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Kangaroo court: Family's pet attends Grand Forks hearing

Leo the kangaroo hops around the Grand Forks County courthouse on Thursday, Jan. 6.

As Judge Joel Medd was making his way through a lengthy docket Thursday, he noticed a pair of furry ears poking up from the gallery of his Grand Forks courtroom.

"I didn't know if it was a dog or a cat or whatever," he said. "Then I saw it looked like a kangaroo."

It was, in fact, a baby kangaroo ... sitting in court.

"The kangaroo was as peaceful as anything," Medd said. "It didn't get up and hop around. It was just there."

Medd went on with his cases, not commenting on the exotic animal, even refraining from cracking a kangaroo-court joke.

"In my 35 years of being on the bench, I've dealt with screaming babies and screaming people and mental-health cases, and it was no big distraction," he said.

The kangaroo named Leo weighs about 5 pounds. He's 6 months old, and at his age, he can't be left home alone. So, with no baby sitter available, Leo's adoptive mother, Gloria Wippler, brought him to her husband's court hearing.

Leo wears a diaper, drinks puppy formula from a bottle and gets carried around in a fuzzy pouch. "He's just like an infant," Wippler said. "He's like our little son. He goes with us everywhere."

Wippler's family lives outside Emerado, N.D., and has a petting zoo, which Leo is a part of. Wippler, 43, said they got Leo last month from a woman in Northwood, N.D., who had bought him at an auction in Missouri.

Medd said Leo sat quietly in court for about two hours while Wippler rocked and bottle-fed him. Eventually, Wippler's husband was sentenced on a disorderly conduct ­­­­charge.

"When I finished the case, she just calmly walked out with the kangaroo," Medd said. "I turned to the prosecutor afterward and said, 'Did you see that kangaroo?' He said, 'No.' He didn't even know the kangaroo was there."

Though Leo is pouch-size now, he could grow to weigh 200 pounds and stand more than 6 feet tall. Red kangaroos like him reach speeds of more than 35 mph, travel 25 feet in a single leap and jump 6 feet high in the deserts and grasslands of Australia.

After Thursday's hearing, Leo showed off some of his nascent hopping skills on the carpet of the clerk of court's office, said attorney Henry Howe who defended Wippler's husband, Scott.

"People were whipping out their cell phones and on and on," Howe said.

The news of Leo bounded throughout the courthouse. Prosecutor Nancy Yon said she heard about Leo in the hallway and went into the clerk's office to catch a glimpse.

"I've seen everything now," she said.