Woman, 18, who flipped off judge, apologizes in court

Feb. 8, 2013 at 3:17 PM ET

By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, NBCMiami.com

An 18-year-old South Florida woman sentenced to 30 days in jail for flipping the bird at a judge this week apologized on Friday to the judge.

Penelope Soto apologized to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat for displaying the middle finger Monday — an incident that drew national headlines and a video of which went viral online.

Read the story at NBCMiami.com

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

Rodriguez-Chomat then vacated the 30-day sentence he imposed when Soto appeared before him on a Xanax possession charge, authorities say.

As Friday's hearing began, Rodriguez-Chomat remarked that Soto looked "completely different," when compared to the woman he saw during the bird-flipping incident. The judge later told her he hoped she successfully completes a drug-treatment program and overcomes her addiction.

During the hearing earlier this week, Soto had smiled and stroked her hair through the proceeding, laughed when she was asked a question about her jewelry and other assets for posting bond.

"It's not a joke, you know. We're not in a club now," Rodriguez-Chomat told her. "We are not in a club. Be serious about it."

"I'm serious about it. You just made me laugh," Soto replied. "You just made me laugh. I apologize. It's worth a lot of money."

Rodriguez-Chomat initially set her bond at $5,000 and said "bye-bye," and Soto laughed and replied "Adios."

Rodriguez-Chomat summoned her back and reset her bond at $10,000, shocking Soto.

"Are you serious?" she asked.

"I am serious. Adios," he replied.

Soto started to walk away when she flipped Rodriguez-Chomat her middle finger and blurted "(expletive) you."

She was called back again, and Rodriguez-Chomat gave her a 30-day sentence for contempt of court.

Soto’s arrest affidavit says authorities got a call about a woman who had fallen down at Southwest 96th Street and Southwest 142nd Avenue. When they got there, she was crying and standing near a bike and had grass in her hair. She told authorities she had fallen down, but she appeared to be under the influence, the report said.

Then she spontaneously said: "I'm on Xanax bars and I have more in my purse," the affidavit said.

She opened her purse and handed the officer three green baggies with 26 Xanax bars, the report said. She was arrested, and the Xanax was confiscated, officials said.

Two days after she was found in contempt of court, she appeared before a different judge more composed. The proceeding was related to her arrest for possession of Xanax.

Soto didn't laugh or smile during the appearance before Judge Jeffrey Rosinek, who had to ask her several times to repeat herself because she was so quiet.

Soto, who told Rosinek she lives with her mother, will have her drug case thrown out if she completes a drug program, the judge ruled.

A Twitter account, @FreePenelope, featuring a photo of Soto, has been created to support Soto, as well as a Facebook fan page.