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Kentucky judge lets defendant meet his 1-month-old son for first time in her courtroom

Kentucky judge lets defendant meet his 1-month-old son for first time in her courtroom
Posted at 11:53 AM, Aug 09, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The judge has ruled: If you don't tear up at this, then you're just heartless.

Judge Amber Wolf, a district court judge in Jefferson County, Kentucky, took some time out Friday to be a human being and let a man see his baby for the first time. In her courtroom.

The man, James Roeder, is a defendant in a burglary case; WDRB reported Roeder's wife, Ashley, is a co-defendant. According to arrest reports, they're suspected of breaking into a warehouse and stealing six flat-screen televisions.

Wolf had issued a no-contact order for the couple. Ashley Roeder gave birth to their son a month ago, and her husband hadn't ever seen his child.

At a hearing Friday, Wolf said she noticed Ashley was trying to hold up the child so James could see his son, WDRB reported.

"I saw her try to hold the baby up when he came out for his case to be called with his attorney," Wolf told WDRB. "And I thought that he hadn't seen that. And it occurred to me after we finished this case that he had not met his baby -- who was 30 days old -- and that he was not going to get an opportunity to meet his baby any time in the near future."

Wolf called James Roeder back into her courtroom, reminded the couple of their no-contact order, and then let James hold his son.

After a few moments, James kissed the child and handed him back to his wife.

Wolf handed out tissues. "Give everybody some," she said.

Once James and Ashley Roeder were out of her courtroom, she turned to the people still inside: "If you all aren't teared up, then you're just heartless."

Wolf later said it's "probably one of the best things I've ever done."

"It wasn't really a judge thing," she told WDRB by phone Monday. "I think it was just more of a human thing. He hadn't met his baby. And I could see that his wife wanted him to see the baby. And I know from previous interactions from Mr. Roeder that he had been very concerned about being able to meet his baby prior to it being born. And I just saw an opportunity that I didn't want to squander."

Wolf previously drew media attention last month when she stopped court proceedings to call the city’s corrections department because a woman appeared in her courtroom pantsless.

The defendant was appearing in court for sentencing for failing to complete a diversion program relating to a 2014 shoplifting charge. According to her attorney, she had been denied a change of clothes and feminine hygiene products during her 72 hour stay in jail.

"Excuse me? This is outrageous. Is this for real?" Wolf can be heard saying during courtroom proceedings.

“Is there something to cover her up with? Anything?”

Wolf then called in the jail director, Mark Bolton, while court was in session and asked why the woman had been denied a change of clothes. Later, the woman was provided with a jumpsuit for the remainder of the hearing.

According to WDRB, jail officials claimed that the woman was wearing athletic shorts that were hidden by a long T-shirt, though it's unclear on the video if the defendant is wearing shorts.

"I want to extend my deepest apologies to you for the way you’ve been treated while you’ve been in our jail. This is not normal," Wolf said.

The defendant also told the judge that other women in the jail had been treated similarly.