An East Texas judge has received intense media scrutiny as some of his sentencing orders require couples to either stay away from each other during probation - or get married.
Judge Randall Rogers handed down one of these unusual “marriage orders” to a man in July and the story made its rounds on the news and Internet. After hearing about the case, other East Texas residents came forward with similar accounts.
During Josten Bundy’s hearing on a misdemeanor assault charge, Rogers gave the 21-year old a choice: Bundy could either spend 15 days in jail or marry his girlfriend, 19-year old Elizabeth Jaynes.
As Bundy’s news received media attention, Michelle Powell could relate all too well.
In July of 2015, Powell and her co-defendant boyfriend were before Judge Rogers facing misdemeanor shoplifting charters.
During their initial hearing, Rogers inquired about the couple’s marital status. Powell told the judge they were engaged.
The judge then stated that, “If you get within 100 feet of him during the probation, you go to jail.” Powell was facing a two-year probation period and did not have an attorney at the hearing.
Faced with a tough decision, Powell told reporters that, “I didn’t want to leave [my boyfriend], I love him. I didn’t want to be away from him.”
At the hearing, Rogers asked Powell, “Do you two want to run off and get married and come back?” Right there and then the couple agreed to get married.
Powell remembered, “That made me cry, you know, that that’s my proposal. I was very scared. Having never been in trouble, it was just a different experience for me.”
Rogers then gave them two weeks to get married and return to court with their marriage license.
In the court transcripts, Rogers stated that, “I am not going to force you,” and “this will turn out to be a life sentence.”
After the rushed wedding, Powell said that her husband received a call that the charges against him had been dismissed.
In response to the media attention, Judge Rogers declined to comment on his sentencing practices. He also requested to be recused from Bundy’s case. However, it is clear the judge believes he is within his authority to make such rulings. In the transcripts from Powell’s hearing, the judge says that does not consider his sentencing approach to be “shotgun wedding” but rather a choice that is left up to the couple to make.