Moved by a man’s progress, judge steps off bench for a hug

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Northwest Indiana Times on 12/11/2015 by Elvia Malagon

"I'm proud of you," Boswell said.

“I’m proud of you,” Boswell said.

CROWN POINT — After hearing about a defendant’s efforts to better himself, Lake County Criminal Judge Diane Boswell stepped off the bench Thursday to give him a hug.

Jermal L. Norris, 31, of Lake Station, was in court for his sentencing hearing after he pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine, a Class D felony.

He nervously walked Boswell through certificates he brought with him to explain how he has attained various certifications, including one that required him to attend Ivy Tech Community College, before landing a job driving a sanitation truck.

After spending time in Lake County Jail, he left wanting to become a productive member of society. Norris gave Bowell copies of his recent pay stubs.

“Are you proud of yourself?” Boswell asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“I’m proud of you,” Boswell said.


She then stepped off the bench and embraced Norris to congratulate him on his progress. The moment left Norris teary eyed, reaching for tissues throughout the rest of the hearing.

Boswell returned to the bench to continue the hearing.

“You made my day,” Boswell said. “That’s my Christmas present.”

Norris admitted to possessing cocaine on July 23, 2012, in Gary, according to court records.

At the time, he was serving a sentence in community corrections after he pleaded guilty in a different case to possession of cocaine. He had been sentenced in 2011 to four years in Lake County community corrections followed by two years probation.

As a result, his sentence was revoked and the case was sent back to the court.

He was released from Lake County Jail in April 2014, pending the most recent case. Norris said that within a month of his release he began working jobs and taking courses, which led him to a job driving a sanitation truck.

Defense attorney Arlington Foley detailed the math that showed Norris had served both sentences. The plea agreement called for him to serve additional time on probation.

After speaking privately at Boswell’s bench, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michael Toth moved to amend the agreement to remove the probationary term.

Toth cited Norris’ efforts to better himself and his cooperation with the state as reasons for why the agreement should be amended.