LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It was almost a year ago that Federal Judge Patricia Minaldi publicly admitted she was an alcoholic and was diagnosed with a serious brain disorder related to alcoholism.
"There's no disputing that I'm in a battle with alcohol," she said.
"In order to ensure the integrity of the court system and the public's confidence, I thought it better to take medical leave until it's clear that this problem is under control," Minaldi said.
But she never returned to the bench and was granted a disability retirement. Now, some inmates who went before Minaldi in court are using that to try to get convictions or sentences thrown out. The four who have filed petitions from behind bars are Spencer Roy Pete, Michael Shawn Roscoe, David Matthews and Eddie Sutton. They are all in a low security federal prison in Beaumont for drug offenses and have release dates between 2023 and 2031.
When Minaldi discussed her situation nearly a year ago she admitted such challenges would be made.
"I'm sure some will be challenged. Anyone can file a lawsuit, regardless of its merit. But I don't believe for a second that any of those cases meritoriously will be challenged," she said.
And she stood firm that she did not hold court intoxicated.
" If there ever was an indication that I was unable to handle my duties because of alcohol, either the after effects or current effects, proceedings did not go forward," said Minaldi.
The inmates petitions also say Minaldi received special, preferential treatment from local law enforcement which adversely affected their cases--and that prosecutors should have known and disclosed evidence of Minaldi's condition.
We contacted Lake Charles police and the U.S. Attorney's office, to see if they had any response to the inmate's petitions, but have not received a response.
Minaldi's disability retirement was made official last August.