Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A few columns back i mentioned I had only been arrested once. Well, that's not quite true. I should have noted that I only spent one night in jail in my life. I have, in fact, been arrested three times. The first was that time in Tenn. for not wearing a helmet. The next time was in Montgomery, NY. Mistaken as "the mad bomber", I was manhandled (as well as womanhandled) by a bunch of cops who thought my mouthing off, after being asked for ID, was direct evidence of me being someone who would place a threatening phone call to the local bar. I have always been a proponent of "stand your ground" when it comes to dealing with John Law. A disorderly conduct charge was eventually administered by the court for saying "Fuck You." to a cop. "$40. Pay the clerk." I'm guilty of being an asshole. My third arrest was for marijuana and LSD in Rockland County, NY. This one gave me a taste of what it's like to be in the system.
   My first court appearance I winged it. When I stood before the judge reading the charges against me, I stood alone. Mistakenly I thought I could quickly deal with this and represent myself. "I plead insanity, your honor. I was crazy to drive through your town holding." Once the judge saw i had no representation I sensed a blood-lust in his eyes. "Am I to assume you want me to rule on this case now?" the judge asked, after I had entered my plea of not guilty. There was something in the way he asked the question......I swear I saw a drop of drool glistening in the corner of his mouth. Thinking fast I came up with this response: "No, your honor." He hit his gavel on the desk. "Case postponed until defendant can attain proper counsel." Phew!
   What followed was trips from my 1993, crack and heroin infested neighborhood of 7&C to the suburban Rockland County court house of New City, about once a month for 6 months. In between court dates i tried to communicate with my public defender on the phone. He had the most surly secretary, running interference for him, that I'd ever had the displeasure to meet. Many's the time she would just say "He's not fucking here!" and hang up. In court the experience was no better. A slovenly caricature of a fat lawyer, this guy would pontificate for the peanut gallery, and then with a flourish, ask the judge for another postponement, leaving my ass swaying in the breeze. "Plead it down to possession of the pot....not the LSD." I pleaded. My lawyer would then lecture me on how serious this charge was. "I can plead guilty to all charges." he offered. "That's not a plea!" I'd scream. "Don't you watch TV?" He'd just shrug and scrape the dried egg off his tie with a dirty fingernail. "Call my secretary on Monday. We'll see then." I was fucked.
    While I waited for my case to be put off another month, I watched the parade of young black men receive stiff sentences for relatively minor crimes- trespass, vandalism, loitering, possession of small amounts of drugs. Almost to a man, they received time. I was beginning to worry. My ace in the hole? I was a middle-aged, educated white man. One could only hope the system was as racist as it appeared. Then, one night as I sat in court, ready to either be sentenced to  County time or put off again, a stranger walked up to me with a folder. He introduced himself as my new public defender. He looked at my folder and scowled. "Why hasn't this been settled?" he asked. I shrugged and scrapped the egg off my tie with a dirty fingernail. He smiled. "Give me a minute." he said and went to talk to the DA. They chatted like old buds and shook hands. "Will you plead guilty to disorderly conduct?" he asked " You must agree to 50 hours of community service." No pot? No LSD charge? I was elated. Case closed. The racist system works.

    I'm still an everyday criminal. I smoke pot, go over the speed limit, and given the rare opportunity will snort coke, drop LSD, eat mushrooms and say "FUCK YOU!" to any cop, if I feel he (or she) is overstepping their authority. Even with all this attitude, and illegal activity, I have very little to fear from the system. I have a pistol permit, vote, own property and maintain all the inalienable rights promised me in the Constitution. The statistics reveal I have very little chance of being stopped and frisked. Setting aside my party pants, long hair and beard, I will not be profiled. I wonder if the kids that were slinging dope in my doorway on 7&C, or the ones sentenced in that Rockland county courtroom in 1993 can say the same? I sort of doubt it.      


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