I was charged with illegal voting in July of 2011 for voting in the November 2, 2010 elections. I made six appearances at the government center courthouse and always with an attorney. I completed probation and I also finished the community service time ahead of schedule.
Court today, January 22nd without an attorney and as I sat alone waiting for the trial to begin my probation officer came to speak with me. Lois asked, “Do you have an attorney”?
“Why, do you think I need one?”
Lois could not tell me, so okay. Then she asked, “Are you not going to ask for a ‘Stay of Imposition?”
“Lois,” I replied, “I’ve had attorney’s all through this quagmire and the mess just continues to worsen. This legal nightmare should never have come to where we’re at today.” But I still did not have any self-confidence, “What do you think I should do?”
Of course she couldn’t help me, “I cannot recommend one way or the other, but here you need to sign this,” and she handed me a paper to sign and check a box for my intention.
I went out in the hall to phone my sister as she has worked in a legal office her entire life from high school to present. Of course that did no good, as all I could do was to leave a message.
Back in the courtroom to speak with Lois, “Basically,” I said, “this is a craps-shoot. If the judge feels like it he can release me from any and all penalties. On the other hand, he can throw me in jail or give me more probation and community service? What would you do?” Again, not so much as a cue from her. “I really want this, all of this, to be finished today because I can’t take it anymore! And if I have another attorney I will be required to return for more visits to court, right? Well I can’t play their game and seems to me like every time the attorney gets involved that just prolongs this! No I will waive my right for an attorney and be done with this whole mess today. My probation from the initial charge can be dropped today also, right?”
“That was dropped on January 7th; I’ll have to mail you the information on that.”
“More than ever I want to end this today!”
Then the prosecutor came and asked to speak with me? That had never happened before. Prosecutor Wedes took me into a room separated from the court proceedings only by a glass wall and gave me more disheartening news.
“You know the time has expired on this charge and what that means is that the judge cannot give you probation or more community service which is what Lois had asked for. If the judge finds that you did indeed violate your probation he will need to give you jail time. You would be sent to jail today.”
“What about my daughter? I’m raising my daughter alone.”
“I know that. Now I am willing to help you fill out the paperwork for a public defender; it won’t cost you anything and will get you some time.”
I almost gave in to getting another public defender because of Stephanie, however, it was her that I was thinking of when I immediately stood up and stated angrily, yet not out of control.
I felt my eyes puffing up “You guys are really something. Five years ago I had a public defender who told me it would be in my best interest to plead guilty to a 3rd degree charge of burglary all because I had stepped across my ex-wife’s threshold without an invitation. The public defender went on to say that it would be a 3-year wait for a jury trial; I could not be away from my daughter for that period of time, so I accepted a plea. I got five year’s probation for that one and a felony charge. Then I, because of my disability, voted in the 2010 election. I made many return visits to the courthouse and it just goes on – and on – and on! I can’t do this any more! I will defend myself today! And whatever happens – well at least it will be all done!”
So I walked back into the courtroom and sat patiently, revising something written for the last trial. I had better do it quick and (I am not fast nor do I have a good short-term memory.) I am just lucky that I, and I don’t know why, included this writing with other court papers.
Herewith, what I read to the judge: “Let’s visit what I did on the morning of November 2, 2010 and see if there is a reason for doggedly pursuing me in such a manner… The program manager for “Low Risk Unit” (LRU) and now car salesman told me that if I did nothing else wrong and fulfilled all requirements early that I could get off in one-fourth the time if the attorney would write a letter testifying to my diligence. But if the attorney would not write the letter, he (Randy), could get me off with half the time, I was looking at two and a half years probation tops and that was from January 2008.
I walked in the office of my daughter’s school and there was much talk about voting, then when I left the office ladies chimed in almost simultaneously, “Make sure you vote today!”
Turning the radio on in the car, “Polls have been open for about an hour now but of course the votes won’t be tallied until the booths close tonight; so be sure to get out and vote today!”
As I drove from my daughter’s school I had to listen to words like that and so just before turning to go home I made an unwise split-second decision. I did not turn to go home but drove directly to the voting place (St. John’s school or St. John’s Church, I cannot recall.)
I voted and though I was shown a little card before voting I asked, “This card is just wanting to know if my address is correct and stuff, right?” I did not have my reading glasses with me.
“Yes” she replied. I told the woman my picks and she filled the tiny circles in for me because of my lack of dexterity I was not able to do it. I was given an “I voted” sticker and showed it to my daughter when I picked her up from school. Stephanie said she was proud of me so I gave the sticker to her.
And there you have it. I did not yell at anyone nor touch anyone. I could not fill out my voting card because of my lack of dexterity. The prosecutor said this crime was no different from somebody committing murder, well; I did not murder anybody nor even attempt to harm another. I voted because of all the hype filling my head and because of mental processing difficulty resulting from the traumatic brain injury.
“I plead with the court to end this nightmare.”
Judge Jud revoked all probation and community service and wished me, “Good luck.” At last I am free of this agony that has paralyzed my every thought or movement for 5 years. Was it merely a coincidence that the day I face the judge without an attorney I get discharged?
Lois, the probation officer congratulated me on a case well presented.