Judge Eboni Johnson Rose & Bridgette Digerolamo
Judge Eboni Johnson Rose & Bridgette Digerolamo

Supreme Court reverses ruling by Judge Eboni Rose | ‘I’m ready to live my life’

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Supreme Court has overturned a ruling by Judge Eboni Johnson Rose, where despite a jury finding Bridgette Digerolamo not guilty of a crime, the judge chose to disregard their verdict. Instead, after adjourning court, the judge informed the woman on trial that she was actually found guilty.

“It’s definitely a happy moment for sure. I’m ready to just live my life and not have this hanging over me,” Bridgette Digerolamo told UWK.

Digerolamo was a school teacher of 10 years and at the time of her arrest, worked at Broadmoor Elementary.

“I lost my job over this,” said Digerolamo.

Tuesday’s ruling by the state’s high court restores the not guilty verdict in the case and puts the spotlight on the judge in a high-profile acquittal last month involving a Baton Rouge Police officer.

19th Judicial District Judge Eboni Johnson Rose
19th Judicial District Judge Eboni Johnson Rose

The Incident

The court’s decision stems from an incident that occurred on July 6, 2020, when Bridgette Digerolamo, then 38, got in an argument with three individuals in a car regarding their driving, which had caused her home to flood.

“In 2019, we flooded in a flash flood. In 2020, 13 months later, there was another hard rain with high water and people driving fast through my neighborhood where the wake was sending water in my home,” Digerolamo told UWK.

“So I go outside and I’m trying to stop people from coming through. They’re driving so fast and I was trying to slow them down to keep water from coming in my home. I was engaging in conversation with the people in this car that stopped. Yes, I did have a bat as a ‘look at me and stop’ and I have a concealed carry so I did have my gun concealed on me. That’s when the lady said you don’t bring a bat to a gun fight. I went to my driveway and called 911. They did not answer. I called 911 twice and neither time they answered. The lady got out and we had more conversation with her screaming, ‘We have a gun.’ When she got out of the car is when I pulled my gun. It was 1000% self defense. My kid was two steps from me. She called 911 and they answered so she looked like the victim.”

Bridgette Digerolamo was subsequently arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. She pleaded not guilty.

The Trial with Judge Eboni Rose

The trial commenced on February 14, 2023, nearly three years after the incident. The six-person jury and two alternates were seated on February 13, 2023, with Franz Borghardt representing Digerolamo throughout the proceedings. Cheryl Carter & Kendall Thomas prosecuted the case on behalf of the district attorney’s office.

Following the presentation of six witnesses by the state and a full day of testimony, both the prosecution and defense rested their cases. On February 15, 2023, the case was deliberated by the jury. After deliberating for an hour and 39 minutes, the jury returned with a question. Subsequently, they deliberated for an additional 20 minutes before posing another question. Finally, after deliberating for nine more minutes, they returned a verdict of not guilty on all three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

“I felt the not guilty verdict was the correct verdict. The jury heard the situation and I thought they got it right,” said Digerolamo.

Judge Johnson accepted the verdict, thanked the jurors for their service, declared the case closed, and adjourned court.

“Within 15-20 minutes, we were outside the courtroom. We were walking out the courthouse when my lawyer called and said come back in. They opened it back up like we didn’t just end and read me a different verdict and they were going to take me to jail. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought for sure, ‘What just happened? How do you go from a not guilty to guilty verdict.’ It was a gut punch,” she added.

Jacob Longman, who represented Bridgette Digerolamo throughout the appeals process, said, “The judge dismissed everyone from the room. She told Bridgette, ‘You’re free to go. You’re not guilty.’ Everyone left, and what happened is the judge went and had a conversation with the jury, and based on that conversation, she called everyone back and said that when the jury returned with a question, they intended for a guilty verdict. The thing is, you can’t do that. In fact, you can’t even talk to the jury without the defense attorneys and the prosecutors present, which is why everything happens in open court. So she called everyone back in and reinstated the first verdict. Legally, once the verdict has been entered, that’s the end.”

The Appeal

Given the jury’s verdict of not guilty and the decision from Judge Eboni Johnson Rose to overturn that verdict, Jacob Longman and Kathryn Burke stepped in to represent Digerolamo. They appealed Judge Rose’s ruling before the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In their appeal, the lawyers argued that Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 813 stipulates, “If the court finds that the verdict is incorrect in form or is not responsive to the indictment, it shall refuse to receive it, and shall remand the jury with the necessary oral instructions. In such a case, the court shall read the verdict, and record the reasons for refusal.”

However, Judge Rose not only accepted the verdict but also dismissed the jury and released Digerolamo.

Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling

The Louisiana Supreme Court justices reversed Judge Eboni Johnson Rose’s ruling and reinstated the not-guilty verdict on April 30, 2024, more than a year after the original trial in February 2023.

“It’s just a sigh of relief that it’s over, that someone saw how crazy it was what went down in the courtroom. I felt like no one could really decipher what was true law and what was made up. Today’s ruling was a big relief for me. I think I always knew what was really true and what was made up and today really finalized that for me. It’s definitely a happy moment for sure. I’m ready to just live my life and not have this hanging over me,” said told UWK.

Bridgette’s husband Michael recalls the day she was arrested and said he’s grateful a unanimous Louisiana Supreme Court found his wife was not guilty.

“Before I could even figure out what was going on, she was at parish prison,” recalled Michael Digerolamo. “I’ve got her back no matter what. We’ve been together 25 years.”

“The jury’s verdict finding defendant not guilty is facially valid and was read in open court by the minute clerk. After neither party requested polling, the trial court thanked the jurors for their service and dismissed them to the jury room. The trial court then declared the case concluded, adjourned court, and met privately with the jury. The verdict was sufficiently received and recorded to make it final under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure articles 810 and 811,” the justices stated unanimously.

Moreover, the justices emphasized that an acquittal “gives rise to the prohibition against double jeopardy.”

“Here, after receiving a final verdict and retiring the jury, the trial court erred by allowing the jury to
continue to deliberate and change its verdict, particularly after the court violated the sanctity of any further deliberations by meeting privately with the jury. Likewise, as both parties agree, the trial court erred by granting a mistrial months later,” the justices said in their decision.

“It felt very personal down to even the trial. The judge instructed the jury to go back during deliberations and find what I was guilty of,” said Digerolamo. “It was just a really rough time. I got hate messages and death threats. The last year alone, I lost my best friend and nearly missed the funeral because of a court date. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and my dog died about two weeks ago not to mention trying to keep your marriage together and fighting for it.”

“The Louisiana Supreme Court’s unanimous decision confirmed legally what a jury of Ms. Digerolamo’s peers found factually, which is she’s not guilty,” said Longman.

Digerolamo’s original trial lawyer, Franz Borghardt, said, “We believe the unanimous Supreme Court decision is the right decision. We are very happy for Bridgette, who we believe is innocent of these charges.”

“I couldn’t have done all this and gone through the appeals process without my lawyers. Kathryn, Jacob & Franz B. have been amazing,” she added.

UWK reached out to Judge Rose’s office for a response, but her legal assistant responded with “No comment.”

Ramifications in other cases?

Another case that will also be brought before the Louisiana Supreme Court involves Judge Eboni Johnson Rose acquitting a Baton Rouge Police Officer.

Donald Steele was on trial in March 2024 for second-degree kidnapping and malfeasance in office. Despite numerous witnesses corroborating the victim’s story that the officer was out of his district, no one knew he had stopped a young lady and told an LSU police officer he was talking to his sister. Judge Rose found the officer not guilty of kidnapping.

Donald Steele

Steele opted for a bench trial over a jury trial, waiving his right to a jury, and Judge Rose heard and ruled on his case.

Although the judge declared Steele guilty of misdemeanor malfeasance in office, malfeasance is only a felony under Louisiana law. Due to this technicality, Judge Rose acquitted Steele entirely, potentially allowing him to return to his position as a police officer.

Prosecutors for the state, Dana Cummings and District Attorney Hillar Moore, are now appealing the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play for any new developments.

10 Responses

  1. Judge Eboni Johnson Rose hates white people. She will always do her best to keep black people out of prison and put white people in prison, regardless of guilt or innocence.

  2. Mrs. Digerolamo should sue this judge in civil court for these illegal actions and take her to the LSBA and try to get her debarred. This judge is very racist. She just let a black cop off for 2nd degree kidnapping and tried to send a white woman to jail on a not guilty verdict. Let’s call it like it is!!
    There needs to be a thorough investigation into her past cases too.

  3. She definitely needs to be removed from the bench. Her overt racism is going to be the end to justice. The Supreme Court shouldn’t coddle her because she’s a “young” judge. Judges dont make mistakes. If they do, they need to be removed.

  4. Here’s what hiring a DEI judge gets you. Thank the Lord the Louisiana Supreme Court still does its job.

  5. I hope they investigate her actions as being a hate crime because that’s how they appear

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