An hour in court is an eye-opener

Nov 21, 2012

When DeeAnna Haney, who usually covers law enforcement and court happenings was gone last week, I filled in when a case we were following was scheduled to be heard. It was postponed, but the hour I spent waiting was enlightening to say the least.

I heard the judge apologize to two young parents because their children had been victimized by a man who stood naked in front of a window doing weird things and tossing pornography at them.

Then there was the case of a middle-aged woman who had embezzled a large sum of money and was ordered to make restitiution. She fell behind on the payments and landed back in court.

She told the judge her husband had been out of work and on unemployement for two years, but had started a new job that week. The family lost their home and now she and her husband were sharing a single-wide mobile home with their teenage son, middle-aged daughter and yound grandaughter.

She has not been able to work and is the caretaker for  a family member who had seizures and can’t stay alone.

The woman admitted her mistake and spoke of how their lives had spiraled downward because of it.

Her restitution payment was reduced, but it is still a signifint part of the family income, something that is probably little comfort to the individual who saw their chance of being repaid drop measurably.

Then there was the case of a young woman who had been caught making meth in her car. Her attorney argued she was a good girl and a smart girl, but one who had fallen in with the wrong crowd.

An arrangement was worked out whereby the car, along with the $1,200 in cash found inside, would be turned over to the Waynesville Police Department and the defendant would be placed on probation.

As the judge was explaining the terms, the assistant district attorney handling the case made a suggestion. It might be a good idea for the probation terms to instruct the defendant to not associate with known felons, he suggested, since the problem here was falling in with bad company.

The judge quickly agreed, an action that prompted the attorney to explain that the order would apply to the defendant’s current boyfriend.

I really wanted to stick around to hear why another defendant was rejecting a plea offer that dropped an assault with a deadly weapon charge, but I had to get back to the newsroom and finish the paper.

I’m sure that hour was typical of how things go when court is in session, but it came as surprise to me to hear about such an array of societal ills all in one clump and in such a short time span.

I’d like to ponder this longer and end with some clever insight, but I have just heard an intercom declaration of inner-office war. Sports Editor Chuck Fiebernitz has discovered his photograph in a pink apron and with a mixing bowl in hand is on the cover of The Guide. He’s seeking revenge on all involved. I’ll keep you posted.