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Miami-Dade judge warns runaway teen that she could end up a whore

MIAMI — A child-welfare judge drew the ire of his boss and children's advocates when he told a 15-year-old runaway foster child that she would end up a "toothless, dead crack whore" if she didn't mend her ways and that "No one's going to love you."

Exasperated that the girl was refusing to return to a home where she said her caregiver hit and cursed at her, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Spencer Eig lectured the sobbing teen about making bad choices during what began as a routine hearing Tuesday morning.

"You're throwing your life away," Eig told the girl. "You could end up on the street toothless. You've seen these toothless hags on the street? You know how they get there? They blow their opportunities in life when they're 15. They run away. They end up — people turn them into whores.

"Toothless, dead crack whore — dead at age 19? Is that the destiny you're looking for?" he asked.

The next day, Miami-Dade's chief juvenile court judge, Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, brought the girl back to court. When two attorneys who had been in court the day before complained about Eig's comments, Lederman apologized to the girl.

"That should never have happened," Lederman told the girl. "I'm so sorry."

Jacqui Colyer, the new regional administrator for the Department of Children and Families, said she intends to discuss the girl's case — and the proper treatment of abused and neglected children in court — with Eig next week.

Colyer said she had reviewed transcripts of the case and discussed it with her subordinates this week. She said she was told that Lederman will be discussing Eig's behavior with him, too, but Lederman declined to discuss the matter with a reporter.

In a statement released to the Miami Herald by the Miami judiciary's spokeswoman, Eunice Sigler, Eig expressed regret for the language he used to scold the teen.

"The child in this case had been running away," Sigler wrote in a short statement. "Judge Eig regrets that the language he used was strong, but it was his intention to try to warn the child about the dangers of life on the street, and what people could do to her. His intention was to help, not harm."

The girl, who is not being identified by the Herald, had been living with a school bus driver under the authority of the DCF. In recent weeks, caseworkers testified, she ran away from the home, though she continued to go to school every morning.

At the hearing Tuesday, Eig asked the girl why she ran away. At first, the girl replied, " 'Cause she mean." Moments later, she told the judge that the woman had hit her and cursed at her.

But Eig told the teen she had no better alternatives. He told her she would be treated worse at the next place that child welfare administrators sent her.

"You're going to keep your stuff in a box, and every few months someone's going to be mean to you. Then you're going to get upset about it, and you're going to yell and scream, and then, unlike regular children, which they wait for to calm down, they're going to call the police and going to come and (involuntarily commit) you.

"Then they're going to hold you in a psychiatric ward and pump drugs into you," he told the crying girl. "That's the future you're buying for yourself. … No one's going to love you."

Miami-Dade judge warns runaway teen that she could end up a whore 02/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 12:06am]

    

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