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Drug Court

An Ian Collins Case

Twenty-five Court was the final destination for anyone in Toronto charged with a drug offense, and my current client was a regular customer.  I was sitting with other defense attorneys, watching the parade of shady characters present themselves before the Judge and offer outlandish excuses for why they were in possession of various illicit drugs.  Some excuses were sheer fantasy, while others were convoluted, hard to follow, and always presented the offender as an innocent victim who was unlucky enough to be somewhere near the drugs in question, but never conceded they were the owners.  The only consistent story was that whatever drugs were involved somehow magically appeared in their car’s trunk, in their pocket, or under their mattress.  Whatever the excuse, the Judge wasn’t playing along; in 1973, Possession of pot was considered a bad offense, and hefty sentences were quite common.  Waiting for my client, I kept checking my watch, hoping he’d show, and show soon.  While another victim was led away to jail, the rear doors opened and a walking side-show staggered in.  There was my client, Zach Forrest, his arms around two supporting women, being effectively dragged into the courtroom.  Zach looked like he was so high he was almost in orbit.  I cringed as the Judge recognized him and interjected some sarcasm which made the whole court laugh and got some hoots and comments from the defendants in the box.   At least the two women were extremely beautiful, and the blond was wearing quite the sexy outfit, something every male in the court appreciated and noticed immediately.  Before they descended into cat calls and comments to the girls, I had to reassert the formalities the court was expecting.

 

“Mr. Forrest,”  began the Judge, “nice of you to drop by and say hello…you can say hello, can’t you?”  The comment didn’t register on Zach, and the ensuing laughter made him join in, thinking he was at some weird party in his mind.  He mumbled some incoherent statement, which must have been a joke, as he broke out laughing again.  I jumped up and introduced myself as his lawyer, and said Mr. Forrest was extremely ill and on his way to the hospital.  One guy yelled out overdose time, and the defendant bench broke into a new round of laughter.  I had to get this under control while the Judge appreciated the highly unusual situation and the obvious comedy of errors he was witnessing.

“I hope that hospital is the Addiction Research Foundation, Mr. Collins, as your client seems to be suffering from the effects of the drugs he’s currently charged with possessing…some fairly strong barbiturates, according to this arrest report.  It looks like the police missed a few.”

Howls and laughter followed his comments, and I could only smile, hoping the mood of levity would work in our favor.  This was perhaps the only court that frequently dealt with moments such as this, as every defendant who suspected they would go to jail always took some last minute handful…trying to time it so they kicked in at the jail, but often that timing wasn’t too exact.  One of the women tried to get Zach on the other side of the swinging doors, but let him down on one of the benches where he promptly stretched out, casting his legs atop the back of the next bench.  His slouch and insouciance were apparent, and disrespect for the court was written all over him.  Thankfully, the girls realized this, and tried to pull him into a more respectful position.  I hated to think how many pills he took to stone him out this much, as even when I knew he’d been medically prepared for court, he was usually able to stand and state his name.  I imaging he might have just injected something, as the effects were immediate and powerful.  His shooting gallery arms were nasty looking…red and inflamed abscesses ran up and down both arms.  He should have thought of a long-sleeved shirt, but that was beyond helping at this point.

His two aides quickly dragged him to his feet, and managed to get him into the proper position to face the Judge.

“Once again Mr. Forrest, I can tell why you are in this court, as it’s apparent you’ve taken too many of something they missed when confiscating your stash…I think a hospital would be a good idea.  I’d hate to be deprived of your antics due to an unfortunate overdose.”  At least the Judge liked him and felt pity…in any other court, hard-ass Judges might slap him with contempt of court.

It was summer, and Zach was wearing jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt.  His exposed arms were red, inflamed and impossible to ignore.  They looked like hell.  His right arm had three massive red and inflamed abscesses, while his left had a few of its own…whatever he was shooting didn’t make it into the vein, and wasn’t something you could absorb inter-muscularly.  He’d mentioned to me how he injected barbiturates…he’d get a large syringe, add some water, pour in several pills, and then add more water and shake it up…not the cleanest way to prepare an injection.  Despite his obvious talents and intelligence, he could pull off some dumb-ass moves, and often didn’t give a damn what sort of damage he caused himself.  I considered him a shaky train about to derail at any moment.

“The court demands that Mr. Forrest seek immediate medical treatment for the blatant abuse he’s inflicted on his body, and will remain at the ARF until he is in a more coherent frame of mind to address this charge.  Case remanded three months, and I suggest Mr. Forrest spend that time seeking treatment for a drug problem that is doing far more damage than he can tolerate.  I’d say a jail sentence would save his life at this time, but a hospital is more in line as I can see some severe medical problems without looking any further than what is before my nose.”  He banged the gavel and seemed to fight against the girls who were trying to lead him out of court.  Forrest seemed to remember the laughter, and enjoyed the spotlight on this strange stage.  Unfortunately, he also opened his mouth.

“Thank you, Thank you, you’ve all been so kind…I’d like to offer everyone a beer or something a little stronger if you know what I mean…let’s all remember this and make it a day that will live on.”  Although the words were heavily slurred, we could all hear his devil may care comment.  It seemed even the already detained defendants were shocked by this insane display of drug abuse in the extreme.

The Judge rolled his eyes, and added, “It seems you wish has come true Mr. Forrest…this day is being recorded, along with your behavior, and it will live on…on the record, and able to be re-lived at your next appearance.”  The two gorgeous women that Zach somehow managed to produce finally got him to the door.  The tall blond bowed to the Judge, and said thank you, and managed to get a reluctant Zach through the doors.  He was trying to hang on to the door-frame.  I dropped my pen and hung my head.  After this little performance, I don’t think my initial idea for a defense would have a chance of working.  I discreetly packed up, but caught the Judge’s eye: “Mr. Collins, please convey the concerns of the court to Mr. Forrest.  He’s a train wreck heading for a major disaster, and I’ve actually grown quite fond of him…even reading that first book he published.  He has talent, and it’s a shame to waste what could be a profitable life.  Ensure he is firmly locked away in Detox somewhere, and follows that through with rehab.  At this point it’s a suggestion, but if he doesn’t follow through, I’ll make it a firm bail condition.  All the best and get him some help.”

I assured the Judge my client would be in much better shape the next time we met, and quickly retreated.  Exiting the courtroom, I noticed the girls managed to drag him to the front door, so I went over to see what would happen.

They managed to get Zach to the street, but every taxi they hailed passed them by.  Finally, while the cute blond tried hailing, the other girl sat Zach down so he wouldn’t be so obviously out of it and scaring all the drivers.  Eventually, a bleeding heart pulled over, probably because he liked the blond.  They all tried to push him in the back seat.  I could imagine the taxi driver’s snicker when directed to take Zach to the ARF.

The taxi pulled up to what passed as the emergency entrance…not equipped like a hospital, it was merely the main entrance door.  When the nurses and assorted other personnel took a look at Zach’s arms, they knew they had a major problem on their hands.  They did have an emergency ward on the second floor, and after securing Zach to a restraint supplied gurney they directed him there, a.s.a.p.

The first doctor to examine Zach’s arm was visibly shaken…he’d never seen so many abscesses on one arm, and Zach had them all over.  Requiring immediate attention, they started freezing the surrounding area, getting ready to lance and drain the pus that made them look like massive pimples or boils ready to pop.

The largest abscess was treated first; it produced over an ounce of nasty looking yellow. blood-tinged bile, and took a lot of pushing around the edges to get all the poison out.  It was an incredibly painful procedure, and there were still many to go.  When as clean as they could manage, they stuffed the empty skin pocket with anti-biotic swipes, hoping they’d act like sponges to soak up residual poison.  The rest of the lumps got the same treatment, and by the time they were near the end, Zach was screaming constantly from pain so much the doctor caved and gave him a large shot of Pantopon: 35 milligrams was about double the usual dose, a medical decision that many inexperienced doctors would never consider.  Armed with Zach’s previous history, the doctor knew Zach had been admitted for heroin addiction, prescription opiates that read like a list of hospital-grade high potency painkillers that included the Pantopon he just gave Zach.  On his last stay, Zach listed his drugs of choice as Pantopon, Oxymorphine, Diamorphine, Methadone, Leritine, Hydromorphone, and Numorphan.  He was secretly impressed at the quality of Forrest’s drugs of choice, as most pain clinics would only stock one major pain medication along with the middle and lesser brands.  Doctor Ballard remembered more about this patient, including an overdose from a new drug that wasn’t even in production yet…something called Fentanyl.  For now, it was a laboratory experiment, and finding it was something of a surprise.  He recalled it took three injections of Naloxone to counter its potent effects.  He also recalled Forrest earned the distinction of a drugstore cowboy…but one that had a successful history, but a aftermath of total destruction.  The damage and poison trapped in various pockets showed a total disregard for his life, as these abscesses were the result of injecting pure barbiturates…something that wasn’t absorbed by the body unless it was injected directly into a vein.  The staff had already come up with a nickname for him…”The abscess man of the year.”  He’d seen one or two on some patients, but never five or six on one arm…a total that added up to over a dozen highly infectious wounds.

If they didn’t get massive doses of pure Penicillin into his blood-stream to fight the infection, sepsis could set in and only amputation of his right arm could save him.  That was something he didn’t want to cripple an immature 22-year old with merely due to lack of caution and a personal destructive tendency that only time would cure.

After wheeling Forrest back from the operating room, his arms were taped to his body, as the barbiturates he’d been ingesting for over six months had produced an addiction that produced one of the worst withdrawal setbacks that made heroin withdrawal seem like quitting sweets.  The symptoms produced vivid hallucinations, violent shakes, and total disorientation…a horror that would take over a week.  He was still sleeping from the Pantopon injection, something a younger colleague was worried about due to the large levels of barbiturates already flooding his blood system.  His only response was that the relatively small doses they gave where nothing compared to what this client put his body through on a regular basis, and the intense pain he suffered had to be put under control.  Leaving him to suffer the pain of lancing 12 abscesses would be barbaric and not in the Hippocratic Oath.  Besides, the pathetic screams grated on his nerves, and repeatedly inflicting severe pain was something he couldn’t tolerate.  He knew Zach would inject over 100 mg of Pantopon when he did a hospital…some of this was mentioned in his chart.  The objections had stopped when he told his assistant to read the history, something many doctors forget to do before they begin radical surgery.

Leaving orders for one more shot of Pantopon if Forrest showed extreme pain, he left for the day and would return in the morning.

Forrest woke up around midnight, screaming out in pain.  The hard-boiled doctor put off the order for additional pain meds until Forrest screamed for a full hour, his body bucking and shaking so much he threatened to expose his wounds and cause even more trouble.  He ordered the large dose and Forrest spent the rest of the night resting.

Morning arrival, and Doctor Braid looked in on his patient.  Now clear of last night’s meds, he wanted more, along with barbiturate to control the shakes…the first symptom of withdrawal.  Instead of narcotics, they injected him with 3 milligrams of pure penicillin…a rather thick and painful injection pushed into his fatty rear end.  He’d have to endure that shot for the next four days, and every four hours.  He had a battle ahead, and they had to be careful with him or this could end up costing him an arm or even his life.

By the second day of pure antibiotics, Forrest’s blood work showed some sign of responding favorably to the drugs.  By the third day, he was in full blown withdrawal from the barbiturates.  After hearing the high doses he took, it would be amazing if his body managed to pull through.  Hallucinations were part of the ordeal, and he had to have Forrest strapped to the bed to stop the violent thrashings.  He was also screaming spiders were crawling all over him.  Against my better judgment, I have him a strong dose of Valium to control the shakes, and redressed his wounds…a very painful procedure.  After the first two, he fought us at every turn.  There was no choice but to give him another shot of Pantopon…in most cases like this, a patient would be totally knocked out, but with the help of the Pantopon and Forrest’s otherwise healthy condition, he tolerated the rest of the bandage changes…this included removed the antiseptic swabs we stuffed into the surrounding areas of the wounds, a painful procedure I knew what hard to take.  With a stoic resolve, Forrest bucked up and let us do what we needed to do to save his arm.

I doubled the Penicillin shots, and watched as it took five minute to push the syrupy medicine into his fatty tissues, and additional pain I watched in horror.  Day four was the peak of the barbiturate withdrawal, and we had to use extra straps to keep him still.  Another shot of Valium helped somewhat, but he kept screaming for something stronger…after being on barbs for so long, the Valium wasn’t having much effect, but it was the only treatment available.  We redressed his wounds again, and began to see definite signs of healing.  It looked like we removed the poison from his arm, and the antibiotics were cleansing his blood system.  The withdrawal symptoms were being taped for research, as not too many people made it through such a violent course, and it would help others if they were in his position.

Day six of the withdrawal found him believing the walls weren’t bending back and forth, the spiders were gone, and his arms were beginning to look moderately healthy.  After several more days and bandage changes, his treatment had lasted 8 days…8 days of sheer torture and pain.  I wondered if the video we took could be used as a shock value film to show other addicts how bad things could get when they put drugs before life.

After ten days, there was still one abscess that emerged on his left arm, but the right arm was healing nicely and the withdrawals were mostly over.  I discharged him to our resident rehabilitation unit, had nurses check on is arm every four hours, and gave him 20 mg of Valium four times a day…but only for the first week.  The drugs was chemically different than the barbs he’d been eating like jellybeans, so all they did was make him hang on to reality without losing his mind.  I didn’t want a violent outburst, something that post-barbiturate withdrawal patients could produce.  It was for his safety and the rest of the group.

He was excused from the daily activities, and spent the first week showing up to get a meal and then returned to bed.  The rest of the ward must have wondered, as his arm were covered in bandages, and when the smaller boils appeared, he could be covered in bloody pus at any given time.  I heard the worst instance was during supper…the large abscess on his left arm popped and sprayed a noxious mix of blood and poison across the table.

After that, we had his meals delivered to his room.

 

After two weeks, a weak and barely alive Zach Forrest started sitting in on group therapies.  The initial reports indicated Zach scared other residents by graphic descriptions of what happened to him, plus other instances when he’d exceeded the borderline and again put his life in danger.  I allowed him to continue…sometimes the truth can work…especially when the horrors of what can happen to anyone is demonstrated for all to see.

His second week on the ward was better, and I stopped his Valium.  He had a mild dependence, but nothing compared to the hell he’d lived through.  Week four had him almost back to normal, and helping the newcomers with the reason they were there.  He certainly didn’t mince words, and others seemed to be somewhat scared of him.  I noted this would pass, as I knew Zach, and predicted his happy go lucky attitude would return, along with his quirky sense of humor.  Week five bore me out, and Forrest was almost back to normal.  Whatever had pushed him to select such a powerful and dangerous drug to use puzzled me…I knew he’d been suicidal, and it seemed he played fast and loose with his life, like he didn’t care if he lived or died.  Unless we restored a proper sense of life, it would be something that would endanger him, and I recommended an extended stay and full course of personal counseling.

Despite Zach friendly and helpful attitude, other patients were scared by the obvious close call he’d just survived.  Most of the inmates were in for booze or soft drugs, and the hard core nature of an arm covered in severe injection misses put him in the dangerous hard-core junkie category, and there weren’t too many around.  He scared them.  In some was that was taught them a lesson to avoid dangerous drugs, but it didn’t do much to help him ingratiate himself with the group.

He felt bad for Zach.  With all kinds of addicts moving through the program, he happened upon a group of young rookies; he was only 22, but probably scared the hell out of them.  One thing I had noticed was a friend dropped off his art supplies, and he was currently working away in his room…creating some dark pieces that seemed to match his latest dark incident, but his portfolio was there, and had a beautiful sketch of a young woman that dazzled with light and dark contrasting strokes, and I’d noticed a few people showed interest.  Perhaps his talent would break down barriers, for who could be afraid of someone that drew such beautiful subjects?

Another week fly by, and many of the younger residents checked out.  Zach was now working in a corner of the dayroom…better light and more room made it an obvious choice, and he had a slew of observers watching his sure and steady hand produce beauty.  He did some portraits and gave them away, a sure way to become accepted.  The replacements we got were older junkies, and Zach was soon forgotten as an object of terror.  Alf checked in, and his mean and grizzled face could scare anyone…with two lines of tracks on each side of his neck, he usually wore long sleeves to hide the junction rails that ran up and down both arms.

I knew Zach had a lot riding on our report for the courts, so I kept him for the three months he had before his next appearance.  I wrote a glowing report, and recommended him for long term therapy at one of the park-like facilities that bordered Toronto.

He left for court with a therapist for support, and returned in the afternoon, slightly happier and with a better attitude towards his recovery.  The court made a deal with him—if he stuck out a six month program, they’d drop the charges and let him move on.  That’s the sort of motivation he needed…I knew if he’d been released before his court date, he’d be back on drugs as soon as he got home.  I’d found out he had a stash of barbs at home, and that worried him…he knew he wasn’t strong enough to dispose of them, and that was worse than releasing an alcoholic to work bar in a busy nightclub.

Then one night we let him fill the store orders.  Once or twice a week, a select person would take orders from everyone, get the money, and buy what they needed from the store: pop, candy, cigarettes, Tampons, chewing gum…just about anything a person wanted from the store and had the money to pay for it.  The trip usually took a couple of hours, as it was often a long list.  Within an hour or two of Zach’s return, the staff started to notice odd behavior.  The resident haircutter at the time left a person half finished, people were using the side balustrades to help steady their walks, and the living area was an endless source of gleeful laughter.  This wasn’t that unusual, but when dinner was served, many people dropped their trays and couldn’t even navigate to their table.  Someone had brought drugs on the unit, and based on their reactions, it looked like they were bombed on heavy-duty barbiturates…exactly what Zach had demonstrated he had easy access to.  When I started my shift at 6:00 P.M., the staff brought this to my attention, but believed some visitor had smuggled in drugs during the afternoon.  As the doctor on duty, I recognized the effects of sleeping pills, Quaaludes, or barbs, and couldn’t help but make the connection to Zach.  I was slightly disappointed but not surprised…he was an addict.  We gave some of the more obvious offender urine tests, and using the quick results strips, found they showed positive for large quantities of barbiturates…probably the 200 or 100 milligram variety Zach had been strung out on.

Since he’d been here under lock and key after his court appearance and didn’t know where he was going to end up, I’m sure he didn’t stash any nearby, and I knew he didn’t have anything on his person when checked in.  It was possible a friend hid them for him to find when he went out on the store run, but that was a random privilege we only allowed residents who were about to be discharged to perform.  I called Zach into my office.  If Zach was high, he didn’t take enough to impair his walk or speech, had such a high resistance it wouldn’t show, or he hadn’t taken anything.  I showed him the test results from the urine screen, and said, “They test positive for barbiturate powders and amytal sodium, the other half of Tuinal, and an extremely powerful member of the barbiturate family.  He saw the results and sort of hung his head, knowing what was coming.  “Zach, this is was nearly cost you your right arm, and possibly might have killed you…I thought you were coming along fine, but you have to admit, this is a very bad situation and it seems to point in your direction.”

Zach nodded and said, “If I did have access to my stash, I’d probably pop around ten…enough to put a tiny stagger in my walk, but not enough to really affect me.  I haven’t been hanging with any of the new guys lately, so I don’t know what might have been happening through the grapevine.  I know I went to the store, but I didn’t bring anything back, and I haven’t taken anything.  Give me the cup and I’ll give you a urine screen right now…believe it or not, all you’ll find is residue from when I first came in, if its there at all.”

Zach looked steadily into my eyes, and I believed him.  He was calm, normal, and never slurred his speech or showed any sign of taking the strong pills.  I knew he’d built up a high resistance, but after 2 months of clean living, even one or two of the 200 mg Tuinals would definitely affect him…that was a knock-out dose, and Tuinals start at 50 mg., which is sometimes enough to knock most people into dreamland.  The 200 mg variety were used for pre-surgery meds, cancer patients to sleep with intense pain, or for the few that had huge tolerances.

I said, “Everything you’ve done has been helpful in getting your life back…after court, I’m sure you fully appreciate how serious it is, and I have the distinct impression you’re telling me the truth.  I don’t need a urine sample, as I don’t think you took anything.  I’m sure we’ll find out who brought them in, but for now, you’re off the hook.  The drugs will be in your system for some time, so we can always test you later, but I think we’ll look over the visitors and patients for today, and see if that offers a clue.  I’m extending trust here Zach, and it would be better for you if you brought them in to tell me now.  Did you bring them in?”

Zach gave me a level gaze and firmly said “No.”

I waved him out of my office and looked at the daily visitor list.  I recognized an old patient visiting his buddy, and remembered some problems we had with him during his last stay.  I phoned the nurse’s station and asked them to bring me the patient, and told them to search his room while I talked with him.

Peter Stark made it to my office and fell into a chair.  He was plastered.  I immediately asked, “How many pills did Andy bring you?  Handing them out to other residents only gets other people in trouble, and makes this situation a problem that affects the whole ward…besides, you know people don’t stand up like in jail, and cough up names as soon as you ask.”  My trick worked…he thought someone he gave pills to ratted him out, and knew it was game over.

He didn’t know what I knew, but guilt can often make someone cave and dispense with lying.

He admitted his friend brought him about 50 Tuinals…the 200 mg, knock-you-on-your-ass with one variety, and reached into his pocket to pull out the ten he had left.  I told him about the rules, and he knew he was getting the boot.  Knowing he was history, he put the Tuinals back in his pocket…why bother pretending now?  Punishing all the other patients for his indiscretion was by the book, but I decided to tell each person to go to bed and sleep it off, or pack their stuff and leave.  About ten people were suspected of being stoned, but there were probably others that only took enough to get a slight buzz or had high tolerances.  I couldn’t empty the whole ward just because someone put temptation right in their lap.  I told him to go get packed, and mentioned he was barred for six months.  As he left, I thought about Zach.  The entire nursing staff convicted him, and basically told me he was the guy responsible.  I was glad I followed my instincts and trusted a junkie…it’s not always a good move, but you have to start trusting someone…sometime.

Why

Why read…why expand your mind.  We all have questions, and we hope to find them somewhere, even by a chance read.

What if this has the answer you’ve always sought?  The solution to the conundrum that has eaten away at you for many many years.

Be good, help others, and do not consider yourself to be more than you should be.  Share with others what they don’t have and you own in abundance…this can be money or a kind word, as wealth is not always a monetary concern.

Sometimes, the right word can mean more than a fistful of diamonds.  The meaning of life has value, but the cause of your pain is personal and private…something only you can fix…perhaps the answer is in helping others without a second thought  to an overwhelming  ego that drowns you in a sea of selfishness.

Keep your life free from trouble and bite the bullet…there really is a better way, and a faith in the divine can produce  a positive nature that will carry you above life’s troubles…you shall mount up as if upon the wings of eagles.

 

Fight for Death

Albert Camus, the French philosopher, cleverly concluded that a painful life is a justified excuse for suicide, and that since death didn’t have meaning for him, he believed one would simply vanish and never worry about anything.  The Buddhist viewpoint states we are re-incarnated, that our life energy is a part of the universe, and the universe never wastes energy…therefore life forms retake life in one form or another, or if the extreme is believed, humans need to reach a final level of awareness or they continue in human form until humility and understanding leads to oneness with the universal source of all life.

We all know the Christian view of things…if you’re good, heaven awaits, if you’re bad, hell gets very hot.  Living a painful life and then entering hell doesn’t seem like a fairly equitable deal…but life’s a bitch and then you die.

If your life is painful, suicide is a pretty dramatic way to end physical pain…it’s final, and no one knows what awaits.  The faithful believe Jesus is real and is awaiting those who love Him, yet that requires a deep-set conviction that involves the soul, and the surety that what happened 2,000 years ago is historically accurate.

Accordingly, if someone is rolling in money, has slaves serving their every need, this life seems to be the best choice they can ever make…but it never lasts.  We die…whether what we do in this life matters for an everlasting existence is something we need to learn in the future…we’re gamblers by nature, and life is always a crap shoot.

Buck up, duck and hope for the best.  Either exist with current pain and hope for something better, or live honorably, respect others, and learn that the meek shall inherit the Earth.  Spiritually, learning to humble yourself is always a good thing, and it helps reduce an ego that’s gone over to the dark side.

 

 

 

Money for Justice

An Ian Collin story.

A crack in the overcast sky provided a ray of sunshine to greet me as I left the East Toronto courthouse.  My head was still spinning from the events I witnessed…an exercise in judicial power for the defense…a reaction to misuse by the governing authorities and their strong arm defenders…the police.  They wouldn’t take this sitting down, but I doubted there was much room for appeal.  Pursuing a worthless case of mischief into the court of appeals wouldn’t even make it past the clerk’s office; the minimal nature of the summary conviction wasn’t what a Supreme Court liked to do with their time and power.  The only thing that could be contested was the monetary award, but when I exposed their duplicitous actions of bilking my client and the insurance company for dual compensation bordered on fraud, and I assumed they would bite the bullet and realize it could be much worse.  It could still happen, as Judge Locke promised to send the transcripts to the company in question, and they might be enraged enough to slap the bank with a major lawsuit.

Fred pulled up with my Mercedes mobile office and I climbed in the back seat.  After two very successful wins, the rest of my day was free…I expected more time would be required in the trials, but thanks to friendly Judges, the trials were short and sweet.  At this point, a shower, good meal, and relaxation seemed appropriate.  I pushed the intercom and told Fred to take me to my East End hotel…just off the massive 401 corridor; it allowed me to shuttle back and forth across Toronto within minutes.

Dripping from a hot shower, I wrapped a towel around me and entered the living room.  The news was on, and my last performance in trouncing a large bank was deemed notable.  Merely a short note, the announcer couldn’t contain the underlying joy she felt by reporting a powerful financial institution has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

I chuckled, turned off the TV and fell into bed.  My fifth Scotch was having its usual effect, and I fell into a light sleep.

Waking up at 4:30, I donned jogging attire and went for a run.  I was facing two trials today and needed to meet with a potential client that needed help with a murder charge.  From what I’d learned, the police had constructed a large series of circumstantial evidence, but lacked motive and eye-witnesses.  It would be a challenge, and a long trial seemed like the only way to dismantle their house of cards.

I returned to the hotel, showered and got dressed and headed down for an early breakfast.  The morning paper listed my success yesterday on page six, their police incident page.  Focusing on the bank’s embarrassment, they didn’t even mention my client other than stating the root of the charge had been dismissed, while the bank was reprimanded and fined.  At least they mentioned my name; many clients read this part of the newspaper, and every success I pulled off in court enhanced my reputation.  It was a good day.

I had a nine o’clock hearing and a ten o’clock trial in High Court.  In case the first hearing stretched on, I had a buddy ready to show up for me and make excuses.  Telling the truth was always the best excuse, and all Judges knew no one could calculate how long any appearance would take.  Fred took his usual secret route downtown, bypassing rush hour, and I was in the Old City Hall at 8:55, waiting for my client to appear.  A string of unfortunate was dragged in a chained link and deposited in the witness box.  My client was wearing ripped clothes and was covered in blood.  He did not present a very good image.  I moseyed over and asked what happened.  With a cast around his left wrist, he said he needed medical attention as the wrist was re-broken when the cops mindlessly handcuffed him behind his back and threw him in the back of a car.  He said three fat cops sat on him all the way to the station, and were jumping up and down on him.  I asked why they were interested in him in the first place.  He said he left school, went to the hospital to get his broken wrist checked, and they gave him a prescription for Demerol.  He added those to the barbiturates he’d already taken and blacked out.  Looking for change to call a taxi, he’d wandered in the only place open—a massage parlor and movie theater…the sort that showed the X-rated films.  The woman at the desk refused to give change, and he called her a bitch.  A fight ensued, and he ran away.  With his arm in a sling and a fresh cast, the responding police officers ignored his physical impairment and arrested him for drunken disorderly behavior and being a nuisance.  I rolled my eyes.  Dave was an extremely talented artist, and had already finished a drafting diploma…now he was taking fine arts at George Brown college, but liked getting high too much.

I’d seen many clients in extremely bad situations, but Dave must have taken the cake…blood smeared over his face, plastered in his hair, down his neck, his shirt torn and ripped to reveal deep scratches that looked like they were still bleeding, blood on his hands, and that new cast covered in blood.

Trying to lighten the mood, I asked, “So, what did the other guy look like?”  I got a quick guffaw, but I could tell he was in pain.  The new cast was broken, and I knew he’d only broken his wrist last week.

“So, what are you accused of stealing?”  He said, “Nothing, I needed change to call a taxi to go home and rest, and they ripped me for $170 bucks…I asked for change, had trouble getting my wallet and money out with my left hand only, first grabbed a hundred dollar bill, changed to a fifty, and then found a twenty…I didn’t have any smaller bills as I’d gone to an ATM earlier that day because I knew I’d have to get a prescription.  That’s one of the reasons this started…she snatched them both out of my hand and then told me to hit the road.  She was ripping me off and basically told me to go to hell.  The bills are unique, as when I was in the hospital, they wanted all my valuables before surgery.  I was still stoned on barbs, and scribbled my initials on the bills before they took them, thinking they couldn’t steal them if I added my initials.  Anyway, when they saw the money, and my incapacity, it must have seemed like a simple thing to rip me off…I wasn’t being too careful, and only having my left hand…it was awkward to get anything out of the wallet.

After they grabbed my money, they were pushing me out the door while the other girl got on the phone and called the cops.  I didn’t know what to do…they weren’t even touched by me…the blond over there even tried kicking me down the stairs, and hit me a few times.  I got the impression of her ring on my neck here,” Dave pointed to a spot near his throat that looked exactly like a crossed set of bones.  I filed this away in case I could catch the witness with this tid-bit.

“Anyway, the pair of them shoved me towards the stairs, and then tried to push me down with a kick to the back….when I recovered and made it to the street; ten arresting officers were waiting on each side of the doorway and jumped me.  There was broken glass on the sidewalk, and I got that ground into my back…there’s glass in there now, as I’ve been in handcuffs most of the night and couldn’t pick out the shards.  They made sure I got my lumps.”  I asked Dave to show me his back…he didn’t really need to lift his bloody and torn shirt, but when he did, I could see glass glinting without even looking closely.

I could only marvel over the damage he seemed to always inflict upon himself.  I looked at the docket, and noticed he was charged with common assault.  Looking around the courtroom, I saw an overdressed blonde hooker-type that seemed to be the witness from the massage parlor.  Smacking gum, she wasn’t a star witness…the knee-length boots adding that Julia Roberts-style hooker look.

I smiled and said, “If you’re the one responsible for assaulting that painted bird over there,” I gestured to the over-done witness, “I think we can get the assault charges reversed.  Give me a minute and I’ll call the hospital.  Where did you go?”

“Toronto General,” replied Zach…they took new X-rays, put me under and re-set the bones…now I’m sure they are all screwed up again.”

This was great, I thought, assaulting a patient just out of the hospital.  The police were doing a real two-step with aggravated arrests lately.

“I’m going to call the hospital…this court won’t get going for another 20-minutes…I think I can get enough to get you released from here.  Play up your injuries, and over do the pain.”

Dave snickered and said, “The pain is real…I don’t have to play at anything…they re-broke my entire wrist.”

I patted him on the head and went into the corridor to call some of my contacts at Toronto General.  After several minutes, I had what I needed e-mailed to my phone.  I entered one of the offices and asked to use the printer reserved for itinerant lawyers like myself.  I printed off 26 pages and started categorizing them.  From what they showed, my client should be in the hospital, not a bench in drug court.

I entered the court and approached Dave.  Showing him the documents I had, I asked, “Did you have these medications on you at the time of your arrest?”

Dave smiled and said, “Sure did…that’s why I got so messed up…the pain pills they gave him upgraded the barbs I’d taken earlier, and I blacked out.”

“Did you ask for the pain pills this morning and did they give them to you?”

“Yes and no,” replied Dave, “the cops even laughed when I complained about the pain I was in and ignored the fact that I just got out of the hospital.”  I nodded my head…more great ammunition for our side.
“It says here you were released from the hospital at 12:15 A.M.  Why didn’t you phone a cab from the hospital?”

Dave scratched his head and said, “After the surgery, I was pretty woozy.  All I can remember is the Doctor telling me about an all night Shopper’s on Dundas East.  I sort of staggered over, got the Leritine, took a few for pain and suffering, and went wandering around looking for a phone.”

“What happened to all your clothes…that looks like it used to be a dress shirt?”

“When I left the massage parlor, a hoard of cops were waiting…they pulled me around in a circle and ripped my suit jacket off…the shirt was the only thing left to grab on to, and they ripped that while spinning me in a circle.”

While getting the story from Dave, I didn’t notice a well-dressed young man enter until he walked over and stood beside me.

He said, “Are you the attorney for this guy?  I go to school with him, and had to stay late while doing a watercolor for tomorrow…you have to keep working while the paper’s wet, so it took a long time.  Anyway, I was on Spadina and noticed this gang of cops start in on this guy who I recognized as a student.  I took out my cell and got a video of the entire arrest, which was insanely brutal.  I figured he’d be here this morning and knew he’d want this video for the Judge.”  He handed over his phone already loaded with the video.

I pressed play.  After a minute, I felt like hugging the guy.  The whole thing was perfect case of over-enthusiastic thugs tackling an innocent man, well dressed in a suit coat and white sling holding his right arm.  As soon as he left the stairwell, the cops dived on him and proceeded to do a merry-go-round as they tossed him to and fro.  It was shameful and total dynamite.  I instinctively dug out fifty bucks and asked if I could use his phone while he waited for Dave to take the stand.  The stand up guy refused the money, and said, “Use the phone as long as you want, and I’d be glad to wait until he gets called.  If you want, I’ll take the stand and tell them I know him from school, which I sort of do, and will tell them they jumped him for no reason.”

I thanked him and immediately sent the video clip to my own phone and my laptop.  I handed his phone back.  I said I’d call him, and asked him to just explain exactly what happened. “Just be honest here…tell them why you were out so late, add that you knew Dave here from school, and saw all those cops waiting across the street before they jumped him and arrested him.  Just tell the truth…that’s all we need.”

I watched as several police officers entered the court and knew things were about to start.  Every cop with a victim here needed to explain why they were arrested, and why they weren’t released from the station…that had to be a pretty good reason, as most people could be released from the station by a Justice of the Peace, or just given a promise-to-appear by the cops.  Dragging someone down to the main bullpen usually meant the charge was serious, and the arrestee was too dangerous for bail and need to be held in jail with a detention order.

It wasn’t a preliminary, but it was a good chance for discovery and a good time to present a shoddy case before a Judge.  The “All rise,” shout echoed, and Judge Wilberforce walked in.  As a Judge, he was considered fair, but didn’t like criminals with proven records and charges that were obvious and beyond question.  The nature of my client’s case would be perfect for his brand of justice.

The first guy was called and couldn’t explain why two pounds of pot were in his trunk, so he earned a 50,000 bond and was led back downstairs.  The second guy was a DUI, and the court heard that the police found an open bottle of liquor, plus did a breathalyzer that almost killed the machine.  He was led back downstairs, a full bail hearing called for later in the week.  Now it was Dave’s turn.  Huddled down and holding his painful arm, he woozily stood while I introduced myself as his lawyer.

After the Judge got a good look at Dave and all the blood, I said, “Your Honor, my client underwent surgery late last night and is in extreme pain.  I have the admitting documents and records of his operation right here.”  I approached the bench and handed over the intake notes and operation outlines and results.  I then said, “Since my client is obvious in extreme post-operative pain, could my client sit during the hearing…he is in extreme pain and was denied the legally prescribed medicine he needed by the over-zealous police force.”

The Judge agreed, but added, “Let’s keep the arrest explanation neutral until I hear more about what happened.”

I agreed, but also let my secret bombshell explode, “I’ll keep the descriptive comments to myself, but after your Honor sees the video of this arrest, I’m sure you will agree that this was an overt act of police brutality.”  The Judge looked up at that bit of information, and I noticed several police officers froze in mid-whisper while they heard this bit of unexpected news.

With a hint of a smile, the Judge said, “That is something I will look forward to…most case I see at this stage are not so well prepared.”  He waved the reports he was reading from the hospital to emphasis his remark.

Bill Harlow, the prosecuting attorney leapt up and objected to something not in evidence, and the Judge showed which way the wind was already blowing by stating, “I’ll view every piece of information and let you know what is in evidence.  This man looks like he belong in the emergency ward instead of my courtroom, and I’d like to hear how and why he has been denied proper medical care.”

I opened my laptop and looked up Bill Harlow’s cell number, punched it in and e-mailed him a copy of the video.   We were both still standing, and I turned to Bill, one of my classmates at Law School.  “Mr. Harlow, if you check your cell phone, you can view the clip I just e-mailed to you.”

Harlow immediately sat down and fished out his phone.  While the Judge was still reading the initial reports, I let everything sink in and extracted the post-operative instructions, which included either rest at the hospital, or the option of filling the out-patient prescription and a cab ride home to recuperate…exactly the story Dave had and was sticking to.

The Judge finished reading the report and turned to Harlow, his head bent down to view the deadly video of the arrest.  Once again, it was obvious Dave should never be here, and was only here because of lie that witness cooked up, and Dave’s record…but that didn’t justify the police reception he got…that must have been due to whatever lie the hooker told the cops over the phone.

“Mr. Harlow…can you start explaining to me why this man isn’t in a proper medical facility, and why he looks like he needs to return to the emergency ward?”

Harlow was flustered.  I knew he wasn’t a stupid man, and after watching what really went down last night, he must know the police went way beyond all arrest procedures and were in danger of excessive force charges.

Armed with the arrest report I had yet to see, he stood up and said, “The police were only responding to a call about an out-of-control man attacking and assaulting two women…they expected to meet a violent situation and were only responding to the 9-11 call.”

The Judge had a tolerant look on his face, and said, “Is that person here today Mr. Harlow?  I’d like to take a look at what this unfortunate patient could have done after leaving a hospital.”

The prosecutor turned to the three cops who had moved up to the witness seats…looking at their now shaky and nervous manners, I could tell they were still trembling from the video announcement of their arrest.  Dave was living proof some extreme arrest techniques were used, but watching them unfold as they happened could often place police in the worst of all scenarios.  I recalled the effects of the Rodney King incident, and some other cases where dash-board cameras cost some American police their jobs.

A moment later, Harlow confirmed to the court that the witness was there, and was outside at the moment having a cigarette.  In the middle nineties, courtrooms were one of the last places to go smoke free, as most of the people involved smoked, and the tension of courtroom drama pushed that craving to the forefront.  Cops, witnesses, victims all hovered around the cylindrical ashtray outside the courtroom, and it was considered bad form to be called to testify while outside having a smoke.  As the witness missed the whole video announcement or the mention of his hospital stay, she was totally clueless about what the court had learned, and would most likely repeat whatever over-done call for help that seemed like a complete lie.  Harlow introduced his witness as a Rebecca Tonkin.

The high-heeled hooker made her walk to the witness stand look like a cheap peep show…a stance that was not lost on every male in the room, while every female looked on with scorn.  I smiled inwardly; this would be a beautiful cross.  I walked back to the defendant’s bench, pretending to confer with my client as I did a quick 9-11 e-mail of my own, getting my friendly investigator and not to bad hacker to check on a few things.  I stressed I was in court and needed this yesterday.  I looked up at Dave…despite his obvious pain, he was no slouch and noticed my covert text message which he could only imagine had something to do with his case.  He’d seen my work before, and knew I loved pulling rabbits out of my back pocket.

Harlow walked her through the 9-11 call, her version of events that prompted the call, and the feigned fright the poor two women felt when confront by Dave…someone she looked taller and stronger then, not even including his freshly operated on right wrist.  She’d missed that part while having her cigarette, and although Harlow tried to steer her around that part, she idiotically said Dave had punched her, grabbed her in a head lock, and still had time to subdue the other woman.  The blatant lies seem to grate on Harlow, but at this point, all he could do was go with her story and uphold the arrest report, which I was now scanning in disbelief.  This was also a complete fabrication, something the police knew would be exposed by the video…now an admissible piece of evidence the Judge had already watched.  His outrage was obvious…a deep frown became deeper the longer he watched, and his attitude towards the Crown was totally changed by its contents.

After being sworn in, Harlow attempted to skirt around the violent part of the encounter, knowing I’d rip it apart, and attempted to focus on why these girls felt threatened.  There wasn’t a very good reason, more so when she admitted they kept a knife and baseball bat handy in case of trouble.  The meek and intellectual nature of Dave obviously didn’t scare them enough to use them…another brick in the lie that crumbled into dust.  She prattled on, moronically adding details she ‘forgot’ last night, all actions that would be impossible considering Dave’s medical condition and totally useless right arm.  At no time did she mention the sling or the cast that immobilized his entire right arm.  From what Dave said, the hospital added extra bandages to ensure his entire arm was immobilized…and with the events this witness was tossing around, Dave would have to be superman, have a double with him, or have three left arms.  Harlow wisely concluded his cross and sat down, almost cringing already from the devastating cross he knew I was about to make.

I walked over to the witness stand, several hospital reports from last night in my left hand as I reached out with my right to shake her hand…definitely not a standard practice, but something I wanted to use before I ripped her testimony apart.  She instinctively reached out with her right hand as I quickly put both my hands behind my back.

“You’re right handed Ms Tonkin?”   Mildly surprised, she nodded and said yes.

“So pretty well everything you do is with your right hand…is that correct?”

She admitted it was, as was apparent from her offering her right to shake mine.

“Well then, Ms Tonkin, I wonder why you repeatedly stated my client used his right hand to strike you and your fellow worker, while at the same time subduing this worker with the strength of his hands, but didn’t mention my clients right arm was in a cast, further immobilized by a sling, and had several bandages wrapped around his arm to kept it firmly adhered to his body.”

She must have been high on something, as the full import of what I was saying hadn’t yet sunk in.  She replied, “There might have been a bandage, but he was still able to swing his arm around freely.”

I pulled out a treatment report from the hospital and quietly said, “Did you know Mr. Reid had surgery on his wrist that very night?  And after the surgery had his arm taped tightly to his body to restrict all motion, while the sling was also taped to his torso after he put on his shirt…I’d have to say Mr. Reid was incapable of what you described, and you should rethink your story before you sink deeper into perjury.”

She stammered, trying to say something but I interrupted.

Tell me, why did Mr. Reid enter your premises in the first place?  Did he or did he not ask for change to phone a taxi, struggle to open his wallet with one hand, and fumbled around getting money before he extracted a one hundred dollar bill, then a fifty and later a twenty…three bills which you immediately snatched out of his unsteady left hand and shoved into your brassiere.

And after you had taken $170 dollars from Mr. Reid, you picked up the phone and made a false call to 9-11 to ensure Mr. Reid couldn’t get his money back…”

By this time, Ms. Tonkin was realizing things were not going so well for her.

I turned to the Judge and asked “In the pursuit of justice, I would like the count’s indulgence and co-operation to help bring light on this matter.”  At this point, the Judge knew I’d drawn some serious blood, and hearing the version of this obvious hooker taking advantage of a man right out a hospital who only needed money to call a taxi, I was getting anything I asked for.

“Ms. Tonkin, do you have some identification?”

Frowning, unsure of where this was going, she said, “Yes, I have my driver’s license.”

“May I see it?” I inquired, trying to keep my enthusiasm in check.

She opened her suitcase sized purse and fished out her wallet.  Setting the purse down, she opened her wallet and extracted her driver’s license.  I could see the blue of a five dollar bill, so I knew that’s where she had her money.

“How much money do you have Ms. Tonkin, and could you please show the court that money.”

Caught off guard, she seemed confused and looked at the Judge.  I think he knew where I was going and instructed her to hand over her money.  She extracted it and counted it before handing it to me.  As she handed me the bills, I noticed a large skull and cross bones ring on her right hand…her punching hand.  This was getting fun.

As I suspected, there was a hundred, a fifty, and a twenty.  The rest were tens and fives…a measly $25 bucks.  The extra $170 must have looked sweet.

Sure enough, the larger bills had a large D Reid scribbled across them.  I handed back the small change and asked her how much she would make in a night.  She took offense to this, and looked at the Judge.  I knew she wouldn’t admit her real income, as prostitution was illegal, and two women in charge of a massage parlor that mostly showed X-rated films wasn’t a source of much money.

I reminded her she was now involved in a criminal case, under oath, and that her paychecks and even tax returns could be checked.  I also cautioned her that perjury was a serious crime, something the entire court knew she was already flagrantly guilty of.

She mentioned something like $60-80 dollars.

“So, when an incapacitated man came in and showed you $170 in cash, you saw an opportunity to steal his money and fake a police incident so there wasn’t anything he could do to get his money back.  That money represent 3 or 4 nights of showing movies.”

That statement brought out her true colors, and frequent use of obscene language.

After the F-you statement, she screamed out that she was the victim here and she was still in shock and how dare I accuse her of such a thing.

Like water on a duck’s back, I let it go and hammered home some more background, still holding the signed money up so everyone could focus on the colorful bills while I assassinated her character.

“Can you describe for the court the nature of your business, and the type of movies you play all night long for individual men?”

Now totally baring her claws, her face was red and her attitude and overall manner that of a she-cat in an all out battle.

“What are you trying to do…we run a legitimate business and show movies…we also give back rubs.”

At the mention of back-rubs, I made a face and looked around the court, trying to spot every man in the room.  Every eye-contact I made had a slight smile on there lips.

“And how much does it cost to watch these “movies.”

She sat still for a moment and looked like she wanted to be anywhere else but where she was.  She said, “Ten dollars.”

“Wow,” I mocked, “those must be some feature films or some I-Max version of a newly released film.  I went to the movies last week, had popcorn and a drink, and still got change from a five dollar bill.”

She sat and fumed…if looks could kill, I’d be dead over and over.

“I think we all know what sort of business you’re in Ms. Tonkin.  Can you tell the court how many charges of prostitution you’ve been found guilty of?”

Seeing his pathetic case quickly get flushed in the sewer, Harlow objected, just to try and salvage something…probably more for his ego than Rebecca’s.

“Your Honor, that has no bearing on the case.”

“It has everything to do with this case.  Isn’t it true Ms. Harlow, you’ve been convicted of prostitution seven times, possession of lewd and pornographic materials five times, and three counts of running a house of prostitution, a dozen cases of theft, shoplifting, possession of stolen property and even break and enter?  Your Honor, the police and the Crown have access to their witness’ record, something they might have checked before they dragged my innocent client before the court.:

Harlow was livid.  Obviously he had no idea about the scum he’d banked his whole case on, and was objecting strenuously over my entire line of questioning.”

The Judge had a strange sort of smile on his face as he was banging his gavel to restore order.  When everyone was quiet, he told the witness to answer the question, and that she was under oath and perjury was a serious defense.

A humiliated, agitated, and extremely angry witness gave an affirmative, hoping the subject would soon pass.

“So you’re in the business of taking money from men…and when an incapacitated and vulnerable man showed money to you, old habits made you take his money and try to cover it with a fake police charge.”

The Crown objected, the witness was enraged but silent, and the Judge hit the gavel again, asking me to continue.

I held up the bills that everyone had seen me holding for some time now, and asked her, “If this is your money, do you know what is written on each of these bills…the bills you so freely showed came from your purse?”

Totally caught off base, all she could say was no.

“Each bill has my client’s signature on it…now how do you explain that to the court?”

As she began to turn red, I continued, “Wasn’t this whole thing a scam to steal Mr. Reid’s money?  Please consider your answer here…you’re under oath, and perjury applies and I don’t think my client gave you his money, in fact I think this whole thing was a quickly drawn, spur of the moment cash grab, but you never thought the sucker you saw last night was freshly out of a hospital and wrote his name on the money before his operation because he wanted to make sure the hospital gave him back the same bills?  There’s a nurse that attest to that.  And while I’m at it, can you explain why my client has the indentation of your crossed bones ring hammered into his neck?  That ring on your right hand…the hand you already proved you favor the most?”

She was livid.  And she knew I had her cold.  In the back of her mind, she realized her duplicity was falling apart and it was time for damage control.  She was in trouble, and she was starting to think about self-preservation.

I wanted to keep her in this frame of mind, and added “The Judge has already seen a video of the arrest, and I think he knows Mr. Reid was the victim in this whole charade.  Do yourself a favor and don’t dig yourself deeper.  My client has the exact imprint of your ring on his neck, you had his signed money in your wallet, and this whole thing was a spur of the moment rip-off.  My client’s version of events is true, and you were the aggressor here…taking advantage of a man who just had an operation on his arm to correct an improperly set bone.  I’m sure he’s going to need to go back to the hospital and get another operation after this is over, thanks to the made up story you gave about a violent man.  My client was in no condition to be violent and only had the use of one arm.  Everything you’ve told the court is a bold faced lie and my client is innocent, isn’t that true, Ms. Tonkin?”

If her previous look could kill, this one would devastate the entire courtroom.

Fortunately, the prosecutor stood and tried to make the best of the situation, now that he correctly interpreted which way the wind was blowing.

“Your Honor, the Crown apologizes to Mr. Reid for this incident and withdraws all charges.  We also recommend perjury, theft and fraud charges against Ms. Tonkin.”

The Judge was actually smiling, but stopped when finished.  He looked around the court, his gaze slicing into the three police officers.

“Mr. Reid, I’d ask you to stand, but in your situation, I think the court will call an ambulance and take you for medical treatment.  The court is truly sorry for the ordeal you’ve suffered.  All charges against you are dismissed.”  He gave a heavy rap with the gavel, and added, “Bailiff, please take Ms. Tonkin into custody pending charges from the Crown…I’m sure he can come up with some assault charges as well as the obvious fraud charges.  Will someone please call an ambulance for Mr. Reid, and give him his belongings right away.”  A court runner quickly left the court, no doubt heading down to court cells to recover my client’s belongings.  The Judge stood, talked to several of the court reporters and security, and started to leave.  An “All rise,” was ignored as the shock of what just happened was still sinking in.

I turned to look at Dave, and he wasn’t even paying attention.  His arm must have been killing him, and the video I saw told me why…after enduring an operation, he wandered around instead of staying in the hospital. With his sort of luck, he should have stayed put, but I could imagine a stoned out version not worried about pain thinking things were better than they were.  Now that all the pain pills were gone, he was in serious pain.

I looked down and saw I still had Dave’s money in my hand.  I walked over to Dave and said “Here’s your money back…they might want to take that into evidence, so don’t get too attached…how you holding up?”

A weary Dave looked up, his face telling me he was in a world of hurt.  A moment later, the doors swung over and two Bailiffs entered with a wheelchair.  The runner also showed up with Dave’s belongings.  While being helped into the wheelchair, I couldn’t believe how many people were now bending over to help him…one minute a worthless defendant, the next the true victim.  When he saw his schoolbag, he asked if he could use the Judge’s glass of water.  Digging into his pack with his left hand, he found the pill bottle he wanted, and knocked a few into his hand…I figured at least half a dozen.  I couldn’t believe it when Harlow walked over with the Judge’s water and gave it to Dave.  In the blink of an eye, his pain pills were gone.  I also noticed out of the corner of my eye the three cops from the arrest last night slunk their way out of the court.  With the video of the arrest, which would probably be up on You Tube in hours, they were not looking forward to the aftermath of this little scam.  Interesting take…theft by cop…in a way.  I wondered how well things would have gone if the hooker had the good sense to put Dave’s money somewhere else, but unless she looked at it carefully, there’s no way she’d know it had his name all over it…what an outcome.

After Dave finished downing his pills, Harlow spoke in a polite and respectful voice:

“Mr. Reid, I hope you don’t mind, but the money you so wisely signed last night would be extremely helpful in my case against your accuser.  I’m going to charge her with assault, and I’d like you to help us…just to make sure justice is done.  We’ll give you an instant voucher for the $170, so you can get your money back right away.  I’d also like to take some official photographs of that distinctive mark on your neck…it’d really help me prosecute the two women who assaulted you last night.”

Dave finally smiled, and said, “Sure…use my neck to hang her by her neck.  I got no problem with that at all.  But do you think your office could call my school and excuse me for a while?  I think I’m going to stay in the hospital this time, and I don’t know how long I’m going to be there.  By the way, I think you can understand when I bring aggravated arrest charges against all those cops?  I think my friend already uploaded the video to You Tube long before he came in here…he told me it’s already got 35,000 hits, and that was two hours after he posted it.  I think that’s going to wring a few necks.”

An Ian (Clink) Collins story:

After my smooth success at Old City Hall, I needed to work my magic again…this time in the extremely hostile territory of Toronto’s East End…a court system that was preponderantly staffed by Judges who favored the prosecution.  Several were fair and open minded, but the chances of drawing a favorable Judge were like turning up your number on a roulette wheel.

I called my driver Fred and told him to pick me up at the corner of King and University.  Five minutes later, I was back in my relaxing mobile office.  I learned long ago that a great portion of my job involved visiting clients in jail and as a cutthroat defense attorney, I needed to show up at Toronto’s four major courthouses on any given day, at any scheduled time.  Long before that Lincoln Lawyer book and movie came out, I’d been doing the bulk of my work from the back seat of my comfortable limousine.  With the wireless ability to send faxes, take calls or access the internet, everything I needed was within reach.  I had a laser printer in the trunk, a nice assortment of wine and single malt Scotch, and a file system that included physical evidence I couldn’t add to a digital file.  With a forward and backward set of seats, there was enough room for small conferences, and I’d interviewed many clients from the back seat, a fold down table separating us and adding the familiar setting of sitting behind a desk.  The client would sit in the back facing seats behind the driver and passenger seat, a comfortable and functional arrangement that cut down on the six to seven thousand a month for a small office.  My letterhead had a phone, email and fax number, and a physical address of a colleague I worked with often that shared an office with seven other lawyers.  Unless you shared, a one-man legal chop shop was overhead that cut into profits…something that seemed sheer vanity, especially when most of my business involved being on the road.  Visiting clients in jails, police stations and courtroom bull-pens, being on the move gave me an edge other lawyers lacked.  Already out and about, I could be anywhere before anyone else, and that translated into a healthy client list…many of whom were repeat customers.

Today’s calendar was filled with two of my favorite customers…guys that ended up in trouble but were basically nice guys trying to stay straight, but constantly fighting addiction and the prejudice of a past record meant anything they got involved with meant they got charged with something.  And just like my morning’s victory, I was steadily winning cases for them; Forrest, the guy I walked out of court with ten minutes ago, had a 8-million dollar law suit against the city for aggravated arrest, and his chances of winning were good.  He’d already turned down two offers, the last one close to two mil…my take from that would help pay the bills for the rest of the year.

Another thing I liked about the Mercedes limousine was the manufacturer’s penchant for luxury…a fully equipped bar, high-end sound system, and butter soft leather seats.  The floor held a pop-up leather-trimmed 3’ x 2’ desk.  I unfolded it, clicked it into place and opened my briefcase, extracting the legal pad that held the particulars for my next hearing.  Typing in the particulars to a proper file in my laptop, I added the defendant’s story, followed by the arrest report.  Fred masterfully drove the car slow, sure and steady, and occasional pot-holes were the only problem I had with stability.  It made my office on wheels a sit-down affair, but with all the necessities and trappings of a real office close at hand…and made me close at hand to the many last minute phones calls from clients I needed to see immediately or they would find another lawyer.  Business was good, and being Johnny-on-the-spot increased my courtroom presence and reputation for a lawyer who would be where he was supposed to be.  Teams of lawyers always filled in for each other, a practice I learned wasn’t popular with my moody and unpredictable clientele…some of them relied on legal aid, but paying cash or not, they all liked to see the lawyer they hired in court rather than someone stranger that barely knew their name.  I’d seen many of these guys fired on the spot when they forgot names or mixed up cases. Ultimately, I wouldn’t trade my mobile office for any high-end Bay street address…in my line of work, mobility was mandatory, and dropping into an office for a main base just added time that would

I never judge my clients by their behavior, but I could also read through the lines of both versions of the unfortunate incident that lead to criminal charges being laid, and sometimes couldn’t believe how such mundane incidents ended up before the court.  My client, Tim ‘Deal’ Barclay was a friend to my last client, a relationship I encountered two years ago when working for both of them after they were charged with robbing a pharmacy.  Again, the police doctored evidence in their favor, and much to everyone’s surprise, the presiding Judge grew upset over the lies and threw out the entire case.  Their guilt was beyond question, as they were both found in a car filled with stolen drugs and were both overdosed.  I offered an alternative explanation to explain their presence in the vehicle, and since everything was recovered and only they were hurt, there wasn’t a lot of retribution involved and the Judge decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking they had jumped in the car after the robbery and ingested too many drugs.  I suggest they were left by the real robbers when the ambulance showed up, and that excuse seemed good enough for Judge Locke, another fair-minded power behind the bench that didn’t tolerate any legal shenanigans by the Crown.  I felt positive about the outcome, but had no idea the actual finish would be beyond belief.

This time, Barclay seemed to be the victim of unfortunate circumstances.  He had a broken leg, and was rushing to reach his bank before it closed at 8:00 P.M.  The bank stipulated they were closed, and Barclay tried to gain access to the ATM machine that wasn’t a 24/7 full service.  He stated his watch read 7:51, and he was knocking on the door to get a teller’s attention.  The knocking wasn’t working, so he leaned on his crutches and kicked the door with his good foot.  He eventually used too much force and the door broke.  Freaked out by the circumstances, he ran away as fast as he could on his crutches.  He also got away.  The bank didn’t know who he was, and it took several weeks for the police to find him.  He had over $4,000 in the account, and the bank automatically withdrew the cost of a new window, and had the police charge him with mischief.  My take on the mischief charge was excessive police harassment, as mischief is clearly defined as a deliberate act of vandalism or some other stupid action.  The key word here was deliberate.  Barclay adamantly swore he did not break the door’s glass on purpose, making it an accident.  He ran away because of his record, and stated he didn’t know what else to do.  This gave me a lot of legal ammunition, and all I had to do was put Barclay on the stand to explain the truth.  The problem with this was it also opened the door for the prosecution to challenge and cross-examine the witness, no doubt to try and get his rather spotty record introduced to the court.  There were ways around this, but it all depended on the judge.

The East End courtrooms were small but plentiful.  While looking around for my client, I noticed two surly detectives I’d had problems with before; since they were the arresting officers, I now realized why they pursued the flimsy mischief charge.  Barclay was sitting beside the court door, nicely dressed in a suit.  He was working a full time job, and had been employed for almost two years.  This was more good news for a proper defense, as no Judge would hand out time to someone who was clearly a tax-paying citizen who’d turned their life around, but unfortunately fell into this situation due to circumstances.  He was still on crutches…another good point in our favor.

I sat down and shared the extra-large coffee he’d grabbed from the only source of good java in the building, and had only one question for him.

“Did you kick the glass to break it on purpose?”

He shook his head vehemently, and said, “No way…even their clock showed 7:55, so they were closing early.  It was a major hassle with a broken leg to get there on time, and I just wanted to get their attention.  When the door broke, it was an accident that shocked me, and I instinctively ran away because that’s what people with criminal records do.  I should have stuck around, but I was scared.”

I said, “Perfect.  Then you’re not guilty…you’d have to deliberately break the door to meet the definition of mischief in the Criminal Code, and you just told me exactly what will get this thrown out…if we get a half-way to reasonable Judge.  I’m going to put you on the stand, and I want you to repeat exactly what you just told me, including the reason why you ran away.”  The bailiff called everyone into 25-court, and I was surprised by the number of people who sat behind the prosecutor.  It looked like they brought every bank employee working that night, along with the two police officers.  Whatever the case, they were taking this seriously.

After the imposing prosecutorial team got into position, the “All Rise” rang out, and I waited to see which Judge would determine the precise definition of mischief.  With my fingers crossed, I couldn’t believe my luck: it was Judge Locke, perhaps the most considerate Judge in the East End courts…someone that always ensured the defendant got a fair deal.

I stood, introduced myself, and stated this mistaken could be cleared up with a few words by Mr. Barclay.  I noticed a slight smile on the Crown’s face, and suddenly realized who they had handling this case.  It was ‘Hang ‘em high’ Gordon, slightly overkill for such a simple charge of mischief.  Gordon usually dealt with murder, aggravated robbery, and other major crimes…whatever I’d read from the case summary, it was obvious they wanted to win this and might have something up their sneaky sleeve.

Barclay cautiously picked his way on crutches towards the stand, exaggerating the inconvenience for whatever pity his could, and took the oath.  He was well presented and seemed calm.

I began my oration accordingly:  “Mr. Barclay, thank you for managing to hobble in here to deal with these spurious and frivolous charges.  Could you please sum up the main question involved here by a simple answer:  Did you deliberately break the door’s glass?”

Barclay paused, looked at the Judge, and gave an emphatic and confident no.  I then asked him to explain why he ran from the scene.

Moving his crutches around, drawing attention to his injury, I was impressed by his unrehearsed ability to do everything necessary to put the Judge on his side.  He cleared his throat, and began in a firm and confident voice.

“I had a rather tough time fighting the fresh snow with my broken leg and crutches to make sure I reached the bank before their 8:00 closing time.  It’d been three weeks after breaking my leg in three places, and I was still in considerable pain, but I needed money and the Trans-link shuttle that gave me a ride to and from work wasn’t able to stop at a bank on the way, so I was forced to make it under my own steam.  Accordingly, I allowed myself lots of time to cover the four blocks to the bank.  I left my house at 7:15 and caught the 7:25 bus, giving more than enough time to cover the four blocks before closing time.  My watch read 7:50, so I was surprised to find they had closed early.  The bank’s clock also read 7:51, almost ten minutes before closing.  I knocked on the door, thinking they would help me as I had a considerable amount of money in their bank, was known to my home branch, and wanted a teller to help me because it was still business hours for them.  I’d been in there with my broken leg, and gained the sympathy of a teller I saw through the glass still helping a customer.  I thought they locked the rear door by mistake.  They ignored my knock, so I tried kicking the door frame to get their attention.  I had to balance on my crutches, so this was the only way I could be heard.  When they still ignored me, I knocked harder, and was totally surprised when the glass broke.  Since I have a criminal record, I panicked, and hobbled away as fast as I could.  I thought despite the accidental nature of what happened, I correctly assumed something like this would happen.”  He waved his arms around the courtroom, letting everyone know he meant the police would over-react and charge him.  His gesture was understood by everyone.  The bevy of bank employees behind the Crown were watching intently, no doubt glad to be there and earn their salary from the frugal and tight-fisted bank.

I re-directed the key question for the charge, and said: “So when the door accidentally broke, you panicked and managed to escape on crutches because you knew the police would ignore your story and charge you with something from the Criminal Code.”

Barclay nodded, and said “Exactly…when you have a record, the police tend to ignore the truth and charge you with anything they can think of.”

I walked back to the defense table and opened my briefcase.  Pulling out an abridged copy of the Criminal Code, I read the legal definition of mischief.

“According to the definition of Mischief, subsection 430:: (1), states: Every one commits mischief who WILLFULLY, (a) destroys or damages property, and (d), obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

I stressed the wording that stated a person who commits mischief must do so willfully.  Referring to section D, I added that the door in question was closed ten minutes before their official closing time…adding that Mr. Barclay noticed the tellers were still dealing with customers inside the bank, indicating it was business as usual, and was surprised that the door was locked.  I also mentioned that the bank had immediately withdrawn the cost of the door months ago, without the knowledge or consent of Mr. Barclay, or without the results of this trial and actual proof that he was the man who accidentally broke the door.  Adding the accident word often, it was clear to everyone what I was attempting to do.  I added the bank jumped the gun on extracting their costs, but were now fully repaid and in no need of further recompense.  Hammering home the fact that this matter had been covered by the bank arrogantly taking what they considered their due costs in this matter, I also mentioned that the bank also applied for payment under their insurance policy.

“In other words, your Honor, it seems that the bank will be paid twice for this unfortunate mistake.  They helped themselves to Mr. Barclay’s money before it was proven that Mr. Barclay was the person responsible for the accident, and further added to their greed by applying for payment through their insurance policy.  I’m not sure what their policy with the insurance company entails, but I don’t think it includes paying for something the bank has already been re-paid for…I can only see that as fraudulently manipulating their insurance to receive twice the cost of replacing some glass.”

I gave the Judge a firm look, and could tell he wasn’t too happy with that bank’s haughty attitude.  I also wondered if he might have had a problem with this particular bank himself…but that would be too much to hope for.

I quickly concluded my examination…I established lack of guilt, proved the financial costs were extremely well taken care of, and showed how manipulative the bank had been.

I thanked Mr. Barclay and sat down.  The prosecutor immediately jumped up for his cross, a little too eagerly for the Judge, who was carefully reviewing the documents in this case.

His ire had somehow been tickled, as his direction to Gordon was short and sweet.

“Sit down Mr. Gordon…I’m directing this trial, and I tell you when it’s your turn.  I’m reviewing the documents in this matter and do not like what I’m seeing.”

I glanced over at Gordon, and could tell he wasn’t too happy.  His status and standing in the courts usually gave him carte blanche treatment by the dark side or prosecution Judges, and being involved in a simple case of mischief must have made him re-think his agreement to handle this case.  I still wondered why they had bothered to get him involved, but couldn’t see any other nefarious take they could spin on this simple accident.  Then again, I knew the police involved did not like Mr. Barclay or myself, and would definitely go to any extreme to make his life difficult.  A bit of payback for the many times I’d rescued him from a well-deserved jail sentence by pointing out an error in law or other exonerating factor.  I quickly scanned the punishment section of the code, and immediately found my answer.  If they went for an indictable offense, something way beyond what we were dealing with, a guilty verdict could receive ten years.  Since that was for something involving property over $5,000, that wasn’t going to happen, but the extreme end of a summary conviction could still be up to six months.  I heard the Judge issue a cough into his microphone and put away the book.  Judge Lock wanted everyone to pay attention to what he was about to say.

“Before your cross Mr. Gordon, I’d like to know that the prosecution has a good explanation for some of the time differences mentioned here.  Am I correct in assuming this bank closes its doors exactly at 8:00 P.M.?”

Stating the obvious was one of Locke’s favorite methods of injecting sarcasm, and I hoped he found something in the Crown’s sheaf of papers that showed just how manipulative the bank truly was.

“I hope you have an explanation for why the glass company records the call for emergency replacement at 7:59, a full minute before the bank was legally due to shut.  I think this time frame paints a picture of a bank that wanted to close early, and did so by denying its customers access to their money at a time the bank advertises that it is open for operation.  Additionally, I wonder if the bank has any consideration of the undue problems Mr. Barclay suffered with his broken leg, painfully attempting to reach this bank before their announced time of closing at 8:00.  Arriving at 7:51, the bank should have opened the door for a disabled client, as they were open for business.  I side with Mr. Barclay’s time frame, and wish to know why the bank closed over five minutes before its posted hours, and why no consideration was given to an invalid with a broken leg.  You may proceed with your cross, but I’d like to caution you to keep these problems in consideration and within your scope.  Calling for emergency glass during business hours indicates this happened well before 8:00, just as Mr. Barclay stated.”

Gordon finally popped up, rearing to go.  His first question showed his entire strategy, and was not what I would have chosen.  Treating Barclay as a hostile witness after his initial statement only proved the prejudice with which the Crown acted against my client.
Holding up a sheet of paper, no doubt Barclay’s record, he began:

“Mr. Barclay, I see you’ve had some interaction with the police prior to this offense.”

Wrong opening move, Hang ‘em, even I knew it was the worst thing he could of said…looking at the Judge, I knew he was about to get an education in aggressively attacking a disabled citizen, despite a previous record.

The Judge’s tone of voice left no room for mistake…he was on our side.

“Mr. Gordon, Mr. Barclay has already admitted he had a record.  Please tell me you have something else to add, and make sure it has to do with the events of February 15…that is why we are here, and I’d like to know exactly WHY we are here after it seems the bank was well compensated for any damage and you still needed to drag an injured man into this courtroom for demanding attention during business hours.”

I could tell Gordon wasn’t used to that sort of remark from a Judge, as his face turned a distinct red.  Flustered and totally thrown off his game, he set aside the papers he held and approached Mr. Barclay, trying to be as intimidating as possible.

“Mr. Barclay, why did you kick and break the bank’s glass…were you angry because you were late?”

I watched Barclay take in the question, adding a puzzled look to his face…he’d been on the stand before, and was making use of every trick he’d seen before, and was doing a bang up job.

Acting like it was a redundant and surprisingly repetitive question, Barclay said, “I think I already said I only hit the frame, and no, I was merely trying to get a teller’s attention as the bank was obviously still open.”

Gordon dug into the only thing he could think of that mattered.

“Why did you run away after you broke the door?”

Just before Barclay answered, the Judge jumped in just as I hoped he would.

“Mr. Gordon, you’re rehashing old news.  From the document I have in front of me, I’d like to know why no one came to the aid of Mr. Barclay…it seems they ignored him when he knocked, and like anyone who wishes to withdraw their money during business hours, he did the only thing he could by banging on the frame.  Take your seat Mr. Gordon and if you have someone from the bank here, I have a few questions I’d like answered.”

Gordon’ s mouth was caught in mid-comment, and at least he knew enough to sit down and stop incurring the Judge’s wrath.
Gordon shuffled through his papers and pulled out what was probably his witness sheet.

He stood up and addressed the court, trying to regain his officious bearing.

“Your Honor, we have Mr. Beach with us…he was the manager for the bank at the time of the offense.”

I inwardly chuckled at the word games we both played.  I called it an accident, he called it an offense.  It was only semantics, but I was sure the Judge was thinking more along my lines than his…I’m sure Gordon’s ‘Hang ‘em High’ nickname was familiar to him, and he had to wonder why they insisted a senior crown prosecute a case that was sounding more and more like a travesty of errors, and the real offender here was the bank.  Watching Beach take the stand, I noticed his face was a mass of confusion…whether this aggressive prosecution was the bank’s idea or the cop’s, I was sure he was told Barclay was a convicted criminal and this would be a slam dunk.  He didn’t think he’d have to take the stand and defend what everyone knew was coming…he had to explain why the bank was getting paid twice for the broken door, and why the bank had chosen that particular night to close early.  Each question didn’t have a good defense, and it was woefully apparent Mr. Beach never considered he’d be grilled by a Judge as to why his bank had committed two acts of egregious behavior, and still saw fit to drag a disabled man before the court.  I almost felt sorry for Beach, but I was enjoying the show too much for that…besides, they were finally getting what they deserved, and that’s something you don’t see everyday.  At the back of my mind, I imagined how ruthless Locke would be if he had a previous problem with this bank…no one liked banks, and it was easy for anyone to get upset over getting charged for withdrawing your own money.

After he was sworn in, the Judge let Mr. Beach sit and stew as he pondered the documents the bank provided.

“Mr. Beach…according to these bank records, your tellers were conducting business until 8:02 on February 15th.   Can you give me a reason why the bank closed its doors early that evening?”

Beach uncomfortable position was obvious…whatever he said would be torn apart by the Judge, and if he admitted they closed early, the entire nature of this proceeding would seem like a mockery and a total waste of court time.  I knew many Judges got upset of these little problems, and it was better to dismiss such nonsense charges before a Judge sees them, or have a good enough case to justify the prosecution.  From what everyone had seen, they’d screwed up on both counts.  Now Beach was put on the spot to try and dig them out of an already bad situation.  Unfamiliar with courtroom etiquette, Beach said the worst thing possible.

“We closed at 8:00 that evening…it was busy before we locked the doors, but we dealt with all customers who were in the bank before closing hours.”

Locke ripped into him with a vengeance.

“Do you have any idea what perjury is Mr. Beach?  I have a document here that shows your bank was already dealing with the aftermath of denying Mr. Barclay entrance before closing time.  How long does it usually take for someone to phone an emergency replacement glass company after something happens that needs repair?  Don’t bother answering Mr. Beach, I’m sure I can assume that would take several minutes at least, pushing this entire incident well back into your legally posted hours of operation.  I’ll tell you what I can construct from what I’ve seen and heard.  Your bank wanted to close early and you denied a disabled man access to his legally obtained money…something his account record shows was beneficial to your bank for the seven years he’d had an account there.  I see his balance has remained in the thousands…I could only wish my bank account were so well equipped.  Instead of offering this productive customer the service you advertise, you bank closed almost ten minutes before it was legally allowed to.  I see the defense noted that Mr. Barclay needed money for a prescription.  Deprived a disabled person access to medicine does not paint a pretty picture for your service attitude.”

I couldn’t help but turn and smile at Barclay during this judicial dressing down, when I heard something I thought even the most mentally challenged client I’d ever had would never attempt.  Barclay foolishly tried to reassert that the bank closed at 8:00…effectively telling the Judge he wasn’t reading the documents properly.

“I’m sorry Judge,” Beach stammered, “but we closed at 8:00 and Mr. Barclay didn’t arrive until we were closed.  I have two statements by tellers that corroborate this.”

The ensuing silence was menacing.  Every lawyer looked at Beach like he’d just sprouted pink polka dots.  The Judge quietly pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to Beach.

“Read the incident report by Quick-glass for the record.”

Beach read the report, but failed to indicate the date or time…the Judge quickly set him straight.

“You missed the obvious part Mr. Beach…at what time was this report taken by the emergency glass company?”

Beach’s crestfallen look was the first indication that he realized he was in hot water.

“Um, this states Feb. 15, taken at 7:59.”

“A full minute before you were due to close, your staff already had the foresight to call a repair company…tell me Mr. Beach, do you have a fortune teller on your staff?  How could someone call for a repair for something you’re insinuating didn’t happen until after Mr. Barclay showed up?  Don’t bother answering that…I think I’m seeing the picture here.  I’m inclined to believe Mr. Barclay’s version and timing of events.  For some reason, your staff wanted to close early, locked the doors to keep out last minute customers, dealt with the ones already in the bank, and totally ignored the pleas of Mr. Barclay when he arrived a full ten minutes before you were due to close.  And, with total disdain for his disabled condition.”

“And compounding this act of indiscretion, why did your bank unlawfully withdraw full payment for fixing the door from Mr. Barclay’s account?  I see the invoice for fixing the broken door amounted to $275.00, yet you blatantly withdrew $340.00 from Mr. Barclay’s bank account…was there some bank transaction fee involved, or were you just being greedy?”

Beach stammered out something like they needed to reimburse the bank for the teller’s salary while dealing with the problem.  Not a good excuse and the Judge wasn’t finished…not by a long shot.

Flipping through the documents he had, the Judge seemed more and more upset.  Stacking them in a neat pile, he continued his oration;

“This entire scenario is a flagrant display of arrogance and misuse of power.  I think the reverse should be happening, and Mr. Barclay should be suing you for denying him access to his money.  It seems today’s financial institutions forget that they are there to serve, and the money they receives from customers belongs to the customer, and they should service those customers as best they can, and not deny them access to their money before closing time.  I suggest you invest in a clock you actually follow.”

“Since your bank has claimed one thousand dollars from your insurance company for disruption of service and damage, I think you are compensated adequately for your trouble.  I hereby order that the bank reciprocate that so called “lack of service” to Mr. Barclay, and order your bank to return Mr. Barclay’s money, along with compensation for all the trouble you’ve caused him.  Canada Trust is hereby ordered to deposit $2,840 dollars into Mr. Barclay’s account, and I’ll ignore the double payment you tried to extort from him and the insurance company.  That covers the $340.00 you presumptuously withdrew from his account, along with a $2,500 penalty for aggravation and trouble.”

“Mr. Beach, you are hereby found guilty of perjury and sentenced to three days or $5,000, to be paid by you personally.  You will also be held in custody until the bank has complied with this court order.  I would strongly advise Mr. Barclay to find a new bank, and in the spirit of justice, I think Canada Trust should prepare a cashiers check for the remainder of his account, a respectable $4,458 dollars, plus the penalty amount of $2,840.  When I hear from Mr. Barclay or his lawyer that a cashier’s check for $7,298 has been successfully received, you will be free to leave if your perjury fine has been paid.  I’d like to warn you that a conviction for perjury effectively nullifies any testimony you might ever give before a court…when you take an oath to tell the truth, make sure you stick to the truth.”

I noticed the total look of confusion on Beach’s face and had to suppress a smile.  He probably walked in here hoping to see Barclay led off into jail, and presto, the tables were turned and he was taken away in shame.  I didn’t really believe he was responsible, but probably had been told what to say by superiors who listened to some very bad advice.”

This was one for the record books…God bless Judge Locke.  In a parting salvo, Judge Locke added, “You’ve lucky I haven’t added fraud charges for attempting to get double payment.  I am also ordering a copy of this judgment be sent to your insurance brokers, who will definitely have a legal reason to withhold payment, and might be inclined to lay charges and even add a lawsuit.  You can’t double dip and get away with it…someone eventually finds out.  I think the judicial irony of this shameful act being exposed by a sham trial is quite fitting.  When you cry ‘Wolf’ next time, make sure there’s an animal involved.”

The recent reference to Seinfeld was appreciated by some, but lost on others.  I looked around, but the only smiles I saw were on the court staff…the bank employees seemed like they were in shock, the two cops we mutually disliked were fuming, and Gordon was holding his head in his hands.  His staff was politely keeping their heads down…perhaps they didn’t want their faces to be associated with this fiasco of proprietorial disaster.  This would soon be talked about all over the city…especially in the lawyer’s watering holes…a big win for any defense was celebrated by all defense attorneys.  It justified the work we do to try and level the playing field; have a powerful machine like Judge Locke plow a field was good for all.

The Judge sternly said “Bailiff, please remove Mr. Beach to holding cells to await transfer to the Don Jail.  I’m sure the East Detention Center doesn’t have the room, and the Don Jail is closer to the head office of Canada Trust, who I will instruct to issue the proper payment to Mr. Barclay.”  The turnkeys led a totally dumbfounded Beach off to the cells.

The Judge then turned his attention to Mr. Barclay.  We both stood.

“Mr. Barclay, I apologize on behalf of the court for your inconvenience, and would advise you to claim your money as soon as possible and find a bank that is closer with business hours that fit your working schedule.  I’m sorry the award wasn’t larger, I don’t want to give them a reason to appeal.  The charge of Mischief is dismissed, and you will receive the aforementioned compensation for your trouble. ”

The Judge gave a loud smack of his gavel, and turned to the court clerk.

“Please fax a copy of the judgment to Canada Trust’s head office and inform them their manager is not getting out of jail until they satisfy Mr. Barclay with the award and remainder of his bank balance.  Perhaps you can get a name from Mr. Beach or one of these many employees I see here to ensure this is dealt with immediately.  And Mr. Gordon, I would suggest in the future you read the defense statements with open eyes and not be swayed by any untoward prejudice.”

The Judge gave his gavel a final smack.  The bailiff called “All rise.”  Judge Locke waited until everyone stood and then left the courtroom.

I turned and looked at Barclay with a broad grin.

“Sometimes…just sometimes, when you win, you win big.  Congratulations.  I hope this restores your faith in the justice system.  You know he basically said that manager will sit in jail until you pick up the check from the head office…it might be something you could put off until tomorrow.”  We both shared a quick laugh.

Barclay was beaming, trying hard not to just laugh and laugh.  I told him to go ahead, this was one of those rare occasions when he’s really earned it.  Barclay let out a belly laugh that quickly cleared the courtroom of all Crown attorneys and witnesses.  I had to wonder what they would tell these people.  No doubt, they all hoped to take the stand and hammer home that the door was broken after their 8:00 closing time, but any moron could see the stupidity of including a document that showed they were already cleaning up the mess before they were legally allowed to close.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make or destroy a case, and this time, old ‘Hang ‘em high’ himself provided the ammunition to take him down.  Barclay said he might call Canada Trust in the morning to see if his check was waiting, as he’d have to take Trans-link down to pick it up and go to work.”

The irony was delicious…I wished we had a video tape of the whole proceeding…Judge Locke was up for a slew of Oscars.

The Defense Scores

An Ian (Clink) Collins tale

Ian settled into a battered office chair and glanced through the dirty Plexiglas; the empty seat his client would soon occupy was chipped, broken and re-enforced with duct tape.  A fitting example of the entire building and its ancient furniture.  Obviously, inmate comfort didn’t make the budget; jails restored, renovated, and repaired…items that should be firewood and landfill.  They added a new level to the whole recycle movement…not for the planet’s resources, but for cheap administrators that only upgraded areas for guards and support staff.  Inmates got chipped and re-painted steel with taped repairs…nails were too dangerous.  Officially the oldest jail in Canada, the Don was held together with spit and bailing wire; it’d be condemned in two years, but should have been shut down years ago…inmates still occupied the same 3-foot by 8-foot cells as their predecessors…no plumbing…just a piss-bucket for late-night calls.  These cells were used in 1867, and held Toronto’s rough and unsavory degenerates…now unsafe and beyond uncomfortable, current inmates were given a 3 or 5 to 1 ratio because of conditions… it was so bad, one month equaled four, but most would elect to do their full time in a modern jail.  Inmate comfort wasn’t a concept in 1868…the worse the better, and some stories emphasized how bad things really were…hell in coffin-sized cells from 9:00 P.M. to 9:00 A.M.  There was a day-room corridor outside the cells with two long tables and filthy plumbing–that was existence in the Don.  When violence erupted, that’s where it happened.  With bad food, retribution and revenge gave each inmate an unprecedented level of despair.  Winter was freezing…summer a sweat box; it was well-designed to inflict suffering and agony on a consistent basis.

Collins had seen his share of jails, and even quick visits to the Don were ordeals for everyone.  Quite famous for defending the unfortunates that were never out on bail, he had a high success rate that earned a good name and reputation among those unable to get or make bail, the desperate people who fought for freedom from an existence they were already forced to endure…guilty or innocent.  More clients meant more money, something other lawyers were often scratching the dirt for…getting a so-so client to hand our business cards only worked for the desperate, and while these people were desperate, they wanted a lawyer that would work a miracle for them.  Another plus for gaining new clients was a mobile nature: working out of a limousine, Ian was already on the way to where he was needed, and that was something that hit home with anyone sitting in jail.  The majority of his work involved visiting Toronto’s four main courtrooms, or visiting clients spread across a sprawling city.  When someone loses his freedom, having a lawyer that shows up when requested is a big bonus.  Add a good track record, and word of mouth in the jail system ensured new clients and expensive cases.

With the easy-to-obtain detention orders keeping anyone the police didn’t want on the street locked in jail, equalizing the power over someone’s freedom was a quest to right many wrongs, something he loved to succeed at…getting false charges thrown out and returning someone to a free life was rewarding and more than a mere good deed.  It was righting some of the wrongs that occur frequently in a society that was corrupt and manipulative for those with too much power.  Lean and mean, working from a mobile office offered many advantages, and the ability to be the first lawyer on the scene was something only constant mobility could offer.  After a long day, he’d check into several different motels that knew him well, all located close to the towers of power that ran the legal world.  Lacking the overhead of an office and secretary, expenses were minimal, while gas and gas repairs were all tax-deductible.  Out of the 430,000 thousand he pulled in last year, he avoided enough tax to bring in a net income of 360,000.  Not too bad for a one man show.  His driver was well paid, and Fred had many functions; a great investigator, his burly and well-trained body was a lethal weapon that ensured protection was as close as his semi-bullet proof car.  He’d only had one assault on his vehicle, so several well placed sheets of armor offered security while the heavier car was more stable and easier to work from.

The Don Jail…an outdated, ill-equipped throwback to the nasty age of incarceration.  Collins greets his greatest hope and most successful client.

The high-security meeting room seemed to fly in the face of the implicit trust levels every jail system was supposed to give all attorney-client meetings, as the old black Bakelite phones they had to use for communication were cumbersome and easy to tap.  The Don Jail wasn’t know for its upgrades, but this old system served many purposes, and listening to confidential information was its main allure.  With this situation, the important facts he needed to know about the case would have to wait…he could fit in a quick twenty minutes while at court tomorrow; it wasn’t enough to prepare a defense based on his client’s side of the story, but it was the only way they could communicate without the other side recording the conversation.  A major breach of all law and attorney etiquette, the City of Toronto rigged as many trials as they could, and the Prosecuting Attorney’s office was smart enough to know any details they learned couldn’t be used officially, but knowing the defense strategy allowed them to prepare the right witnesses or evidence to shoot down ever exonerating sidebar he could think of.  His client’s current predicament, an impressive 42 counts of assorted summary conviction offenses, were not because of what happened, but due to the prejudice and anger his client incurred with the police department over a previous excessive force lawsuit that had the police cold.  Photographs at the jail, hospital visits, and witness statements painted a nasty picture of a police response, and the resulting trial had found my client not guilty.  The situation left the city in a very embarrassing situation, one that had already found its way into the daily newspapers.

The dark visiting room on the other side of the glass brightened as the door was opened for my client.  Escorted by two towering guards made the thin and meek countenance of my client seem even less threatening; if I were in a dark alley, I’d be more afraid of meeting one of these bruisers than my client, a bookish, intellectual sort that had already earned an honors B.A., and was currently considering offers from several universities to complete his graduate degree.  That history didn’t match the image I now saw, and I knew there was more than a slim chance of changing this…I’d get everything dumped.  I knew tomorrow’s schedule for Judges, and Rafferty was a distinct possibility…if I lucked out, he was the perfect Judge for this; always fair and willing to go 50/50 on any story, my version of the truth had a good chance of changing this entire scenario, and that would infuriate the entire police department.  They already hated me, so this would be just more water under my flimsy but secure bridge.

It was all theatre; they were putting on a show of force for no reason at all, other than the general humiliation my client had caused them from that previous arrest and dismissal; the violent and uncalled for tactics they used might have been bypassed if they got a conviction, but when Zach was publicly cleared of all guilt, the papers printed the story of excessive violence against an innocent man, and many people do not like to hear that about the police force that they rely on to deal fairly with everyone.

As Zach settled himself and looked at the archaic phone system, I shrugged and picked up my half.  The two guards followed procedure and exited the room and locked the door.  Now I knew the phones were tapped.  Always looking for an edge, many of my “private” meetings were held with the only door half open, and the two guards listening at the door.

I cradled the receiver, pointed to it, and made a motion to let him know not to say anything important.

I asked him how he was, how they were treating him, and the usual things a client likes to hear.  Zach rolled his eyes and made a gun with his finger and held it to his head.  Obviously, they were making this stay as hard as they could.    I couldn’t tell him about my strategy…anytime you try and bluff, showing your hand ensured you’d lose…big time.  I tried to convey my hopes in pantomime…he either understood what I was trying to say or thought his lawyer had lost it upstairs.  His attitude seemed to perk up a bit, but I could imagine how depressed he must feel.  Getting 42 charges from one small move would kill hope in anyone.

Trying to contain his anger, he looked me in the eye and said, “How can they charge me with 42 offenses for a simple uttering situation,” his eyes pleading for help, “when I saw the charge sheet, I thought it was a mistake, but they must have searched the criminal code and charged me with anything they could think of…and it’s total bullshit.  You’ve got to get these nonsense charges thrown out, or I’ll never make bail. They’ve also got me on the Rastafarian corridor…I’m the only white guy.  Anyway, that kind of backfired, as I’m still the best hair cutter in there…some of my more connected clients help out” he imitated someone smoking a joint and I got the message, anyway, it’s something the Rasta’s love me for.  I’m now their favorite token white man, boy…whatever, at least their not plotting my demise.  They share everything with me.”  He mentioned despite being accepted, the jungle, jailhouse slang for the Jamaicans, was like being in another world. “Most of them are straight from the Island…I can’t even understand them half the time…but I’m learning…mon.  They all talk about their weird religion, and get so enthusiastic about it, some of it makes sense.”   He followed the remark with a forced smile, so I held up my thumb, hoping he’d pick up on some of my optimism.  After imitating smoking a joint, I shook my head and pointed to the phone again.

I didn’t want to discuss anything the authorities shouldn’t hear, or about the case, but I could understand his anger and indignation over the whole situation.  After reading the arrest report, I realized they took a simple uttering offense and added anything remotely possible given some pretty wild circumstances.  Theft of the paper he used, possession of stolen property, break and enter to get the paper, and a separate charge for every sheet of paper they confiscated from the doctor’s prescription pad.  What normally would be one charge was multiplied geometrically, with assumptions behind a string of circumstances that were pure fantasy.

I told him not to worry and asked about the character witnesses I’d asked for.

He told me several professor were going to show up and emphasize how brilliant he was at school, along with his parents, wife and children.  I wanted to paint the picture of a hard-working student that made a simple mistake, but was railroaded by the lawsuit against the city that had the entire court system on edge.

Knowing the conversation would be played back for the prosecutor’s listening pleasure, I listed all the positive factors he had, tossed in some seemingly impossible tactics that included the president of the university taking the stand, and a string of other tricks I thought would send the police into a mad tailspin.  Having the president from York University take the stand was unprecedented…he was one of the power players in the legal profession, as Osgoode Hall was the primary law school for every lawyer in Toronto, and it was possible he knew every current sitting Judge.

I stated obvious facts that were beyond anyone’s control, and mentioned we might get Judge Rafferty, a popular pick among defense lawyers as he didn’t play sides, and could get quite angry if he saw over misuse of justice…exactly what had happened to Zach.  If we got Rafferty, the 42 charges could be whittled down to one, and possibly zero when the Judge understood just how outlandish this situation had become.  He loved to teach the police that bullying a supposedly innocent defendant was not the way law should be practiced.

When I revealed that little bundle of hope to Zach, his anger morphed to a smile, and I knew he would hold up just fine, and the preliminary hearing could open the door for him.

*

The courtroom hushed as the bailiff shouted the traditional “All rise.”  When Judge Rafferty entered, my instant joy produced a smile…a reaction not lost on the prosecutor’s top gun, Mark Mansfield.  Looking over at the Crown’s table, I noticed they were all trying to look busy shuffling papers, but when I caught Mansfield’s eye, I could tell the surprise was genuine, and Rafferty was not who he expected.  Judges are usually drawn by lots, and could sometimes be covertly requested by the prosecution, but when assigned the day’s hearings, any Judge could pick whatever case he thought needed his particular brand of justice.  Zach Forrest had been in the news lately, and seeing him charged with a ridiculous amount of offenses could spark curiosity.  With Rafferty’s penchant for equity, it was probable he suspected some abuse of power was going on and wanted to give this case a fair hearing.  Like poker, drawing a favorable Judge was like getting a winning hand, and I’d just drawn to an inside straight and won.

As my client was called from the holding tank, I rose to begin my righteous plea of outrage against a heavy-handed system that did not like to lose and frequently used every dirty trick in the book to win.

As Zach took his seat in the defendant’s box, I addressed the Judge and held a sheaf of papers in my hand.

“If it pleases your honor, my name is Ian Collins and I am the attorney for the defense in this overblown and ludicrous travesty of justice.  I’d like the chance to explain the prejudiced attitude of my learned colleague, and explain to the court why outside influences have unfairly targeted my client.  Several months before this incident, my client was wrongfully arrested by the police with excessive and unrestrained force…above and beyond the legal rules of conduct.”

The prosecutor jumped up with objections which the Judge quickly over-ruled.  My instincts were right…Rafferty knew all about the lawsuit and suspected the overwhelming number of charges against Zach were blatant acts of revenge, plain and simple.

“As you can see by the enthusiasm presented by my opponent, I suggest the city has a vested interest in bullying Mr. Forrest…not only as an act of retaliation, but also perhaps as a bargaining tool they could use to get Mr. Forrest to drop the pending charges against the police officers who re-broke his collarbone and ground his back into broken glass.

I realize the case before the courts, but I’d like your Honor to know the circumstances that affected the attitudes towards Mr. Forrest when this simple incident occurred.”

Judge Rafferty coughed, indicating he had a comment, and took a slow drink of water.

“It seems hard to equate a simple incident with the 42 charges I see before me Mr. Collins, but please feel free to enlighten me.”

“Yes your honor.  This situation occurred when Mr. Forrest was arrested inside a pharmacy after the druggist suspected a prescription he was given was not genuine.  He phoned the police, and they arrested Mr. Forrest on suspicion of uttering.  While Mr. Forrest was sitting in the back of the police car, the officers searched the area for additional evidence, and found a Doctor’s prescription pad in the garbage.  The assumed the discarded pad belonged to Mr. Forrest, a leap of logic on their part that did not include the possibility that Mr. Forrest had found the pad in the garbage, saw a previous written prescription on the pad, and thought cashing that prescription was legal as it was signed by the same doctor listed on the pad.”

I held my hands behind my back as my opposition objected strenuously to my just as probable take on circumstances, but a take that would make my client merely guilty of uttering, and even that could be argued as inadmissible, since the question of whether it was a real prescription was up in the air…in this version, Zach would only be guilty of passing another man’s legal prescription, a extremely moot point under the uttering charge, and an argument that could go either way when considering guilt.  The court was not allowed to take past record into account unless pertinent to the immediate case, and Zach’s past forgery convictions were old and should not be included as a factor for guilt.

After Rafferty thankfully shot down my objection and blatant attempt to sneak my client’s record into the proceedings, I wondered if he deserved the reputation other defense lawyers gave him…he made a rookie mistake, and seemed to almost deliberately piss off a Judge known to be friendly to the defense, and deliberately looked for cases such as this that involved police trying to manipulate the system.

“Your honor, according to Mr. Forrest and several important and upstanding witnesses, was only in that area to participate in a university sponsored study.”

I withdrew a sheet of paper from the stack I carried, approached the Judge, and handed it over.  Deliberately looking through the pile, I caught Mansfield’s eye, hoping my ruse with the stack of paper might make him think I had a slew of important document regarding my client, all pertinent to my client’s defense, and all just as devastatingly poignant to proving my argument that the pad was found in the garbage can.

The one thing I hoped to gloss over and didn’t want to mention was Zach’s little stunt while sitting in the police car.

With his hands cuffed in front of him, he’d managed to fish out a full bottle of Percodan, destroy and eat the label, and then proceeded to swallow the entire bottle.  Since the only proof of this was a blank prescription bottle, they didn’t have much evidence for this, apart from the cop’s version of events.  Supposedly, he heard Zach gulping down the pills, and reached back to try and knock them out of his mouth.  Since Zach managed to swallow all the evidence, his version of events was just as believable as the prosecutions.

He was ready to claim the cop grew angry at him and was reaching back to land a few punches for being such a pain in the ass.  Zach had bruises and a mark on his face to legitimize his version of the story, so whether they would bring it up was up to them.  Given Rafferty’s penchant to give every story a 50/50 chance of truth, an experienced lawyer wouldn’t risk it and just hope for the best.  If I got my side of the story firmly planted in the Judge’s mind, their entire case would fall apart and seem like a sorry exercise in prosecutorial bullying, plain and simple.

Judge Rafferty took his time reading the letter from the head of York University’s psychology department.  It stated a blind interview scenario was conducted at the mall by twenty students, and deliberately praised Zach’s participation and control over the study’s results.  The experiment involved two teams of ten students, each team dressed in dramatically different outfits: the goal of the study involved proving that each participant’s opinion would be influenced by the professionalism displayed by the researcher.  Zach was wearing a jean jacket and pants, plus sporting a 3-day beard; this explained his current attire and presentation, and gave him a extremely good reason for being near the pharmacy…something that flew in the face of the opposing story.

They suggested Zach had stolen the pad from the Doctor’s office, filled out the prescription himself, and then hit a pharmacy far from the Doctor’s area.  This resulted in a B & E charge, a theft charge, and 35 charges of possession of stolen property…one charge for each piece of paper in the pad.  Not too hard to sell, but listing one pad separately into 34 pieces of paper showed the desperation behind this entire case.  The forgery, uttering and other charges were all signs of desperation, especially when seen against our version of events…a version now well supported by that piece of paper Rafferty was pondering.  It was on an officially embossed letterhead, and the signature was backed up by my promise of having Professor King take the stand and belittle the police for not recognized his official signature and wasting his time to prove something any moron could see was legitimate.

Rafferty finished examining the paper, and waved his hand as Mansfield tried to object to the evidence as something they hadn’t had time to examine.  He rebuffed him by explaining that any good investigation would have phoned the Department of Psychology at York and verified the initial story, a story that put my client far from the Doctor’s office and purported B & E, calling into question all successive charges, including the idiocy of charging multiple possession of stolen property offenses for each piece of one item.

Things were going exactly as I hoped.

After ridiculing the official account, I emphasized that the more believable and proved account of events was infinitely more believable than the trumped up nonsense now before the court.

After waving at Mansfield several times during his objections, he finally told him to sit down and shut up…a sure sign that this Judge was on our side, and all the tricks and below the belt charges by the prosecution were a waste of court time and made a mockery of the criminal code they stretched beyond control.

Finally addressing Mr. Mansfield, Rafferty asked, “Mr. Mansfield, can you cite one case where the prosecution charged any forger with possession of individual checks instead of a book, or charged him with theft of each single piece of paper along with successive possession of stolen property charges?”

When Mansfield hemmed and hawed and said no, Rafferty said, “Of course not…because the law sees an item and not the individual parts…that would be akin to charging someone with a stolen ring with possession of every part of that ring…the stones, the band, along with anything else that might show up.  These are what we all know are nonsense charges, and I’m throwing out the lot of them.”

Rafferty began a sing-song rant while citing each charge, banging his gavel within seconds as he dismantled their entire list of outrageous offenses.  He threw out the forgery, stating it was plausible Mr. Forrest had found a pad in the garbage with an already filled out prescription, and proceeding to toss out every charge that arose from their fanciful interpretation of events.  Gone were the B & E, the theft under, the forgery, the possession charges…including the ridiculous charge of possession of a narcotic based on the minute traces of pill dust in the blank bottle.  The only charge still standing was the uttering.

This was it…the one charge Zach was somewhat guilty of, and if my many suggestions could be accepted, it was an act of stupidity and ignorance instead of a criminal action.

Down to the crux of the case, Rafferty knew he had to make a withstanding ruling…something the Crown couldn’t bring back on appeal.  Looking around the courtroom, he asked, “Is the pharmacist that took this prescription present?”

A succession of sad faces shook their heads.

“Well, that doesn’t give me the chance to interrogate the only witness in this affair, and ask him why he didn’t merely ask for identification before treating this as legitimate.  I’m quite sure there are many guidelines for pharmacists to follow when dealing with a questionable prescription, but I’d like to know why this prescription was even questioned in the first place.”

The Judge picked up the only evidence that mattered, and said, “According to a believable series of events, this prescription was taken from a discarded pad, and assumed to be a legitimate prescription after viewing the Doctor’s official signature and medical practitioner’s number.  If there was a problem, I’m sure the pharmacy could have phoned the office at 4:45, the time of this incident, or asked for proof of identity.  Since the prosecution did not prepare their preliminary in any way, I have been denied the chance to question the only witness in this case…and yes Mr. Mansfield, I read the arresting officer’s report of striking Mr. Forrest to try and dislodge pills he was ingesting.  As I can only see bruise and abrasions on Mr. Forrest’s face, the obverse explanation of more police retribution is an equally moot point, and not worthy of consideration.  The final charge of uttering a forged document is withdrawn, as Mr. Forrest would have assumed it was a real prescription if found on a lost or discarded prescription pad.”

Rafferty gave the gavel another smack, and said, “Mr. Forrest, you are free to go.  The court apologizes on behalf of the police department, and I’m sorry if this excessive misuse has anything to do with your previous interaction with our constabulary.
And, just like that, he spun on his black robe and departed.  The “All rise” shout was ignored, as the entire court was still digesting the knife-work they had just witnessed.

With several swift and sharp legal slices, Rafferty cut the entire case to shreds.  The bailiff held the door open for Zach, and indicated he could leave.

Zach walked up to me, his face beaming.  He extended his hand and we shook.  We both looked over at the opposition table, but no one dared look in our direction.  Zach spoke in a loud voice and said, “Mr. Collins, since this proceeding is all now public record, I suppose it will be considered by whoever decides the law suit I have against the police force…this sort of seems like icing on the cake.  I will speak to Professor Miller regarding the legal ramifications, and I’m sure he’d be glad to help and even assign a team of undergraduates to study this exploitation of an individual’s rights in what we all think is a fair and equitable legal society.”

Professor Miller was the head of Osgoode Hall Law School.  Every lawyer knew who he was, and were aware of his standing with the Superior Court.  Since my law suit was for a whopping seven million dollars, its eventual fate would probably be decided by the Superior court, unless I settled out of court for five million.  I’d already turned down two offers: one for $900,000, and another for $2.1 million.  I informed the government I wanted five million, or would take the entire case to a jury and get the eight.  After their stunt today, I was wondering if I could raise it to fifteen million…any jury would sign off on that immediately…especially after I exposed their hatred for me and deliberate legal attacks for the second time.  It seemed the ridiculous nature of their attack would play against them, and Judge Rafferty’s concluding statements put that prejudice down in black and white.

Once again, we left the courthouse together.  Zach needed to pick up his personal items at the jail, but that was a small inconvenience.  Nothing could compare to the joy of hearing a judge smash his gavel and say “You’re free to go.”  It’s the last thing the prosecutor wants to hear, but it’s the phase every man in the defendant’s dock longs to hear.  As someone who already had freedom when I entered the court, I could only imagine the victory they must feel when release from court.  One minute you’re a defendant, the next a free man.  Based on the expressions and reactions I’ve watched, I know the power of being exonerated in one fell swoop.  To appreciate freedom, it first must be denied; often the power of that feeling makes many men forget the torture they suffered and let bygones be bygones.  Zach had a righteous law suit before him, and for the sake of wrongly incarcerated men, I wished him well and hoped he would win.  I also hoped he had the good sense to do something positive with the money, and to stay away from drugs.  Zach said he wanted to open a trust fund for the unfortunate, and I believed he would do it…changing the wrongs in life is the one joyous feeling that beats anything the world has to offer…doing the right thing will always fill you with the right feeling.  From where he was now…floating on cloud nine, I could tell he was steadfast in his resolve.  Whatever your past, the future is a clean slate; it takes time, but a new road can lead to greater accomplishments with a better attitude.  Only time would tell, but I knew Forrest would do what he knew was right.

Drugstore Cowboy: Later Years

Chapter 22 – The Chase

ON SALE-available: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7715708.Dana_Fitzgerald.  Best deal on new book: http://www.createspace.com/artidan/drugstorecowboy:lateryears

The last thing you want to hear, especially after a heist—is that distinctive growl of a police siren, now screaming towards us from the east.  I headed west, headlights off. I didn’t expect such a quick response: after we triggered the alarm, Deal went back to grab a box from the warehouse.  I felt like smacking him, but didn’t have time.

There was a slim chance the cop would go for the plant, letting our dark Celica melt into the night.  No such luck—slim skipped town.   The cop sped by the plant, firmly on our tail.  My anger at Deal resurfaced—just 15 extra seconds and we would have vanished, swallowed by the night.  Whatever—the chase was on. I added my brights and booted it.  I didn’t care if he saw me now–I needed to focus on the road to lose this guy: time to rip off the rear-view mirror.

Drifting into the first turn, the wheels dug in as we barreled down a straightaway.  I hoped he wasn’t familiar with this area—our escape route snaked across confusing subdivisions, then a park.  He was behind me, awkwardly bending his clumsy Ford interceptor into the turn.  He had a high top end: good for long stretches, but terrible for tight turns.  The Celica cornered like a dream.  We anticipated a chase, and the Celica was our top pick.  This turbo-charged 5-speed version was in great shape…and I practiced driving this exact route.  I knew every hill, turn, and dead end.  Damn, I hoped we’d avoid the chase…I hit the steering wheel in frustration.  Chases piss off cops…especially when you get away; even if you win, they keep looking…every suspected stone overturned, every name checked.

I was more worried about his radio…getting another cop to intercept or block streets.  Thankfully, with no idea where we were heading, that didn’t seem likely…this subdivision had many exits.  I could do circles, backtrack, head east or west, or keep going and make Finch, a major 4-lane cross-street.  He’d catch up on Finch, but we had a surprise…something that might catch him off guard.  Damn Deal…if we’d only been seconds faster, we would have avoided the chase.  I’d punch him later.

Like the car scene from “Bullit,” it was a weaving and winding, all-out test of insane driving…a pursuit of desperation.  At least he wasn’t blasting away with a shotgun, but if he had a chance, I’m sure he’d pull his pistol and fire at our tires.  Regardless, at this pace, focus was mandatory.  We passed parked cars by inches, and needed to stay centered and firmly in control…and I didn’t care if we scraped a few cars along the way.  We downshifted, bounced over hills, cornered on two wheels, red-lined through first, second, and third… grinding the well-tuned tranny beyond specs.  The owner kept his car in top shape.  According to our plan, a few more tight turns would put us on Finch, ready for the last neighborhood, and our tricky escape plan.  At least Deal was keeping the drugs securely positioned with his feet…full of pure base, breaking a bottle would be a costly mistake.  Smacking Deal occurred to me again, but I focused on the cop on my ass.

He was still close—he was squeaking through the last turn, just as we finished the “S” stretch.  We led, but needed more space.  It was all-in Mad Max-style driving.  Facing a ton of charges, our freedom was on the line.  I didn’t know what motivated our pursuer…many cops would recognize the safety danger and give up…radioing in for superior manpower catch us.  This guy watched too many movies.  Whipping the car into the last turn, we reached the first exit.

Flooring it on the last street, we exploded onto Finch, the rear tires screeching as they fought for traction.  Fortunately, the empty, near-dawn streets made a good racecourse—recklessly popping out on Finch usually meant instant accident.  At this speed, I only had seconds to check traffic.  Our plan was to cover a few blocks on Finch, turn into the last subdivision, and lose him at the park gate.  Compared to our sleek machine, his car was too wide to fit the narrow entrance.  Once on the other side of the steel and concrete posts we’d be Scot-free.  Regardless, our early morning Daytona 500 would be one for the morning news.  The media would pick up on this reckless chase, extra heat we didn’t need.  Reflecting, I wondered why the cop was so desperate to catch us…he was endangering property and wasn’t obeying safety guidelines.  We were risking everything to avoid jail…he could only claim some weird “Die Hard” power trip.  Unless he knew that plant was a gold mine for pure base narcotics…making this akin to a major bank robbery.

Zooming down Finch, car headlights were now glaring in my rear-view mirror: slowly inching closer, siren, and attitude howling with rage.  Doing over a hundred, I grabbing every bit of speed I could get.  Anticipating the upcoming turn, I wanted the cop to overshoot.  Maybe he thought I was trying to outrun him on Finch, a big error in our favor.  Just before the turn, I downshifted into third, the engine snarling in protest, slammed on the brakes, and made the turn on two wheels.  The cop overshot.  With the engine whining, I raced through the gears, downshifting to brake, and followed the route we wisely laid out.  I reminded Deal to keep the drugs safe…I’d yell at him later for causing this chase, and I didn’t need a broken bottle to spark more anger.

I yanked my hoodie back, giving me better peripheral vision.  I glanced at Deal; he was braced for dear life.  With my shoulder belt as tight as possible, I was in the zone…one with the car, a firm grip on the wheel.  As far as chases go, we were doing well…keeping a lead.  If the cop judged driving techniques, he’d realize I knew this course, and was a pro at high-speed evasion.  Anticipating tight corners, ripping through long turns, I felt like Mario Andretti burning down a racetrack.  Evading jail is a great motivator.

I figured some cops live for this shit, but some just get pissed off…more so when you get away.  Whatever his motives, it looked like this Sheriff wanted to run us down himself.  Maybe the high value target suggested we were too dangerous to lose.  Carefully tucked underneath Deal’s legs, the jugs of pure base were secure; almost sitting on them, they survived hairpin turns and never bounced on hills.  I begrudgingly admired Deal for keeping them safe, along with the cop for keeping up.  Losing even one bottle at this point would be a major bummer.

Despite the carnival-like thrill, this wasn’t a joy ride—we had to ditch this hyped-up Dudley Do-Right…he’d soon have the area plastered in pissed-off cops.  High-speed activity like this earned you one hell of a whooping, plus a shopping list of charges… charges that would demand long-term sentences.  I was not going down for this—I’d smash through concrete if I had to…anything to get away.

After fishtailing down a narrow street, I reached the park…a dead end except for the entrance.  Maybe he knew it was a dead end: maybe he could taste victory…but we were heading right through the upcoming barrier, leaving him no choice but a U-ee, then a race to the park entrance.  I wondered if any of this filtered through his one-minded brain.  I slowed and lined up for the gate.  Once the front end was through, I dumped the clutch and scraped by…after some metallic scratches, I was free.  Now protected by the gate, we relaxed a bit and raced along a gravel path, knowing the cop’s oversize Ford Crown Victoria would be stuck at the gate.

Our escape route paid off, but we still needed to get out of the area—before barricades or roadblocks locked it down.  I was still curious why he didn’t check the plant; obviously, he was responding to the alarm, and maybe some hidden cameras, but they didn’t basically know what happened, or why we were running.  Whatever…running from the scene of an alarm was enough to peg us as the reason for the alarm…especially on a class-one target…like a bank.  The plant stored tons of narcotics…a prime target for cowboys like us.  A tractor trailer couldn’t haul all the goodies away.

Now engulfed in trees, we booted it down the finely packed path.  Flicking on the high-beams, I imagined the cop ramming the barrier in frustration.  I guessed he knew we were long gone and would now use his radio. At this point, all he could do was hope another car was close.  Those steel posts were firmly set in concrete, the reason for my plan.  He’d see the narrow gate and know this route was planned in advance.  He’d know this was all planned out by pros.  Maybe he’d feel better about losing us.  At least he had an excuse for losing us.  I thought I heard a couple of bangs, and wondered if he pulled his piece and helplessly fired into the trees, hoping for a lucky shot.  He was one pissed-off cop.

We reached the end of the path and slid to a halt.  Deal grabbed the drugs and transferred everything to the Buick, Deal’s car.  Worried about bad luck, I was glad the piece of crap turned over instantly.  I headed to the entrance, and slowly joined some light morning traffic.  Just another morning off to work.

A cop flew by, lights flashing with no siren, heading to the entrance we just left… no doubt sent there by radio.  The city was waking up to a major heist.  We had no idea how the media would play this…it could be headlines for weeks, or just a blurb on the front page.  I knew if it was a bank or an armed car, we’d be folk heroes; to the city’s drugstore cowboy culture, we were already celebrities.  Like many of my life’s successes, it was infamy not fame.

Turning down Islington, we headed to the 401,  hoping to blend with the constant flow of traffic, finally free and clear.  We were relaxed, but celebration would have to wait.  A cop sped by, heading to the entrance we just left.  It reminded me many things could still screw up.  With my experience doing high-speed escapes, Deal was content to let me drive his car.  We missed that other cop by seconds, but he was looking for a Celica, not a Buick.  I turned the radio on and got some cool morning show.  Once again, after major heat, luck was on our side.  In a high-speed chase, seconds count, something I’d have to remind discuss with my bonehead partner.  If Deal didn’t grab those Percs, we would’ve left a minute earlier, missing the whole chase—whatever…I was too pumped by escape to stay angry.  It’s adrenaline-pumping fun when you get away, but mindless and dangerous stupidity if you’re caught.  Cops do not like losing chases, and these guys were now officially outraged.  After a stunt like this, they’d search for us like bloodhounds.  And with a score like this, they’d probably bring in the Mounties…major heroin-class drugs were dangerous and lucrative.  Getting away might have been easy compared to staying away from the heat we just caused.  Ironically, my passing thoughts would soon turn into a hellish nightmare.

Waiting at the light on the 401 on-ramp, another cop came flying by, northbound on Islington.  Holding my breath, I knew they were flooding the area, but when the light changed, we’d be gone, and they had no idea what we were driving.  They’d find the Celica still running, ignition wired, definitely stolen—usually a dead end, and now empty.  Maybe checking for tire prints, they’d know we switched cars, but that’s all they would find.  The well-packed path wouldn’t hold a tire print, and that was all they could hope to find.  Even after a full forensic on the car, they’d still find nothing.  No trace…I vacuumed it after boosting it, and we were careful to wear gloves and hoodies whenever inside.  DNA wasn’t the smoking evidence it is now, but fingerprints or hair are always bad news.

The light turned green.  The cop was long gone, and we slowly merged with the now slightly busy morning traffic.  Home was a short drive away.  Starting to relax from the intense adrenaline rush, we cruised the vast 16-lane highway, loaded to the gills with product…just another pair of motorists.  We did it: a high-five celebrated our success.  My initial anger at Deal had dialed down—exhilaration after a daring escape always boosts your spirits.

I’d only had a second to read the labels in the lab, and I wanted a closer look.  I was sure we hit the jackpot—each bottle had the big N for narcotic: I saw oxycodone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone—whatever was needed to make lots of happy pills and juice.  That manufacturer supplied every Canadian pharmacy…a crap-load of pure powder.

Glancing at Deal’s dirt streaked face from crawling through the lab’s vent system, I broke out laughing, telling him to check his face.  I inspected my face in the mirror and we both started laughing.  Deal looked like some Special Forces dude wearing dripping camouflage.  I asked if he had a towel.  Driving around like two blacked-out duck hunters wasn’t part of a normal morning commute.  Deal looked around, and found some wet-naps in the glove box.  Passing me a handful, I opened a few and wiped my face.  It was still dirty, but at least I wouldn’t scare some passing driver.

I wondered what the girls were thinking, sitting at home, knowing we were out, putting everything on the line for this score.  Stopping to give them a call wasn’t on the timetable…we had to get off the streets and get this score safely stashed somewhere.  This was far from over, so they’d just have to wait, trusting our experience and adrenaline would keep us safe.  I laughed, imagining how “Jocko” Thomas, Toronto’s major crime reporter, would announce our stunt.  Known for his drawling “reporting for CFRB…at police headquarters,” he was a fixture around our house.  I grew up listening to him…my Army-traditional dad insisted on hearing the CFRB six-o’clock news while eating dinner.

Read Scams & Stories…

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Google Dana Fitzgerald, Drugstore Cowboy.

This is a finished book, with a unique spin on the subject matter…lots of action, and an introspective look into the minds of the off-the-wall characters, presenting a philosophy that finds reason in a senseless world.  Describing the places an addict might visit, it exposes a world few ever see.  Many visit, but few stay.  Rather than a smash and grab odyssey by a deceptive group of addicts, it’s full of real people, insane actions, happiness and despair.  Offered with a touching narrative, it puts the reader inside the character’s head…seeing what they saw, feeling what they felt.  Guts got them in…insanity got them out.  It shows a kid who survived a tough childhood, but didn’t retain a tough attitude; I was calm, peaceful, and forgiving…my greatest hero was Jesus Christ.

A remarkable man/God., full of wisdom we can all learn from, sharing the very words of God with us, and allowing us to understand how we are supposed to live with each other…and not in some super huge, institutional religion with many layers of power over each section.

I have some truly incredible stories…for instance, I OD’d on barbiturates on the main CPR tracks leading to Union Station in Toronto…a busy stretch.  It was 2:00 AM, and snowing.  A track walker found me, got an ambulance, and took me to Scarborough General Hospital.  I was 18.  With no ID, my aunt was the admitting nurse, and she screamed as she recognized me.  They pumped globs of the largest barbiturates they had: handfuls of 200 mg capsules of Seconal, Tuinal, Blue Bombers and Nembutal, plus others out of my stomach.  They were partially digested, and in my blood.  My blood showed 2,000 mg per something…I should have been dead.  I was in a coma for over 6 days…freaking out when awake, I went to the nut ward.  Surprisingly, all the emergency doctors that worked on me visited…and all marveled that I was alive, saying less than 1,800 mg killed Marilyn Monroe.  They all stressed I should have medically been dead, and they didn’t know why I survived…it was a big mystery.  To this day, I know it was Guardian Angels.  They took out well-over 10,000 mg of partially digested pills, and one guy said seconds later, that would have been in my bloodstream and I’d be beyond help.  Weird.  That was just one of many incidents that made me realize someone wanted me to live.  Ironically,  I’ve recently tried suicide again…twice…but botched both attempts.  Survived the 50-foot bridge jump, and someone booted open my door.  Oops.  Looks like I’m stuck here.  The bridge jump only works if you break your neck upon impact…otherwise, it’s a high dive; so splat on concrete.  Messy, but gets the job done.  Thought of popping up before an 18-wheeler doing 90, but felt sorry for the truck driver…why should he have to clean me off?  The last thing you want when committing suicide is to cause pain for others; ducking out early isn’t natural, and the more damage you do to innocents is a very bad move on your part.

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