Kentucky District Judge Amber Wolf was dealing with what appeared to be a rather routine shoplifting case when the defendant’s attorney leaned in and discreetly pointed out that her client had not been given any pants by prison officials–despite being in custody for three days. In response, a flabberhasted Judge Wolf held up up court proceedings to call the corrections department, demanding to know “What the hell is going on?”
The defendant in question had been arrested after failing to complete a diversion program for a shoplifting charge. It was her first offense.
Here’s the clip, followed by a transcription of most of what was said:
Near the beginning of the clip, Judge Wolf has no idea about the defendant’s lack of clothing; she looks over her notes and asks a few questions. Following some discussion about the defendant’s lack of any previous charges, Judge Wolf moves on to the issue of sentencing. It’s then that the defense attorney lets the judge know, in almost a whisper, that her client was not given any pants.
“No pants? What?” a startled Judge Wolf asks.
“I came in with this on Sunday,” the defendant explains, referencing the clothes she has on. (I should point out that timestamp on the the video says Friday, July 29. So, if the defendant was arrested on Sunday, that would mean she was actually in custody for closer to five days?)
“Excuse me?!” the judge exclaims, before throwing her pen down and pushing her chair back from the desk. “This is outrageous! Is this for real?” She picks up her phone and begins to look up some information — presumably a phone number for the jail. “This can’t wait,” she says, as she searches her phone. “I’m sorry, this is going to take a little bit,” she adds.
After she dials, we hear a suddenly polite Judge Wolf saying: “Hi Jenny, this is Judge Wolf in courtroom 102, How are you today?…I’m fine. I’m actually calling to talk to [Metro Corrections Director Mark] Bolton, or anyone, who can come to my courtroom and tell me why there is a defendant — a female defendant — standing in front of me with no pants on. And she’s been here for [addresses the defendant] for how many day’s ma’am?…She’s been in our jail for three days and reports to me that the jail has refused to give her pants and feminine hygiene products.”
There’s a slight pause, during which Judge Wolf addresses the defendant. “I’m not trying to embarrass you, I’m sorry.” To the court officials, she says, “Can we get her something to cover up with? Anything. Anything. Anything, I don’t care what it is.”
Judge Wolf then suggests the defendant wait in the back, and informs her that her sentence is hereby changed to a $100 fine and credit for time served.
The judge flips her notepad in frustration. “It’s a shoplifting charge. A first-time shoplifting charge!” While apparently still on hold with the jail, she asks aloud, “What is this? Am I in The Twilight Zone? What is happening?”
At this point, someone on the other end of the phone finally picks up. “Clark? This is Judge Wolf in courtroom 102, how are you today?…I have a defendant who has been in [your] jail for three days who was standing in front of me completely pantsless — has no pants on. She has requested pants for three days and has been denied pants for three days. She has no pants, and she is in court. And she has also been denied feminine hygiene products. What the hell is going on?”
Judge Wolf then says she will not let the defendant return to jail until she is dressed appropriately, adding that the situation is “outrageous” and that “this cannot happen.”
The video jumps ahead about twenty minutes, at which point Judge Wolf speaks off-camera with jail officials who have arrived at her courtroom. “Dressed like she was, she should have been clothed when she was arrested,” the jail official is heard saying.
Judge Wolf counters that the defendant was picked up on a charge that should have been punished by a fine and maybe a day in jail. She also seems to suggest that the jail should prepare itself for more fallout from the incident. “I can tell you with a decent amount of certainty that — not because of me — that this is probably going to go a little further than this,” she says.
The defendant is later brought back into the courtroom in a yellow prison jumpsuit. Judge Wolf apologizes to the woman. “Again, I want to extend my deepest apologies to you for the way that you’ve been treated while you have been in our jail. This is not normal. It is not normal, and I have never seen it happen –”
The defendant interrupts the judge. “There’s a lot of girls up in fresh arrest that have on, like, similar clothes to what I had on, and they haven’t given them a uniform.”
“So you’re telling me that there are a lot of people up there right now that are in the same situation?” Judge Wolf asks.
“Earlier today when I asked they said they wouldn’t give me a uniform until I went to a different dorm,” the defendant reveals. “I came into booking and they were giving some people uniforms, they weren’t giving some people uniforms — I don’t know what they were picking and choosing, what their criteria was, but -”
“There’s only one way that’s going to get corrected, if you know what I mean,” says Judge Wolf. “I’ve already talked to three people from the Department of Corrections — I can’t explain the situation. They have assured me that it was a mistake and that it won’t happen again, but given the information that you’re telling me, it makes me feel like that’s probably not correct, maybe just what they’re being told. Obviously, those aren’t the people that are actually interacting with you. OK?”
She continues: “So, I just want to tell you how incredibly sorry I am that you’ve been treated this way, and no one deserves this — particularly, particularly — no one deserves it — but particularly in a situation like this where you failed to complete a diversion program. you didn’t even pick up any charges, and I am credit time serving and the fine. So really, I mean, you should have been in jail for a day, tops.”
Not wanting the defendant to forget that she was arrested for a valid reason, Judge Wolf reminds her that she did deserve to be in court. “But,” the Judge adds, “once you were arrested, the rest of this is completely inhumane and unacceptable, and I’m very sorry that you had to go through this.”
Judge Wolf them seems to ponder something that she later describes out loud as “probably inappropriate”: “At this point you are going to be released from custody, and all I can say is that I hope that your treatment for the remainder of the several hours that it will take to get through the process of release is much better. OK? My apologies.”
After the video started going viral earlier today, a Facebook page set up for Judge Amber Wolf’s District Judge election campaign in 2014 was flooded with positive comments. Click here for the most recent post on the page (from November of 2014) where most of the comments are being left.
Here’s a photo from the page, of Judge Wolf and her husband:
Meanwhile, WDRB spoke with Metro Corrections officials, who say that the defendant was actually clothed beneath her shirt:
Jail officials said the woman was wearing athletic shorts, which were hidden by a long shirt. Steve Durham, a spokesman for the jail, said the woman had not been in custody long enough to be given a jail jumpsuit.
“This is pretty standard that when individuals are arrested, they remain in the clothing that they’ve been arrested in,” Durham said. “Especially for the first 72 hours.”
“We’ve never run out of clothing,” he said. “We’re not having people around here that don’t have appropriate clothing.”
Durham adds that they are investigating the claims that female inmates are not being provided with hygiene products.