“Ron, I can’t take much more of his sleazy behavior! I really don’t think you are going to win this case for me anyway. I’ve lost everything; at least I can have the pleasure of making sure the jury knows their judge is another sexual power tripper, going in to his chambers to satisfy himself with the bailiff while he screws me over under the law! I don’t…”
“Gloria, we still have Coach Nestorovic and the jury could be ‘hung’. They already see what the judge is doing. Please let me ‘do my thing’!”
“Sure! Easy for you to say! You get paid while risking nothing. You didn’t have a thing to lose. I had to sell my house to pay your bill. This whole system is screwed. I informed the police, as soon as I knew what was going on!”
“Your husband’s testimony made them think you had a pretty good idea a long time before that! It can easily be settled if you turn state’s evidence on the Mafia bosses you worked for!”
“Well, how will that protect my kids now that he has filed for a divorce and custody? He’ll be awarded custody with me in jail, for certain. He’s made it clear he has no intention of entering witness protection. Even Witness Protection might not work, you know! They have people inside the system that might find out where we are anyway. You know that I’ll do anything to protect them!” Gloria was distraught and pacing the floor in the little room of the Long Beach courthouse set aside for lawyer/client consultations. She kicked a chair knocking it over. “Damn! HIM!”
“If you blow up on the judge you can forget any chance of being found innocent. He can make you spend thirty days in County jail before your sentence for fraud begins. I don’t want to see this happen, Gloria. Despite what you think about me; I’ve done everything I can do and we do have a chance.”
“Fat One maybe! I see how he looked at me when I was on the stand! It made my skin crawl!”
“He has already told you the next time you confront him he will find you in contempt of court. We can use his behavior in an appeal.”
“I don’t have the money for that! The situation doesn’t warrant an appeal anyway. They had enough proof to hang me out to dry when the State engineer lied about the soil samples and engineering data. I’m sunk! I’m not going to sell my antique doll collection just to pay you some more money!” Gloria sat down and took her shoe off to massage her toe that hurt, from when she kicked the chair, and looked out the window to see another beautiful California day, with sunlight and soft breezes rippling through the palm fronds.
“This is a big case and there were many people ripped-off in the land development swindle. You know they have to have a conviction for the media! I can only tell you that I think you have a good chance to get custody of your kids if you are in the witness protection program. The Mafia isn’t as strong here as they are in places like New York. I don’t think they’ll kill your kids!”
“I can’t take that chance. They are everything to me! I’ve only had a few months with Susie” Her eyes showed the signs of tears but he could see she didn’t want to cry.
“You are one stubborn Red-Head, that’s for sure! Its part of why you didn’t want to see that all the money they were paying you was part of knowing it would make it difficult for you to turn them in. You are prone to ‘stick to your guns’ and keep your mind closed to what is happening.”
“Well! What do you know? Some philosophic insight! Hell, how would I know about soil samples and the like? I’m an M.B.A. not a geologist! Sure I might have seen it a little earlier, but I needed to get ‘the goods’ on them. The city was backing them ‘big time’. No one would have listened to some young WOMAN! This is just a railroad job. They know I’m not guilty, of anything!”
The police came and knocked on their door and summoned them to return to the proceedings. Gloria went back into the room with her lawyer Ron Vance. She surveyed the crowded courtroom for what she knew was likely her last time. After her tennis coach gave some character witness support it would be lunch, then the summations would take an hour. She felt a sense of being cornered, but that had been the case throughout her 25 years on earth. It was December 19th 1968 and just two days earlier she had turned twenty-five. Her husband wasn’t in the room as he sometimes had been.
She remembered the day before when she had seen him sitting with some young tart that she was sure he was sleeping with. God, men can be wicked! She smiled sheepishly at Coach Nestorovic and remembered back to a more innocent time when he had been her mentor as she worked her way through university. Her tennis and golf scholarship had paid for much of her education. A poor girl from a Riverside trailer park whose father had died before she came to Long Beach sure hadn’t any money for school clothes or the high life. Then she had the misfortune of falling in love with a lying lothario! She wasn’t depressed yet; that was something she rarely ever let herself do.
Ron put his hand on Gloria’s as the judge resumed the proceedings. He had to admit she was right about this supposedly ‘Honorable’ judge. It was a travesty how he had stopped the proceedings everyday to get his rocks off with the handsome police matron assigned to take Gloria back to her cell each evening after the session had begun. He truly felt a little sick to his stomach but he didn’t want to let her know how badly he felt. Lawyers need to be positive and give their clients confidence. That is what his great teachers and heroes of the profession had always told him. He also knew it was important to getting the bills paid.
Author and activist for ethical social systems.