Burden of Proof
So that’s the game? We have to lie to get redemption?
After spending a couple months trodding the rumor mill, post-arrest, I’m now allowed to go on the record about a few things after this week’s court date.
For example: I have never slapped a state trooper or run over a sheriff. Whatever you’ve heard, odds are: it’s wrong. On the extremely rare occasions I have been stopped by Lexington Police, I have safely pulled to the curb; rolled down my window; and politely inquired, “may I help you?”
So here you have it (the gist anyway; it won’t all fit):
In August last year, a green SUV rapidly approached me in a parking lot as I talked on my phone with a co-worker. The driver screeched to a stop in front of my truck, partially blocking me in. When he approached my door, and raised his hand briefly before slamming it against my window, I did what any single woman might do in that circumstance: I drove away in a total state of panic (right through a wall of hedges).
The response seemed reasonable, given my state of mind-having endured a summer of prolonged harassment, documented in print, which included slashed tires; garbage cans spilled onto my lawn; and having my house egged (all of which coincided with the presence of a green SUV near my house).
Three months later, in November, I was surprised (to put it MILDLY) to be pulled over and arrested on my way to work-based on (I found out much later) a criminal complaint that had been filed by the driver of the SUV that had tried to block me into the parking lot in August.
From the amount of firepower that responded (three officers, two patrol cars, and a motorcycle), I can’t imagine what the police were told.
Coincidentally enough, that same driver materialized behind the arresting officer-and presented me with a summons (which was answered within 24 hours by my longtime attorney), and some angry commentary, which I barely recall. He turned out to be the person who’d filed the criminal complaint which offers a different account of what happened in the parking lot.
The affidavit is public record. Feel free to review it; review the laws of physics; and draw whatever conclusions seem appropriate. (A prosecutor did. She also immediately kicked the case off her docket and onto the misdemeanor schedule.) The dates are also available via any 2002 calendar: police were contacted by the complaining witness in (November) traffic three months after this “dangerous” (August) encounter, thereby facilitating a circumstance where someone could manage the outrageously difficult task of handing me a piece of paper. (Eighteen-year-old interns walk into my office every day and hand me hundreds of pieces of paper. None have found it so dangerous they needed to enlist or manipulate police involvement-either to find me, or to protect themselves.)
In pleading to misdemeanor criminal mischief this week, I acknowledged an error in judgment.
Ideally, I would’ve had endless reserves of time and money to proceed to a jury trial, and the goal of an acquittal, instead of forfeiting that right with a plea.
Yeah. And at the time of the arrest, ideally, I would’ve been presumed innocent.
What I learned is that an accusation = guilt. Snipers on rooftops have generated less buzz. I’ll never be able to entirely calculate, or even comprehend, the damage done by this one accusation.
I accept that I have a public job. To a point. I’m not running for office. I am not the CEO of a publicly held company. I do not accept that my home address is “news.” I do not accept that an accusation is “news.” Anyone with a pulse and a valid ID can file a criminal complaint against anyone. Sure, the burden of proof is technically on the Commonwealth, but in reality, the expense is on the defense (financial and emotional).
So I didn’t walk into this week’s pretrial conference with very much faith in “ideals.”
As George Kennedy tells Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, “nobody can eat 50 eggs.” Luke is a decorated vet: an oxymoronic cynical idealist.
In real life, those kinds of ideals are for people who can afford them.
As a small-business owner, as a newspaper publisher and editor, and as an employer, I have too many responsibilities to be able to spend months of my life in court, just to make a point.
“Nobody can eat 50 eggs.”
At the end of the day, I do realize how incredibly lucky I was. I had the endless support of friends and family; a great lawyer and a great defense; and (every girl’s favorite Christmas present): bail.
But I encountered a lot of people along the way who were not as blessed as I was.
In upcoming issues, I’ll be writing about them too. Along with the rest of the story.