10 May 2012

The Circuit Administrator's Tale

by Eve Fisher
Here's another story from the old days when I was a circuit administrator:

     I was driving home from work, from the courthouse, going down Main Street, and I saw an old battered car sitting in a church’s parking lot to the right of me.  It was angled funny, and as I got nearer, it started to move.  My sixth sense clicked in, and somehow I knew he wasn’t going to stop coming out, even though I had the right of way, being on the main drag.  So I stopped just before the corner of this parking lot, and he came out, gunning the engine, burning rubber:  and coming right AT me.  Head on, without stopping, a fixed look on his face.  And there I was stuck, while this maniac played chicken with me with no place for me to even get out of his way.  At the very last minute he swerved, missing me and my front bumper by about an inch, and got on his side of the road.  But he was still so close he drove over the base of the lamppost in the center of the street, and nicked another one, and I watched his hub cap or wheel rim fly off.   
     And then he was gone.  Now I'd memorized his license plate - I had nothing else to do and nowhere to go while he was gunning his car at me, other than try to keep breathing and not pee my pants - so I went straight home and called the police.  I knew every cop in town - and in about 14 counties at the time - so it didn't take long for one to come by.  I told him what had happened, gave him the license plate number, and they found him in about fifteen minutes. There are perks to being a circuit administrator in a small town in a rural state...   :)
     When they found him, he admitted the whole thing.  He’d just had a huge fight with his wife and before he left home he’d busted out all the windows in his house and maybe some other stuff.  Then he was still so angry he decided to use his car as a weapon against the first woman he saw:  me.   His license was revoked, so he wasn't even supposed to be driving in the first place, but that was irrelevant to his thinking.
     That happened on Friday afternoon.  Monday morning, I told the Judge about what had happened. Later, the State's Attorney came to run over the court calendar, and the Judge brought up the incident.  
     The Judge asked "What did you charge him with?"
     "Reckless driving and reckless driving with a revoked license."  Two misdemeanors, very standard.
     "What about aggravated assault?"  
     The SA shrugged.  "Nah."
     "I think you should charge him with aggravated assault."
     "Mm hmm."
     "I said," (That got the SA's attention)  "I think you should charge him with aggravated assault.  Or attempted murder."
     "You're kidding."
     "No, I'm not.  He tried to kill her.  I want him charged with aggravated assault at least."
     So the SA charged the guy with aggravated assault, which is a Class 1 Felony.  The guy - who finally  figured out that he'd aimed his car at the wrong woman ("Man, you tried to kill the judge's CA!") - packed his bags and left town in the middle of the night, and was never heard of again.  
     As you can imagine, it felt good to have the judge stand up for me and protect me and all that.  Until I found out from the sheriff's department that the guy had been driving them nuts for a while. They knew he was dealing drugs, but they couldn't ever quite catch him.  Having him leave town was just as good as having him arrested.  And he'd never dare come back, because that charge would be waiting for him for - well, for a meth guy, which he was, basically forever.  
     So, was the judge standing up for me, or being diabolically clever on getting rid of a standing nuisance?  Or both?  Another day in the life...

7 comments:

Leigh Lundin said...

Whew, one fortunate lady!

I'm cynical when it comes to prosecutors. I sometimes think they're purely politically motivated.

R.T. Lawton said...

Ah, druggies, it's never their fault. It's always the world's fault, the whole world is out to get them. Good thing you were alert and aware of your surroundings.

Leigh, like many professions, there are good (prosecutors), there are bad (prosecutors) and there are the politically motivated (prosecutors). It's just that in this case people's futures on both sides rest in decisions made by those prosecutors, therefore the stakes are quite high. And, the ones who stand out most in our minds tend to be the more outrageous ones. Now, having said that, if you and I are ever drinking together in a bar, I'll tell you some stories about outrageous lawyers, both prosecutors and defense.

David Dean said...

Fortunate...and savvy. Nice work, Eve. I enjoyed the article and agree with R.T. (I would, of course): Druggies, and criminals in general, care about nothing so much as numero uno--everyone else is expendable. When they're unhappy; everyone should suffer. I'm glad that you didn't in this case.

As for the prosecutors, again I defer to my collegue; they run the gamut. Ultimately, I'm afraid, the law, and sometimes politics, trump justice...but it's a far better system than most.

Eve Fisher said...

R.T., some day in a bar we'll trade stories. Yes, druggies and criminals are completely self-centered and always shocked when something they do goes wrong. Always. Like the kid in the news this morning who tried to hold up a police station - and is now claiming he was only joking!

Fran Rizer said...

Eve, I told the story in Criminal Brief about my dear lifelong friend who was beaten to death by an addict during an in home invasion/robbery. The trial was last summer and he admitted what he'd done but begged for mercy because he'd been on drugs when he did it. He made a big deal out of being clean now, and I thought "How wonderful. You've been in jail." However, my son who's in law enforcement said some inmates still obtain and do drugs.
The guy got three life-time sentences plus eighty years. Personally, I know Leigh and some other SS'ers are anti-capital punishment. I am basically, but when I told my son (the gentle one who teaches, not the one in law) that I thought I could have pulled the switch or stuck the needle in if that killer had been tried with the death penalty, his response was, "I could execute him with my bare hands." (Yes, Leigh, I know you will think that's awful, but don't worry. SC has that man locked up where he's fed and clothed on my dime.)

Eve, I get on the bandstand sometime, and your blog today put me there again, but I enjoyed this one and your others as well.

Robert Lopresti said...

A friend of mine is a retired parole officer. He told me about a defendant who assured the judge that he had found Jesus while in jail awaiting trial. The judge, who was Jewish, was not particularly impressed.

Dixon Hill said...

Rob, I laughed until tears poured down my face when I read that.

Eve, I have to tell you: I REALLY enjoy these posts of yours. It's a part of the justice system I knew existed, but never really gave much thought to before.
KUDOS!
--Dix