A judge denied a former Broward Sheriff's Office deputy's request for mercy for using excessive force during the 2015 arrest of a belligerent man outside a gas station.
Justin Lambert, 40, who was convicted two years ago, told Broward Circuit Judge Daniel Casey on Wednesday he was having trouble finding meaningful work and supporting his family because he has to admit he is a felon when he fills out job applications, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.
He wanted the judge to remove the adjudication of his conviction, which would allow him to truthfully answer “no” if asked on a job application if he had ever been convicted of a felony. He also wanted the judge to lift the requirement that he spend one weekend in jail every year for four years close to the Feb. 18 anniversary of his confrontation with victim Daniel Gonzalez.
“For eight years, I’ve relived that day,” Lambert told the judge. “I’m sorry about what happened. I wish it had not happened that way. I’m sorry."
Lambert told the judge he had applied for multiple jobs only to be told he's not employable, the newspaper reported.
“I haven’t done food stamps. I haven’t collected unemployment. I want to work,” he said.
Assistant State Attorney Chris Killoran said that is the same situation faced by defendants who come into the courthouse daily. “What makes you special?” Killoran asked.
The judge did not allow Lambert to answer the question, the newspaper reported. He instead noted he had already shown mercy to Lambert during his August 2019 sentencing hearing.
Gonzalez, 51 at the time of the arrest, had been accused of stealing beer from a gas station convenience store, according to testimony during the trial. The lead deputy who responded to the scene was prepared to let Gonzalez go with a warning. But obscenities were exchanged and a grainy surveillance video showed Gonzalez approach the deputies.
While the video was not clear as to whether Lambert pushed or punched Gonzalez, jurors later said it was excessive force either way, the SunSentinel reported. Gonzalez fell to the ground. He was left with a swollen black eye and multiple facial fractures.
Lambert, a 15-year Broward Sheriff's Office veteran, faced three years in prison. The judge converted it into four years’ probation and the token jail sentence.
Lambert’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, appealed the conviction and the sentence, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal found no reversible errors.
The judge said Lambert’s probation sentence will begin Thursday. He will be expected to report to jail in mid-February for one weekend.