blood pressure, one of them stated that keeping the food was not allowed and removed the skimpy breakfast that I had been given at 4 a.m. So I had had no food since 7 a.m. the previous day. At 8 a.m. I was told I had to see a magistrate and again demanded an attorney which of course was denied. I am a dual citizen and I also demanded to that the French Consulate be contacted as is my right. I was hoping he/she could contact an attorney that could come and bail me out. When I wasn’t called to see the magistrate I demanded to know what was going on, requested an attorney and demanded that the French Consul be contacted. Denied on the basis that my bail had been “paid” and that it was just a matter of time before they released me. Eventually, my name was called and after waiting another hour or so, my clothes were returned to be as well as my other belongings. This is when I found out that my jade bracelet was broken; the two mini bottles of vodka and the chinese green tea were also not returned. I requested to annotate the sign sheet for my belongings, but that too was refused. Eventually at about 12:30 p.m. I was released after paying $100. The charge was “obstruction without violence” no mention of cannabis or inebriation!
    I saw a physician at a 24-hour walk-in clinic where I got x-rays for both my shoulders, wrists and knees. The doctor documented the bruises and I took photos of them. The doctor found that my right hand and wrist were sprained by the tightness of the handcuffs and he ordered a splint for it.
    It is evident that my civil rights were tramped upon all during that incident, but I must add that my treatment was no better and no worse than the one afforded to my holding cell cellmates, who kept cautioning me not to make my repeated requests for an attorney and the French Consul. telling me that the more I asked the longer I would stay. These women who clearly had been through this process before were too cowed to demand their basic civil rights. For example, one young woman who was lactating and obviously without her infant was held for over 12 hours and pumping out her milk so that the infant could be fed and her pain alleviated was also refused. Another cellmate was obviously going through withdrawal and was in need of medical attention, which was always refused.

    Suzanne Boule

  • Why am I surprised… This is such an abomination – and for this judge to not take ANY of the blame and to trivialize it with his statement below is disgusting!!

    “It’s like when FedEx delivers a million packages a day and loses one or two. Do we really want to change the whole system because of it?”

    Per Alex Abate:
    January 11, 2010
    “One or two? What drugs is Hurley on?” MY EXACT THOUGHTS!

  • I just have to add — regarding Suzanne Boule’s post above: I know it’s been five months since this happened to you, I am so sorry that you had to endure this kind of treatment. I pray that your story reaches a reporter, who starts a REAL investigation in to the MANY outrageous events that are allowed to take place in our justice system. Why are the many good people, working for BSO, as well as other agencies, not willing to stand up and say, This is not acceptable? One mistake after another is no longer just an accident. People are ALLOWING this to continue! It’s no different then telling someone to not drink and drive, and then handing them their keys. The atrocity is that in many cases, doing nothing, could be a matter of life or death.

  • It looks like Howard’s office stood by and did nothing – but everyone is too afraid of his vindictiveness to say anything. Plus he’s got the Sun Sentinel and Mayo on his side so Howard’s errors never show up in the paper – only sites like this.

  • The cops at BSO need to be all fired

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