LMDC: Judge got shorted facts on 'pantless' inmate turned viral video

‘Am I in the Twilight Zone?’ Judge outraged by woman appearing to be pantless
Shavonne Salazar in court. (Source: Jefferson District Court)
Shavonne Salazar in court. (Source: Jefferson District Court)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Within hours, it became a social media and web sensation; viral video of a judge dressing down jail officers over a woman inmate whom she believed was too scantily-clad to appear in court.

Three days later, Metro Corrections claimed it all could have been avoided had the judge been properly briefed.

"She has no pants, and she also is being denied feminine hygiene products," Jefferson District Judge Amber Wolf told LMDC administrators via cellphone Friday. "What the hell is going on?!"

"I think there is a requirement, an obligation to get the truth out," LMDC Mark Bolton told reporters Monday, "because the truth matters."

Convicted shoplifter Shavonne Salazar had been held over to appear before Judge Wolf, hours after her arraignment in Jail Court, Bolton said. She had been arrested in Lexington the preceding Sunday, for failure to show up for a diversion program as part of her 2014 case.

VIDEO: 'Am I in the Twilight Zone?' Judge outraged by woman appearing to be pantless

Booking video from Salazar's transfer to Louisville last Wednesday shows her wearing yellow jogging shorts, "the same as you or I or my wife might wear in the summertime," Bolton said.

"Can we get her something to cover up with, anything," Judge Wolf asked court staff during Salazar's appearance.

"If you look closely, the Judge wasn't facing her (Salazar) when she came in," LMDC Deputy Director Steve Durham said. 

Rather, Salazar's Public Defender advised the Court her client had neither jail garb pants nor was she offered feminine hygiene products, Durham said.

"Earlier today when I asked, they said they wouldn't give me a uniform til I went to a different dorm," Salazar told the judge. "They were giving some people uniforms, they weren't giving some people uniforms. I don't know, they were picking and choosing, whatever their criteria was."

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LMDC policy is to keep fresh arrest inmates in street clothes until they are classified and assigned a cell, Bolton said.

"A person who comes to jail could be out within an hour," he said.

Salazar fit that criteria, he confirmed.

"No one is able to tell us that she made a request for anything," Durham said. "We've examined that."

The LMDC Inmate Handbook states that inmates are provided mattresses, linens and personal hygiene items once they're booked into housing units. "Toilet paper and feminine napkins are distributed daily," it reads.

"Those are free of charge," Durham said, displaying photographs showing stacked roles of toilet paper and hygiene supplies in the fresh arrest holding areas.

Judge Wolf wasn't made aware of any of that prior to sentencing Salazar last Friday, the courtroom video shows.

"First-time shoplifting charge 75 days," Wolf asked. "No. We're not giving that."

The judge gave Salazar, by now clad in jail garb, a $100 fine with credit for time served.

"Once you were arrested, the rest of this is completely inhumane and unacceptable," Wolf told Salazar. "I'm very sorry you had to go through this."

Bolton stopped short of saying that Salazar or Public Defender Katelyn Dean deliberately misled the Judge, only that they did not volunteer information.

"We've gotten hate calls over this," Bolton said. "My staff has spent three days chasing down video and records. We can't put the genie in the bottle, but we have one chance to get this right."

LMDC would be reviewing internal policy, and may talk with District and Circuit judges, as well as prosecutors, he said.

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"I'd better not comment until I've had a chance to talk to the Chief Judge," Wolf said Monday afternoon.

Dean was out of the office when WAVE 3 News attempted to reach her Monday afternoon, an administrative assistant said. As on Monday evening, she has not returned our phone calls.

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