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Broward judge, defender apologize for gay sex jokes

BY AMY SHERMAN and HANNAH SAMPSON, asherman@miamiherald.com

A Broward judge and a veteran assistant public defender have apologized for jokes they made in the courtroom last Thursday in a case of a man accused of having sex with a teenage boy.

Judge Jeffrey Levenson, 50, and Assistant Public Defender Brian Reidy, 49, apologized to their peers and others in the courthouse for their remarks.

Levenson hasn't faced any discipline, but Public Defender Howard Finkelstein docked Reidy one of his six weeks of vacation time.

Here is what happened, according to the transcript:

Levenson asked what position the boy played in football.

The prosecutor, Adriana Alcalde, replied: ``linebacker.''

That prompted Reidy to joke: ``Tight end.''

Levenson then chimed in: ``Wide receiver?''

''Judge, you know, I don't think that that joke is even remotely funny,'' Alcalde said.

Levenson quickly apologized:

``You know what, I take it back, it was politically incorrect, and I really apologize for that.''

The conversation occurred during a conference about jury instructions involving the lawyers, the defendant and the judge. The boy and the jury were not in the courtroom at the time.

The jury later acquitted the man accused of having consensual sex with the 16-year-old.

Reidy said he told Finkelstein and apologized to his boss and plans to apologize at a staff meeting Friday.

''Tragically, the gay community is still the one group in our society that is openly discriminated against, even by some of our civil and religious leaders,'' he wrote in a letter of apology. ``It has taken this unfortunate mistake on my part for me to realize how easy it can be to disregard the feelings of others.''

Finkelstein said that Reidy, an assistant public defender for 22 years, isn't homophobic.

''But we all know that a serious line had been walked across, and it wasn't just enough to say I'm sorry,'' he said.

Levenson said he made a ''stupid'' remark at the end of a long day.

''It was inappropriate,'' he said. ``I take responsibility for that. I really strive to be fair and sensitive to all who come before me. I treat those who lead an alternative lifestyle the same way I treat any group.''

Former Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Levenson to the county bench in 2003 and then to the circuit bench in 2006.

Levenson said he informed Chief Judge Victor Tobin and apologized to him.

Tobin said he quickly called a meeting among administrative judges Tuesday, during which Levenson apologized to his peers.

''The purpose of the meeting is positive reinforcement and to indicate that we need to have utmost professionalism, integrity and courtesy from the bench,'' Tobin said.

This is the first public controversy involving a judge since Tobin took over as chief judge earlier this fall. In recent years, a few judges have been accused of making insensitive remarks that have prompted the judiciary to undergo sensitivity training.

Tobin said he is working on developing materials for the next round of training.

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As the divine Miss M once said...f**k em if they cant take a joke

the most perverted deviates are judge spechler and traffic ticket fixer rhonda hollander.

This clearly shows that as gay Americans we still have a long way to go! If these remarks had been made about African-Americans; wait they would never have been made in the first place; nor about Jews, Christians, Hispanics or any other ethnic group.
The real shame here is that a member of our judiciary so easily jumped into these bigoted and insensitive comments. As a member of the Board of SAVE I ask that the chief judge do more than call a meeting; he needs to discipline Judge Levenson sternly. How can any gay person appear before this judge in any capacity, defendant, attorney, witness etc and expect a fair and impartial judiciary? As a country we still have a long way to go to ensure “equal justice for all.”

I think that the judge has a good sense of humor. Too many gays become politically correct and get uptight if a straight man makes a gay joke. All of my gay friends and I (I am gay too) have made this same quite-old gay joke many times. So why can't straight guys make gay jokes? Come on, get some humor!!!

In response to Mr. Jarrett; I completely agree we need to laugh at ourselves and not take life too seriously all the time.
If he had not made this remark in his official capacity as a jurist it would not be as offensive to me personally.

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