Louisville, KY – A Louisville judge, Amber Wolf, becomes visibly and emotionally upset, once she discovers that a black female defendant was brought into her courtroom without wearing pants.
On the courtroom video, the defendant is heard stating that she was arrested in Fayette County (metro-Lexington area) approximately 2-3 days prior.
It is unclear whether she was wearing pants at the time of her arrest but the woman claims that she was denied pants and any personal hygiene products by the staff at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections – despite numerous requests.
The video also reveals that the woman was arrested in Fayette County for an outstanding 2014, bench warrant, out of Jefferson County for “first offense” shoplifting. Fayette County is approximately 80 miles from Louisville.
Judge Wolf acknowledges on the video that the defendant plead guilty to the shoplifting charge and was placed in a diversion program, which would typically remove the conviction from her record upon completion of the program.
However, the defendant reveals to the judge that she never began the diversion program – thus violating the terms of the agreement.
At some point the defendant was rearrested a series of times for failure to complete the program and eventually plead guilty to 75 days in jail. It appears that she never showed up in court for that sentencing – which triggered the current warrant.
Upon entering the courtroom, the woman walks directly behind the podium designated for defendants, so at this point the judge is unaware that she is pantless. Wolf asks her, “Do you have other charges? Have you ever picked up other charges?”
The woman responds that she has not. Wolf raises her eyebrows with a confused look on her face and says, “Okay, I’m not accepting this sentence… That’s ridiculous.” She follows with, “I’m sentencing you to a…” – but before she could finish her sentence, she discovers that the woman isn’t wearing pants.
“Excuse me… Excuse me. This is outrageous. Is this for real?”, ask Wolf. The woman reveals that she has been in the custody of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections for 2-3 days, and has requested a pair of pants and feminine hygiene products – but was denied.
The judge immediately picks up her cell phone and attempts to contact the director of the jail. She is overheard conversing with whoever answers the line.
“I’m actually calling to talk to Director Bolton or anyone… uh… who can come to my courtroom and tell me why there is a female defendant standing in front of me with no pants on,” says Wolf.
Understandably feeling compassion for the defendant, Wolf attempts to comfort her while the person on the other end of the phone attempts to locate the director.
“I’m not trying to embarrass you… I’m very sorry,” Wolf says to the woman. Wolf then asks a courtroom deputy, “Can we get her something to cover up with?… Anything… Anything… Anything… I don’t care what it is.”
Still waiting on the director to come to the phone – Wolf decides to send the woman back into the courtroom holding tanks – as an attempt to shelter her from being further embarrassed.
Before the woman leaves the courtroom, Wolf says to her, “Also, I’m changing your sentence to $100 fine – credit time served – for that.”
The judge further rants to the court deputy, “It’s a shoplifting charge – a first time shoplifting charge… 75 days? No. We’re not doing that.” Appearing very agitated at this point, Wolf looks around the courtroom and hypothetically asks, “What is this?… Am I in the Twilight Zone?… What is happening?”
The judge finally reaches an official at the jail and expresses her extreme dissatisfaction with the circumstances. She then advises whoever is on the phone that she is not releasing the defendant from the court’s custody until a pair of pants are brought to the courtroom.
After the clothing arrives and the defendant is properly dressed, Wolf brings the woman out and issues her an apology before she orders her immediate release from jail.
“Again, I want to extend my deepest apologies to you for the way that you’ve been treated while you’ve been in our jail,” said Wolf. She then follows with,”This is not normal… It is not normal at all – and I’ve never seen it happen….” – but before she could finish, the defendant informed her that there are many other women in the jail that do not have pants as well.
Jail overcrowding has been a problem at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections over the past few years. As the violence rate has increased and the heroin epidemic continues to grow in Louisville – incarceration rates have climbed as well.
On July 21, 2016 Jefferson County Judge, Charles Cunningham, approved an emergency order that allowed more low-level, non-violent offenders to be released on home incarceration – due to jail overcrowding.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said that Louisville Metro Corrections has a 1,800 inmate capacity and was currently housing approximately 2,200 at that time.