VERO BEACH, Fla. — St. Lucie County Judge Kathryn Nelson, who was arrested last week on charges of DUI with property damage and resisting arrest without violence , entered a written not-guilty plea Monday afternoon.
Nelson, 52, was arrested about 5:50 p.m. Oct. 25 by Vero Beach Police Department officers responding to reports of a westbound vehicle on State Road 60 weaving back and forth and hitting the north guardrail at the Merrill P. Barber Bridge several times before crashing just east of Indian River Boulevard.
Nelson's attorney, Michael Kessler of Fort Pierce, had the written plea filed at 3:54 p.m. Monday in lieu of Nelson appearing in court at an arraignment hearing scheduled for Nov. 29.
"Judge Nelson has now experienced the embarrassment that many other innocent people have felt after being arrested and having the news of their arrest make the papers," Kessler said in a prepared statement. "The judge and I intend to defend this case vigorously, and successfully, but not in the media. We look forward to our day in court."
The Indian River County Clerk of Courts website indicates that Nelson's case has been given to County Judge Joe Wild, based on the system in which judges typically divvy up cases alphabetically. Nelson, for example, handles 40 percent of county court-level criminal cases, which tend to be less serious than circuit court-level cases, in St. Lucie County based alphabetically on defendants' last names.
Chief Judge Steve Levin has said he expects a judge from outside the 19th Judicial Circuit will be assigned to the case.
Likewise, State Attorney Bruce Colton has asked Gov. Rick Scott that another State Attorney's Office handle prosecuting Nelson's case.
Nelson, who identified herself as a St. Lucie County judge during the arrest, told police she was using her cellphone when she lost control of her car, according to a police report.
Police said Nelson had an open bottle of Xanax prescription pills. Several times during the stop, Nelson declined field sobriety tests and refused to get out of her car.
It took three officers, including one prying Nelson's fingers from the steering wheel, to remove her from the vehicle, the report states.
"Ms. Nelson continued to scream and pull away as she was restrained and placed in handcuffs," the arrest report states.