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Speeding - part 2: the trial-haircut #1 by thadeusz
For technical reasons, this fictional story had to be posted in several parts. Read all of them in order.
We were left in these cells during 5 days. We received some food and everyday a guard took me twice to the toilet. I learned to restrict myself to these moments, but it was not easy and not always possible to avoid an accident.
On the 6th day, I was "extracted" from my cell. So was Robert and so were five other guys, wearing the same prison uniform and awaiting trial. The policemen were very busy to shackle and handcuff each of them, as security for the transportation. So each received a Full Shackle and we were then attached to one another, forming a long line. Once that was done, the Sheriff gave us two pieces of advice:
"In court, the Judge will ask each of you if you accept him as sole and only Judge, without Jury. Say ‘YES’, the Judge likes that. Also, plead guilty: the Judge likes easy and short trials."
I decided to accept the first piece of advice, which did not seem dangerous, but not the second since I could not afford to be found guilty if I ever wanted to become a lawyer or a Judge.
We were told to board a small van organized for this type of transportation and we were taken to court. I tried to speak with Robert, but he kept his head down and refused to answer my questions about his defense.
When we reached the Court, the Judge called each of us by name and asked if we accepted him as "sole and only Judge". We were still chained, but each of us replied individually: "Yes, your Honor" and the bailiff presented a piece of paper to sign. Serious business started then.
The Judge asked then whether we pleaded guilty or not guilty, and I was the only one to say: "Not guilty, your Honor."
The Judge replied: "So we have a young man who wants a real trial, well he will have it, with all that’s going with it."
To my great surprise a lawyer stepped forward and spoke for Robert:
"Your Honor, the case of my client is linked to the case of the defendant Peter Rohmert who just pleaded ‘Not Guilty’. Could you examine both cases simultaneously ?"
"Of course, I will do so at the end of this session."
"And my client, Robert Bonen, is presently chained. He did not resist arrest and pleads guilty, but the fact that he is now in chains could be an indication that he is already sentenced, so please instruct the guards to unchain my client."
"Of course, I order now that all defendants who did not resist arrest be unchained."
The guards started to do the necessary and I asked to be allowed to speak.
The Judge recognized me and said: "Ah ! Mister Not Guilty wants to speak. Well let’s hear what he has to say during these preliminaries."
"Your honor", I started, "could I also be unchained ? It seems that there could be a bias otherwise."
"Ah ! Ah ! You are a Mister Knows-it-all. But no, in your file it says that you resisted arrest, so I’ll take the necessary precautions. You remain chained. And now it is enough, be silent Mister Knows-it-all. You remain chained."
The serious part of the court session started then, but I did not listen with great care: I was trying to understand why Robert had a lawyer and why he had told his lawyer to warn me. I was seated next to Robert but he kept his head down and turned in such a way that I could not see him.
During all that time, the Judge was doing his job. The defendants who had been arrested for speeding got automatically 6 month prison, and those of them who had resisted arrest got 3 months of "Full Shackle" out of these 6 months. I should have been more careful about that. One defendant who had been arrested because he had not payed in time a 50$ traffic ticket for parking in front of a hydrant got a special treat. The Judge gave him 6 months of jail, without Full Shackle, but he added to these 6 months :
"The period of time necessary for the defendant to pay his fine, which is now brought to 250$. During the time needed for this payment, the defendant will remain in jail and be paid one dollar a day for his work."
The defendant said that this was nearly a year, if not more, and the Judge replied:
"You should have thought about that before forgetting to pay your fine."
Then came my case, or better: our case, since Robert and me were judged simultaneously. When our name were called, we both stood up. Robert kept his head down and altogether had adopted the attitude of a culprit, which was the case. I kept my head up convinced of my innocence. Robert’s lawyer asked to be heard and was recognized by the Judge. I learned then that this lawyer’s name was Carandelis. So he started to speak and explained that although Robert had pleaded guilty, since he was driving when the speeding incident occurred, he was in fact innocent. Mr Carandelis explained that in the following way:
"Your Honor, my client was in fact obeying Peter Rohmert’s orders. Rohmert told him to drive faster since he was in a hurry, and my client, Robert Bonen, could not disobey these orders since he was in fact in the employ of Mr Rohmert. So the responsibility rests entirely on the other defendant".
"How do you prove that Bonen was in fact in Rohmert’s employ ?" asked the Judge.
"Very simply your Honor, by showing this piece of paper which I introduce into evidence. It clearly states that ‘a small amount would be given to the assistant driver’. My client was thus Rohmert’s driver and should have been payed for his job. For all these reasons, I thus ask for the court’s leniency."
I raised my hand as much as my chained enabled me to do and the Judge looked at me asking:
"Do you want to speak, Mister Knows-it-all ?"
"Yes your Honor. Bonen was not in my employ and the document you have in front of you is simply an invitation to exchange services. We often do that in College. Bonen wanted to go to New Mexico and had no money, I wanted to go to California and had a car and money. That’s all."
"Mister Knows-it-all, I have also learned a little of law, even if I never went to a big University. I see here the words ‘assistant driver" and ‘amount of money’. As far as I am concerned, this clearly proves that Bonen was in your employ and that you are thus the sole responsible of this dreadful speeding incident. I am thus ready to give my judgment concerning defendant Robert Bonen."
A guard made me sit and made Robert rise before the Judge started to formulate his Judgement which was really unexpected:
"Mister Bonen, this court finds you not guilty of the charge of ‘speeding’ despite your honorable ‘guilty" plea. You made nevertheless the mistake to obey the orders of a bad man without discussing them. You should not do that. The court orders thus that you will remain locked up in a county cell during three months to think about your own stupidity. Stupidity is not a crime, this decision will thus not be communicated to the Federal database and you will thus not be considered as an ex-convict when you end your reflexion time in cell. This is an opportunity offered to you by this county, at its own cost. This court hopes that you will prove that you are worth this clemency."
Robert, who was guilty, was thus declared innocent but not free by the court. There had been an arrest and I started to be anxious for my own sake.
The guard made me then stand up to go ahead with my own trial. Standing up with my chains was not easy, but I did it, looking straight as an innocent person must do.
"Mister Rohmert, you are the only responsible person for this speeding incident. Do you have anything to add before I pass my Judgement ?"
"Your Honor, I never told Bonen to speed up, on the contrary I told him to slow down and later to stop. I am not responsible of what he did."
"But you admit that you spoke to him ?"
"Yes your Honor."
"That’s enough for me, since it has been proven that he was in your employ. I also see in the police report that you resisted arrest. What do you have to say to that, Mister Knows-it-all ?"
"Your Honor, I did not resist arrest. I simply told the police officer that he should not arrest me since I had not been driving. This police officer is very young and it was his first day of service, he might thus have misunderstood my words."
"The police officer who arrested you is the Sheriff’s son. He is well known in this county and he is sworn in. Do you admit telling him that he should not arrest you ?"
"Yes your Honor, but" BANG, the Judge’s gavel interrupted me.
"As far as I am concerned, the fact that you admit telling this police officer that he should not arrest you suffices to convince me that you resisted arrest, and even according to his words that you threatened this young officer."
"Your Honor, I did nothing of the kind and you have nothing to substantiate this."
"There you have a point, Mister Knows-it-all, let’s say that this young and excellent police officer felt threatened, which is not a crime for you. But he also says that you tried to bribe him. Is that correct ?"
"Your Honor, I simply suggested that he would give me the ticket for speeding and that I would pay it so that we could go further. I must reach my new University your Honor."
"So you wanted to give him money. That’s an attempt to bribe him and you admit that."
"Your Honor, you are misinterpreting my words and", BANG the gavel interrupted me again.
"Silence now. I will pass my Judgement on you, Peter Rohmert, and you will not go soon to your new university. Firstly, since I sent Bonen to prison for three months, I sentence you to three months in prison as accomplice of the speeding act", BANG, the gavel marked the fact that I was now sentenced to three months in prison for something I had not done. But the Judge was not done with his sentence.
"then I double this because you are in fact the instigator of the violation". BANG, the gavel marked this rise in the time I was to spend in jail. And the Judge continued:
"I double again this time in prison since you resisted arrest and threatened a young police officer". BANG. The sound of the gavel marked each step in my reduction to jailbird and that was unbearable. And the Judge went on:
"This I double again because you attempted to bribe the police officer who had proceeded to your arrest", BANG. "This gives you a total of 2 years in prison !" BANG. "Finally, I transform this time to be spent in the county jail into in time to be served in a Hard Labor Camp because you insulted this court when you said that the Judge misinterpreted your words. Moreover, I order that you keep during 3 months at least your Full Shackle and I instruct the commander of the Hard Labor Camp to keep you in FS as long as you have not proven that you can abide by the uses of this county. You are allowed to ask for parole after one year Hard Labor, but not to leave this county before you have served the totality of the prison time I have imposed on you. Your car and your present belongings will be sold and the profit of the sale, plus the money you had with you, will be given to the county as fine for your extremely bad behavior. You will serve your time in the County Penitentiary." BANG.
"Moreover, now that you have been sentenced for dangerous driving, I cancel your driving licence and I forbid you to get a new one without the authorization of this court." BANG.
This was the end of the sentencing process, but the Judge had one more thing to say to the guards:
"Take all these prisoners away to their respective jails. This court is adjourned".
I was still standing and I suddenly came to my senses :
"Your Honor I want to appeal immediately. I also introduce an urgent writ of Habeas Corpus."
"No, Mister Knows-it-all," replied the Judge, "you said and signed that you accepted me as your sole and only Judge. This means that you refused the Jury and that you gave up any form of appeal. You are guilty and, as of now, you are a convict. Moreover, this court is adjourned so you cannot ask me anything anymore before you are admissible for parole."
I suddenly realised the mess I was in. I fell seated on my bench and tried to take my head in my hands to hide the fact that I was now crying, but my chains were too short to enable me to do so. I had to rise again to follow the others, those who had been placed in FS like me and those who had been freed except for handcuffs. Robert, who had not been really sentenced, was being transported but had only handcuffs not shackles. We boarded the same van we were in before the beginning of the hearing and we were brought back to the Police Station.
On the way I kept thinking about what were now the ruins of my dream: becoming a lawyer or a Judge. As a sentenced person, I was now a convict and would be, at best, an ex-con after two years in a penitentiary. I was then not even thinking about the difficult life that could lie ahead for me in a Hard Labour Camp.
When we reached the Police Station, we were separated in two groups: the guys sent to jail (and this included Robert) and me sentenced to Hard Labour. I saw a guard taking Robert’s handcuffs off and Robert walking easily, without shackles. I became furious and started to shout:
"You, Robert, traitor, coward, destructor"
But Junior, of all police officers, came to me and hit me brutally in the chest with his truncheon to make me stop shouting. He added:
"You, convict Rohmert, keep quiet. You are in chains and are not allowed to utter a word."
And he hit me several times more on the head.
It was the first time I was called "convict" and I fell really dehumanized.
I had the impression that Junior hated me, probably because I was tall and he was less than 5 feet. I think he used his truncheon, his gun and police officer star as tools to gain the inches he was missing to feel he was "a real man". On the other hand, I seemed to be important for Junior: I was his first prisoner.
Junior told me then to follow him and he took me to a hallway I had never seen. It was full of cells which did not have a real door, only a grid. Men were seated in most of the cells but Junior showed me an empty one and pushed me inside. I thought he would leave me there, waiting for my transportation to the Hard Labour Camp, but he also entered the cell and hit me again with his truncheon. He then said:
"Now that you are a convict, you cannot keep that haircut. That’s not adapted to your new situation. I will take care of that, boy."
"Officer", I started to plead, "you took my freedom, please let me at least keep my hair."
Junior hit me again and again, brutally. He forced me to kneel in front of him if I did not want to get more blows on the head. I was afraid of what he could do and I kneeled saying:
"Officer, the Judge did not say anything about my haircut."
Junior hit me once more and told me to keep quiet. He added:
"I got ready for this excellent moment, boy". He was now looking at my hair from above, and it was strange to hear this very young police officer call me "Boy". He went on: "I prepared what is necessary in my pocket and I will clean your head in order to clean your mind and redeem your soul. Stand straight and don’t move or I’ll hit you harder."
He placed himself in front of me, got hold of my head, which was easy for him considering his size. He then pushed my head down saying:
"Convict, you must learn to bent your head in front of free men. You must show them respect."
He looked at my hair and let his hand go through them before adding:
"Boy, you really need a serious haircut". He then got big scissors out of his pocket and added: "So first I will use my scissors. Don’t move, my scissors are very sharp and have a good point. If you don’t remain as still as a statue, you will be wounded. I will teach you to stand still and erect while kneeling in front of your betters." He then pushed his long truncheon in the back of my jumpsuit which forced me to keep the position he wanted.
He then started to cut my locks. He started with the long one which came on my forehead. This was a lock I liked: I kept playing with it and now it was gone. He then he cut the other ones, one after the other. Junior kept playing with my locks: he pulled brutally each lock before cutting it. This was painful, but I did not say a word, nor cry, and I was forced to keep my back straight because of the truncheon and to keep my head bent because Junior pushed it down while turning it in all possible direction. He really did not know very well how to do it and did a messy job: my hair did not become uniformly short, I could feel it was a mess. I could feel, but not see, that he did not cut my hair to an even length. The more he moved my head, the more I was frightened because he looked mad. Luckily John, another and more respectful officer arrived and told him:
"Junior, you cannot do that."
"Yes, I can do everything with this guy: he is my first prisoner."
"Junior, he has been sentenced. You cannot do more than put him in a cell."
"I caught him and he threatened me. I must have my revenge."
"You have it: he is sentenced to two years in Hard Labour Camp. Leave him now."
I was still kneeling and feeling very bad, but luckily the Sheriff arrived and said:
"Son, leave that convict alone, and you John", he pointed to the other guard, "take the usual dispositions, to leave him in this cell according to regulations for a new convict awaiting transportation to the Hard Labour Camp."
Junior took his truncheon back and gave me a last blow on the head with his truncheon and with my Full Shackle, I could not even protect myself. John, the other guard told me to rise and I noticed that I had been so frightened that I had lost control and that I had urinate in my jumpsuit, without realising it. I told so to the guard who replied:
"It does not matter. It will dry on you and you will soon be transferred to the pen. In any case, since nobody is going to help you now that you are a convict, you will have to keep doing in your pants until you get your new uniform in the Hard Labour Camp."
He then pushed me energetically in a corner of the cell, leaving my cut hair on the floor. He then attached my shackles to a chain sealed in the wall. I now felt completely destitute.