Courtroom Meltdown

Some may have noticed my meltdown the other day (on Twitter). If you care, here’s what happened…

I had met with a client in the holding cell area and I was begging him to let me move his case forward to trial. The facts in the complaint described a violent rape (the complainant in the case being my client’s ex). But my investigation and conversations with the DA revealed that the accuser was probably no victim to what was alleged. The DA was quite vocal about how weak his case was and that he was pretty certain the ex was not raped…

(without looking up from his cell phone) “did you know they’ve been fighting over custody of their children 5 years? And she just applied for a greencard too” the DA said.

Yup. I sure did… in fact, the day after my client was arrested, she had their family court case advanced and she was able to use his arrest as leverage in their ongoing custody battle. On that basis, the DA made a reduced offer of attempted rape (as a misdemeanor) and release from jail. I nearly cackled when he made that offer. “but you said yourself that you’re pretty sure she wasn’t raped!” He looked at me flabbergasted. “duh, that’s why I’m offering the misdemeanor and no jail.” I bark back “but it’s STILL a sex offense that requires SORA registration for the next 20 years!!”

DA tuned me out and went back to playing with his phone. I was certain my client was going to cackle with me when he heard that offer… I was absolutely certain he would fight the case.  This was going to be a great trial.  I could see it now…  Thinking to myself how much fun it will be to try this be case, I went back to the holding cells.  But first, I had to tell my client the DA’s new plea offer, (expecting it to be promptly rejected of course). 

But he accepted it.

I begged. I shouted. I reasoned. I argued. “I just want to go home…  to my country” he said. And that broke me down. All he wanted was to go home, and the DA was the only one who could get him what he wanted that instant. I felt useless.  I should’ve taken that moment to go somewhere and cry.  But I didn’t think I actually *would* cry yesterday. I never cried in open court and this case wasn’t so bad, so I just went forward with my client’s wishes. I warned him of collateral consequences – deportation, SORA registration, DNA swabs and the like.  This wasn’t the first time a client who I believed had a strong defense was taking a plea to get out. The bulk of my work thesse past 4 years has involved – in some way or another –  facilitating pleas to get people out of jail. Nothing new here…

But of course there was something new here… I got on the record and my client started taking this horrid plea. Of course.  Big old bad SEX OFFENSE. Although a misdemeanor, this was my first time actually taking a plea to a registerable offense under SORA. 20 years of registration AND deportation AND a criminal conviction for life.  I cried while mouthing out the standard legal jargon required for the plea. I felt like trash.

so for the first time ever, I cried in court.

(by no means is this post written for the purpose of discussing false accusations of rape. I don’t come across false accusations of sex offenses often, so please don’t think you have an ally if your life’s work is dedicated to discrediting rape-victims & survivors)

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