Prosecutors want judge removed from domestic violence cases

Judge sentenced convicted domestic abuser to 2 weeks of probation

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office is trying to have a judge removed from handling all domestic violence cases.

In court documents, prosecutors say the judge imposed "illegal and unlawful" sentences, which favor convicted abusers. 

One of those cases involved Tansyla Nicholson, of Kissimmee.

In February 2017, Nicholson experienced one of the worst nights in her 14-year marriage. She was locked in a bathroom calling 911.

"My husband. I'm afraid." she said to the dispatcher. "He's hitting me and I'm locked in my bedroom and I don't know what he's going to do."

Talking about the incident more than a year later brings her to tears.

"I was afraid for my life," she said.

After that incident, Nicholson's now ex-husband was arrested on a domestic violence battery charge. It was his second time.  

In 2013, he was arrested when Nicholson showed up at the Osceola Regional Medical Center with swollen eyes, a bruised arm and broken nose, according to medical records.

He was convicted in that case, but the couple remained together until 2017, when it happened again.

"It was just too much. Whatever time I had left in my life, I just didn't want to spend it living like that.  I just couldn't," Nicholson said.

Nicholson pressed charges and months later a jury found him guilty of the charge, but Judge Carol Draper made an unusual move.

"The jury came back guilty; however, I am withholding adjudication," she said.

In an audio recording of the trial, the judge questions Nicholson's credibility when she testified. It happened after the jury had already reached a verdict finding Thomas Nicholson guilty.

"She would go into hysterics and cry and act all up, but there were no tears," Draper said. "I have high concerns, high concerns about the credibility of the victim in this case," she said.

According to court transcripts, an Osceola County deputy testified when he made it to the house, Nicholson had a bloody nose, blood on her nightgown, and a welt on the right side of her head, but Draper questioned that, too.

"I really questioned if those injuries occurred the way they said they occurred, and I don't think they did," Draper said.

Nicholson said she was stunned.

"I'm standing there having an out-of-body experience," Nicholson said.  "In disbelief that this is actually happening because she made me feel like I was on trial."

Draper sentenced Nicholson's ex-husband to two weeks of probation, but Florida statute "requires 12 months supervised probation," according to the state.

In its appeal, the state called it "an illegal sentence."

"She has absolutely failed me and my family and my children," Nicholson said.

Nicholson's case is one of three prosecutors cited in an effort to have the judge removed.

"I firmly believe she can no longer sit as a fair and impartial judge on matters involving domestic violence cases," Assistant State Attorney Courtney Walmer wrote in an affidavit.

"This is exactly what victims fear when they step forward to report it," Nicholson said. "Any victim in Osceola County she has put their life at risk, by taking the attitude that she’s taken."

News 6 reached out to Draper for comment but did not get a response.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala did respond.  

"My office supports victims who courageously come forward to hold their abusers accountable and it is disappointing when the criminal justice system fails them," she wrote in a statement.  "I refuse to stand silent in the face of injustice."

A panel of circuit judges will decide whether Draper will continue handling domestic violence cases, according to a court spokesperson.

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