When one mom arrived in court to face hundreds of dollars of parking charges, she no doubt expected the worst. But when her daughter took to the stand, everything changed. Why? Well, the little girl told the judge that she was starving – and it melted his heart completely.
Thousands of people know Frank Caprio as the no-nonsense judge on TV’s Caught in Providence. However, his history goes much further back than that. Indeed, he studied law at night school while working as a teacher and was appointed to the bar in 1965.
Twenty years later, he became the chief judge at Providence Municipal Court. And since then, he has evidently proven popular with those at Providence City Council, as they have re-elected him six times. He also founded the law firm Caprio & Caprio and remains a senior partner there.
However, it wasn’t until the year 2000 that the cameras began rolling for Caught in Providence, and Caprio started to become more widely known. The show first aired on local access television in Providence, but it soon moved to ABC6-WLNE.
The show features real people and real court cases. And, although some may consider him the star of the show, Caprio sees nothing frivolous about his role. “I’m not here on the court to be an entertainer,” he has said in the past. “My primary role is to do justice.”
Still, that hasn’t stopped YouTube clips of some of Caught in Providence’s cases from going viral. And one such episode from 2017 particularly caught the public’s attention. It featured a woman who had turned up for court with her two daughters in tow.
The woman in question had wound up in front of Judge Caprio after authorities accused her of parking on a sidewalk. Then, when she was faced with a $100 fine, she failed to pay up.
When the woman arrived in court, though, Caprio seemed more interested in talking to her six-year-old daughter, Janice. So he called the little girl up to the stand to find out more about her. He asked her, for instance, what her favorite subjects at school were, and she answered that they were math and English.
As they built up a rapport, Caprio went on to ask what Janice wanted to be when she grew up. And when she told him that she wanted to be a teacher, he was delighted. “That’s a great job,” he said. “That way you can help other people to improve their lives.”
On this occasion, though, Caprio needed Janice’s help in a different way. He wanted her to help judge her mom in a “fair and honest” way. And, thankfully, the clever little girl agreed to his proposition.
So, after relaying her mom’s charges, Caprio asked the defendant if she had an explanation. “I went to my cousin’s house to pick up something,” she said. “They were having a party and I didn’t want nobody to hit my car, so I went on the sidewalk.”
Judge Caprio then gave Janice two options: she could charge her mom with all the penalties, which would total $300, or she could waive the penalties and just have her mom pay the original $100 ticket.
But then Caprio revealed a third option: he could do something kind for Janice’s mom. For instance, they could cut the fine to $50. Or, if Janice thought it was fair, he could drop the charges altogether, and her mother would get away without paying a cent.
When quizzed, Janice decided that the fairest option was to charge her mom $50. However, Caprio decided to change the subject for a second. He asked Janice what she’d had for breakfast that morning – and her response appeared to move him.
Janice explained that she hadn’t eaten anything before arriving at the courthouse. “I didn’t have anything this morning. I’m actually starving,” the little girl admitted. It was then that Judge Caprio decided to make a deal with her mom.
He said that if the woman agreed to buy her children breakfast after her court appearance then he’d dismiss the case. Faced with another option, Janice agreed that the offer of breakfast was the best deal. And after giving Judge Caprio a heartwarming hug, she made her way out of the courtroom with her family.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the touching judgement proved popular with Caught in Providence’s viewers. The footage soon began to circulate online, too, and one clip on YouTube clocked up more than 500,000 views.
Furthermore, those who watched the clip were full of praise for Judge Caprio and his verdict. “This is great to see,” one YouTube user wrote. “Who is this guy and how can I vote for him? This kind of compassion is needed all over.”
“I wish there was more compassion in the world and [we’d] stand with each other, helping one another [rather] than just [handing out] harsh punishments,” another added. “We have lost the sense of compassion, and punishment has become the number one goal for government.”
In this case, perhaps Judge Caprio was right to go easy on the struggling mom. By charging her the full penalty, he would arguably have been taking food out of her children’s mouths. And his actions proved that even people in power can have the softest of hearts.