Going to court is not like going to Disney. After all, it’s not like you’re going to come out a winner, especially if you’re the defendant. But somehow, people just love watching court shows like “People’s Court” or “Judge Judy.” But those TV judges don’t have nothing on the court judge of a little Rhode Island town.
“Caught In Providence” is a local TV show, which airs on WLNE, an ABC affiliate, and shows the real-life proceedings of the Providence Municipal Court. With over 60 years in public service, Judge Frank Caprio presides over the court with honor and integrity as he handles cases from parking and traffic violations, to criminal offense arraignments.
Make no mistake! Judge Caprio is there to uphold the law and make violations pay, but he’s not a monster. In fact, that’s why people love him. He’s a reasonable man who is willing to compromise as long as you’re honest with him. And unlike other judges, his style of judgment is unorthodox, but it gets the job done, like in the case of a girl named Janice and her mom.
A mother of two appeared in court after refusing to pay a $100 ticket for a parking violation. Her crime? She parked on the sidewalk. By refusing to pay, she wound up being charged an extra $200, so she showed up in court, and not alone. She had her toddler in her arms, and her 6-year-old too. As she pled her care, Judge Caprio’s ears and heart were open.
The woman had parked on the sidewalk because there was no place to park. There was a party in her street and a police van happened to be blocking her only way out, so she couldn’t drive away. But Judge Caprio’s attention wasn’t on the case, but somewhere else.
Judge Caprio was focusing on the woman’s six-year-old daughter, Janice, whom he asked to approach the bench. Then he gave Janice the microphone and asked her to tell him about herself. Obviously, she was shy at first, but everyone in the courtroom, and at home, wanted to hear what she had to say.
Janice decided to share her life goals with the judge, which intrigued him. She told him she wanted to grow up to become a teacher, and the judge was delighted. But after giving Janice some serious career advice, he asked her a question that left everyone shocked.
Judge Caprio laid out four possible outcomes for the girl’s mom’s case. She could either pay the ticket and fines, pay only the ticket, pay half of the parking ticket, or dismiss the case. Then he asked her to make a ruling, which shocked the girl at first. Her mommy’s whole case was in her hands, but after some careful thought, she made her shocking decision.
Janice hesitated at first, but eventually picked the third option, which involved paying half of the ticket. The ruling made the audience laugh, but the mother seemed surprised. But the judge understood where the little girl was coming from. She didn’t want her mommy paying a large fine, but knew she couldn’t let her get off too easy. So, the judge agreed with Janice, but then something shocking happened.
Judge Caprio decided to ask Janice what she’d eaten for breakfast and the little girl told him she hadn’t. What’s more, she was starving. It turned out that the whole family had skipped breakfast to make it to court on time. So, the judge was so moved by Janice’s honesty that he decided to take a different direction on the final ruling.
The Judge struck a deal that the mother could live with. If she promised to get breakfast for her two daughters, Caprio would not only dismiss the case, but all the fines. Then he allowed Janice to rejoin his thankful mother, but not before giving the little girl a hug. But if you think this ruling’s odd, then you haven’t seen the episode where he showed mercy to a woman named Sarah with an insane parking ticket.
Sarah was given a ticket because she parked in a spot that didn’t allowing parking between 8 and 10 in the morning. But here’s where things get interesting. Sarah had parked her car two seconds before 10, which was ridiculous. Caprio thought so too and chalked it all up to a meter maid who was being a stickler for the rules. So, he dismissed the case quick and easy. Then there was another case, where the judge practically made the defendants argument.
A Providence man wound up getting ticketed after he ran a red light while making a left-hand turn. When he went to court, he claimed that he had somehow been confused by the mad lights at the location. An amused Judge Caprio helped the defendant recall exactly what he was thinking of at the time of the incident. Then he found sufficient cause to dismiss his case entirely. But the next case Caprio had to tackle was similar to the one of little Janice.
When little Jacob accompanied his dad to court for a $90 parking ticket, Judge Caprio called him up to the bench. He gives Jacob a familiar choice: pay the full ticket, pay $30, or pay nothing. The little boy has a clear sense of justice, so he picks the second option. Instead, Caprio dismisses the ticket on the condition that Jacob’s dad takes him out for breakfast. Up next, the Judge helps out a woman with her defense strategy.
A defendant named Donna had gotten a ticket for making a right turn in an area that was prohibited. But Donna’s defense strategy involved her age and how “you can teach an old dog new tricks.” The bewildered judge asked her a few more question to make sure she understood the rules of the road. Then, he proved to everyone what a kind and generous judge he was by dismissing the case. In the last case, Judge Caprio proved that he can be very patient too.
An elderly defendant appeared before Judge Caprio, after getting two parking tickets. But instead of explaining his case, the man went off on a tangent full of irrelevant scenarios that described a fight he’d had with his neighbor. Then the judged tried to get the defendant back on track but failed. In the end, he decided to wave the additional penalties, but did order him to pay the original fine.