Getting Away, Even Though You're Caught Red-Handed
Hiccups in the administration of justice.
Posted Nov 21, 2012
Ten ways to get clean away even though you’re caught red-handed.
The following is excerpted from my third Abe Redden novel, “Come One, Come All”; but there was such a person as Leon. I met him when I was practicing in the Bronx. He had just come up from his basement where he had spent the summer taking drugs through an I.V. His mother had brought him food during that time and women, from time to time, an arrangement of which I disapproved. I don’t think my opinion weighed very heavily in his decision to come back to the outside world. He may have, finally, gotten bored—which proves you can get too much of a bad thing.
* * *
Which brings to mind my patient, Leon. I will call him Leon not to protect his identity, but because I’ve forgotten his name. For all I know, his name could be Leon. Actually, Leon sounds vaguely familiar. I met Leon while he was awaiting sentencing on a gun charge. He had sought treatment in order to convince the judge that he was trying to reform. He wanted to be a better person. If he were fulfilled as a man and happy, he would inevitably become a better citizen, thoughtful of others, etc. As a matter of fact, he struck me as pretty happy, considering the circumstances. During our meeting, bound by rules of confidentiality, of course, he told me about his life of crime. He had committed various crimes as opportunities presented themselves; but mostly he was a drug dealer. That much was a familiar story. I remember him for two reasons. First of all, he was an orthodox, observant Jew. No dealing on the Sabbath, unless a gentile handled the money. No cooking. No using the telephone. Everything had to be set up ahead of time. Second, he had been arrested for a drug-related crime many years ago with odd consequences.
As Leon informed me, being caught in the act of committing a crime-- in this case, selling drugs--does not lead directly to punishment. First of all, if it is possible, you can ditch the evidence. Sometimes the police lose the evidence, or it gets misfiled. The evidence room gets broken into. Or some cop sells the stuff back on the street. Second: maybe you can bribe the arresting cop. Third, most popular of all: maybe you can turn informer and rat out one of your friends, knocking off the competition. Fourth: maybe someone violates your rights when they arrest you-- illegal search--that kind of thing. Fifth: maybe they make a mistake at the arraignment. Or the prosecuting attorney takes too long to try the case. Sixth: maybe you can skip bail. Seventh: maybe the arresting officer gets killed before the trial, or he’s arrested for framing some other guy. Eighth: maybe the jury is fixed. Or just plain stupid. Maybe someone thinks they’re out to get you because you’re Jewish and wear a yarmulke. Ninth: maybe they put off jailing you while you’re waiting for an appeal because there’s no room in the jail. Maybe you win the appeal, and you start again. Maybe the prosecuting attorney doesn’t think it’s worth his time anymore. Tenth: (This is the part that made an impression on me. This is what I wouldn’t have believed) maybe you’re sentenced to three to five years in jail and told to report to jail one Tuesday to start serving your sentence; and you decide not to show up!
“Then they get a bench warrant and go and pick you up,” I told Leon. I had seen it happen.
“Maybe they forget.” Leon said.
And that’s what happened to Leon. He decides not to come to jail that day. He’s not in the mood; and so someone, somewhere, crosses his name off the list. Ten years of uneventful criminal activity go by before some cop stops Leon at a traffic light and notices that he has a pistol lying on the passenger seat. In the process of bringing Leon to trial on this new violation, someone discovers that Leon neglected his previous obligation to justice. What to do? His lawyer makes the case that 10 years of exemplary life as a candy store owner (his cover) should not be thrown away. Leon would have been out of jail by now anyway. Besides, he’s recently gone into psychotherapy seeking to become a better person. Forgive and forget is the legal principle invoked by his lawyer. And this works!
Somehow, his old conviction is plea bargained and squeezed into a six month sentence for the gun charge. But Leon has to promise, no fooling around, to actually show up at the prison.
I was talking to Leon one day. “Leon,” I said. “I notice you’re always smiling and having a good time, except on the Sabbath, of course, when you’re resting. Don’t you have any guilt, any remorse?”
“I try to keep that stuff under control, Doc,” Leon told me.
“What about when you confront that great big judge up in the sky? How are you going to answer for your misdeeds?”
“I just may not show up,” Leon replied confidently.
I used to think it would be nice if I could be like Leon... Well, maybe not… Well, maybe a little bit. (c) Fredric Neuman 2012 Follow Dr. Neuman's blog at fredricneumanmd.com/blog