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The Holmes Report: BSO Explains How It Happened

It's a grim thought, but you have to wonder how close Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes may have come to getting shot on Easter Sunday. 

Broward sheriff's deputies surrounded Holmes' sister house in Deerfield Beach with guns drawn, believing that the house was being burglarized. They had the wrong house but they didn't know that until after Holmes exited the residence with a gun in her hand at about 8:20 p.m. on the April 24. 

​"I'm Judge Holmes, I'm Judge Holmes, I'm Judge Holmes," deputies reported she kept repeating. 

Then she said, "I'm armed." 

Deputies told her to put the gun -- a silver revolver -- down. She didn't do it. They repeated it several times before she finally did as she was told. Then she reached for the gun again, according to one deputy's account. The Holmes family says the judge was only putting down a cell phone, but there is no mention of a cell phone in any of the BSO reports regarding the incident.

When they asked her to get down on the ground, she said that she had a bad back and later told a deputy they would have had to "shoot her" before she was going to sit on the ground.

Later when they tried to get information from the judge, she cut off the interview, telling a deputy that she was "soaking her feet" and couldn't be bothered.  

Those that know Holmes -- a criminal judge who sources say recently asked to be recused from BSO-related cases because she can't be impartial regarding the agency after the Easter incident -- chalk it up this way: "That's Judge Holmes." 

Holmes, a former chief criminal judge who filled the spot after former Judge Ana Gardiner was transferred to civil, is known as a smart and fine jurist, but one with a very wide cantankerous streak. One piece of courthouse legend is that she for months refused to speak with Chief John Palmer, BSO's former courthouse supervisor, because she was upset that her friend, BSO Commander Alvin Pollack, wasn't placed in the top position. 

"It's her way or no way," one sitting judge told me, with what seemed equal parts frustration, consternation, and admiration. 

Inside, read excerpts from the reports written by the deputies who were there during the incident.

The BSO reports regarding the incident show that it all began when a neighbor, believing a nearby house was being burglarized, called deputies. The neighbor, whom I'm not going to name, also warned Holmes' family that there might be a burglary in progress in the house next door. 

When Dep. Leonard Seedig arrived on the scene he wrote that the neighbor pointed him toward the house. Either the neighbor was confused about which house it was or Seedig mistakenly believed she was pointing at the house that was then occupied by Holmes and her sister's family. 

As deputies formed a perimeter around the house, Seedig looked through the kitchen window to see Holmes' sister's husband, Neville Scarlett, who he wrote "appeared to be doing dishes." 

Seedig said he asked the neighbor if there was a tenant in the house. The neighbor repeated that the house was supposed to be empty. He also wrote that the neighbor again pointed at the correct house -- only he didn't realize that she was pointing at the house next door. 

It's clear Seedig wasn't pleased that the neighbor failed to notify him they were standing outside the wrong house. "[The neighbor] was in and out of her residence as this was going on and never alerted deputies that the house that police was surrounding was the wrong house," he wrote. "Deputies were on scene for 17 minutes without [the neighbor] alerting Deputies ...."

As the stood outside the wrong house, Seedig noticed that the outside light was turned on and off and a window was closed with the blinds put down. For him this was confirmation that it was the right house because the neighbor had said her suspicion was sparked by the lights being turned on and off at the house in question. "These actions confirmed that we were at the right house," Seedig wrote.

Why anyone would believe that a burglar would be doing dishes in an empty house on Easter Sunday isn't explained.

Seedig and another deputy approached a side door with guns drawn, knocked on the door, and announced they were with the sheriff's office. 

"I then observed [Holmes' sister, Carmita Scarlett] thru the kitchen window," Seedig wrote. "Upon seeing her I told her to come to the door and come outside. During this time I had my weapon pointed at SCARLETT, CARMITA." 

He ordered everyone to come out with their hands up. Carmita Scarlett was followed out of the house by Judge Holmes, whom Seedig wrote, "kept repeating 'I'm Judge Holmes, I'm Judge Holmes, I'm Judge Holmes.'" 

Seedig continued: "She also stated, 'I'm armed.' HOLMES, ILONA exited the residence with a revolver in her hand. She was told several times to put the gun down, which she finally did."

Deputy J. Morrisroe wrote that Holmes, whom he described as wearing an "orange outfit," then reached for the gun while it was on the ground. 

"I along with other deputies ordered her not to touch the weapon," Morrisroe wrote. "She then put her hands on her head and began stating, 'Do you know who I am? I am a judge. I am Judge Holmes.' She even began raising her voice above the deputies as they spoke to her." 

Deputy Ira Marrich, who said at least three commands had been made for her to put the gun down before she complied, reached down to get the weapon. "After securing the gun, I looked up and recognized the female to be Judge Holmes," Marrich wrote in his account of the incident. 

Seedig then told everyone from the house to get on the ground. "HOLMES, ILONA stated that she could not because she had a bad back," he wrote. "None of the residence [sic] complied with police. ... They appeared very upset that police had pointed weapons at them." 

It was only then that deputies realized they had the wrong house and they quickly determined that the house hadn't been burglarized either. 

Seedig later asked Holmes why she exited the house with a gun in her hand. He apparently spoke to her from outside the home while she sat inside the residence. The interview was concluded when Holmes told Seedig that she was soaking her feet and "now was not a good time" to talk. But prior to that, he did get some answers from her. 

"She stated that she did not know if deputies were who we said we were or burglars," he wrote. "She also stated that she felt that had she not been there police would have mistreated her family. She also stated, 'There was no way I was going to sit on the ground. You'd have to shoot me to sit on the ground tonight." 

That's Judge Holmes. 

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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