VIDEO | Jefferson County judge allows inmate to meet 1-month-old son for first time
It's a moment Judge Amber Wolf calls, "probably one of the best things I've ever done."
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Tears were shed in a Jefferson County district courtroom Friday when Judge Amber Wolf allowed allowed an inmate to meet his 1-month-old son for the first time.
It's a moment Judge Wolf calls, "probably one of the best things I've ever done."
Judge Wolf had already wrapped up a hearing for defendant James Roeder, and was about to begin another hearing for his wife, Ashley Roeder, according to courtroom video.
Both James and Ashley are charged as co-defendants in the same burglary, and have been ordered by Judge Wolf not to have contact with each other.
Judge Wolf said that Ashley Roeder had been nearby during her husband's hearing, along with their baby, who had been born 30 days earlier -- a baby James had never seen.
"I saw her try to hold the baby up when he came out for his case to be called with his attorney," Judge Wolf told WDRB on Monday. "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 anytime in the near future."
That's when Judge Wolf says she decided to ask Ashley Roeder if she would like her husband to meet his baby for the first time. The mother said yes. So Judge Wolf called James Roeder back into the courtroom.
"I don't want you to say anything about your case at all," Judge Wolf told James Roeder, according to the video. "Don't say anything. Your lawyer is not present right now. But I understand that there is a chance that you're going to go back to Todd County, and your baby is a month old, and you haven't met that baby yet. Is that right?"
"Yes maam," James Roeder said.
"Mrs. Roeder, do you want to come up here?" Judge Wolf asked.
At that point, Ashley Roeder, James Roeder's wife, approached the bench, carrying her and James Roeders' one-month-old child.
"I know you have a no-contact order between you and Mrs. Roeder that I issued -- and I am not changing that," said Judge Wolf. "I'm making a temporary exception right in front of me, on the record, so that you can meet this baby. This is your son."
At that point, Ashley Roeder hands the baby to her husband, who holds him, standing before the judge in an orange jumpsuit, according to the video. He stands there holding the baby for several moments and appears to kiss the child.
"Do you see his little shirt?" Judge Wolf asked, smiling.
"Yeah...yeah," James Roeder said.
Both James and Ashley appeared to wipe their eyes as he eventually hands the baby back to his wife. Judge Wolf handed out tissues.
"Give everybody some," she said.
After James Roeder was escorted out, Judge Wolf told Ashley, "Thank you for letting me be a part of that."
When both husband and wife had left the courtroom, Judge Wolf addressed those left inside.
"If you all aren't teared up, then you're just heartless," she told those in the courtroom. Laughter could be heard in the video.
On Monday, Judge Wolf spoke with WDRB about what prompted her to facilitate the unexpected meeting.
"It wasn't really a judge thing," she told WDRB by phone. "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."
"I think there were a lot of tears," she said. "I think a lot of people were touched by it. Mr. Roeder -- obviously, I don’t know what you can see on that video -- but there were a lot of tears coming from him. There were tears coming from Mrs. Roeder as well. And it was hard for me to hold back the tears also. I think everybody was a little bit touched by it, and I just hope it gave him a little bit of closure and impacted him in a positive manner."
"It was touching," she added. "I think it was -- not as a judge, but just as person -- it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. It made me feel good."
According to arrest reports, James and Ashley Roeder were taken into custody on May 20. They are facing burglary charges in connection with an alleged incident on Feb. 9, in which police say the couple broke into a warehouse and stole six flat screen televisions.
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