ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge C. Jeffery Arnold, a man of many words when it comes to sentencing criminals, immediately apologized last week after uttering two words he wished to take back: fat ass. 

He was referring last week to assistant public defenders as a group, not one in particular. But it was enough for Chief Judge Belvin Perry to quickly reassign the 18-year judicial veteran from one of the busiest criminal divisions to the judicial woodshed: Osceola County Juvenile Court. 

Arnold's comments came as he and a top lawyer for the Orange-Osceola Public Defender argued over whether he had the authority to order her lawyers to appear with prosecutors before Arnold to discuss the status of plea negotiations. 

Public Defender Bob Wesley said his assistants have resisted the edict, because it often is a waste of their time and it requires them to share strategy and reasoning that is usually protected by the attorney-client relationship. Other times, clients simply want to exercise their right to a trial. Ad

But Arnold was having none of it during the May 14 discussion with Wesley's trial chief, Melissa Vickers. 

"I'm not going to have some 1-year, or 2-year-old lawyer sitting there and telling me there's nothing to discuss on a case that's sitting on my docket and clogging the thing up. It ain't gonna ever happen," Arnold said, according to a court reporter's recording of the discussion obtained by Local 6. "They're going to come over and we're gonna talk about the daggum cases and if they don't come then that's going to create a problem... because I'll hold them in contempt of court when I schedule them for a hearing and they do not show up." 

"Some clients just want a trial," Vickers said moments later.

"That's fine. We'll give them a trial. That's fine," Arnold responded.

"Then what do we need to discuss if it's a trial?" Vickers countered, pushing Arnold over the verbal edge.

"I need to know," he said, his voice rising. "Somebody needs to tell me and they can get their fat ass over here and tell me what it is, too." 

Instantly, Arnold realized he'd gone too far.
"Excuse me. I apologize. I'm getting irritated by the resistance I'm getting of trying to end up improving the quality of your lawyers' daily life." 

"I understand," Vickers replied, apparently taken aback. "The conversation is turning inappropriate and I think we should stop at this point." 

"I agree," the judge said. 

They did continue talking at the bench for a few more minutes during a break between plea hearings, and no agreement was reached. 

Wesley said he did not complain to Arnold or Perry about the comments, but word of them spread throughout the courthouse. 

Perry would not comment on why he reassigned Arnold, but Local 6 has confirmed it was related to the "fat ass" comment. 

Arnold has not responded to a phone message seeking comment. 

It was not the first time Arnold's comments have raised eyebrows. During a sentencing in February he made an offhand remark about a Seminole County woman accused of burning down The Senator, an ancient cypress tree that attracted thousands of tourists. Ad

"I was tickled to find out they caught that - lady," he said, pausing as he searched for and settled on the word lady. "They should take her out at dawn and shoot her." 

Arnold has been a county or circuit judge since 1994, founding and heading the circuit's successful collections court since 1999.