Monday, February 22, 2016

Adventures In Incarceration

AS you know, (or at least should), Pat McDonoungh sent me to jail so he didn’t face charges himself. But, obviously, he can’t literally send me to jail himself, so I’m going to give you the details of what happened.

After I was charged, I found out that an attorney would cost me five-hundred dollars to represent me in District Court, and five-thousand dollars to represent me in Circuit Court. Guess what I didn’t have? You are a good guesser and must be psychic. I applied for a public defender. After a brief intake interview, I was assigned to Stuart Lyons.

After a half-dozen calls to his voicemail, (probably more, I lit up his phone) he got back in touch with me. I gave him several instructions;

  1. I intended to take the case to trial. Upon presentation of the videos and photos I took during the alleged assault, any case against me would fall apart.
  2. To prepare the case so that it would ready for trial without need for delay
  3. To reject any plea offer, because, at the time, I would cave into pressure under high stress.
  4. To get the photos and videos to prepare the case
  5. To interview the witness I was able to identify - the weasel who ran the local Patch.

We also scheduled a time to go over the events of the arrest at the scene itself.

The day before we were supposed to meet (the day before the trial), I got a call from Lyon’s aide telling me that they were cancelling our meeting and review, and that we would meet in court.

So the next morning I’m sitting in the Courtroom, just a little while before my trial is supposed to start. (Everyone there had their trial ‘scheduled’ to start at the same time, and there were a large number of people there.) After a bit, I get a tap on the shoulder - it’s Lyons, and we step outside the courtroom into the hall. He has his aide with him, and one of the first things he says is that I won’t go to jail today.

He then offers me a plea deal - the State will null-pros the lesser charges, which likely would have been absorbed into the main charge anyway as lesser included charges, and I plead guilty to the primary charge, assault and the State will recommend probation, and we appeal to a circuit jury trial. Nervous and scared, I steel myself anyway and demand to go to trial. Every time I tell him I have no intention of pleading guilty, his response is the same, formulaic answer, “The plea deal is the best way to minimize your legal exposure.” (The scripted response helped communicate how screwed I was.) I asked about the photos and videos I told him to acquire - he didn’t get them. I asked about the witness - nope.

So, after about forty-five minutes of arguing with “my” lawyer, I learned that Lyons had obtained none of the exonerating evidence I had developed, flatly refused to even deposition my witness, and hadn’t even read the police report. It’s now almost an hour past my trial was ‘scheduled’ to begin, and I’m in a near-panic. Lyons then suggests I plead “Statement of Facts”, which, he says, is not pleading guilty. (This is a lie. I run into him several months later during my incarceration and he tells me it’s the same as a guilty plea. He never mentioned the existence of the Alford Plea, which is ‘I’m innocent but I’m taking the plea deal”) At this point, with an attorney who knows nothing about my case, an hour past my trial time, sitting in the courthouse waiting to get called, I cave and agree to it. (I am proud that I held out for nearly an hour, and only caved at all because of a lie.) He goes to tell the prosecutor, she agrees, and, surprise, we get called in.

Lyons tells me right before we go in that I need to waive my right to a jury trial, in order to get to a jury trial. Now, Maryland has a system where all many crimes and routine orders are heard in District Court where there is no jury. Circuit Court handles major cases and all jury cases. Criminal convictions appealed from District to Circuit Court are handled de novo. (Means the District Court ruling is basically ignored) Lyons lied to me - if I had refused to waive my right the case would’ve proceeded to jury trial in Circuit Court. I even told him my understanding that a District Court ruling was required to get to Circuit Court and he ‘forgot’ to correct me.

Before the hearing even begins, Judge Norman Stone tells my attorney that he’s only one degree removed from the ‘victim’ (he doesn’t phrase it that way, of course) and asks if he should recuse himself. Before he can even finish the question, Lyons is already trying to get the judge to move on and hear the case. The prosecutor reads the police report into the record and introduces some medical records suggesting that the victim suffered a stroke. Lyons didn’t even ask for the Prosecution’s evidence. Then Stone throws out the plea deal. Sentence of five years, four suspended, two years probation, plus an angry rant about asshole bloggers not being entitled to First Amendment protections because other people have rights too.

Then it really is go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
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  1. I wish I had known... I could have done MUCH better for you.

  2. Your lawyer was awful. He seemed like he showed up because he had to and did as little as possible to make it seem like there was an attempt at doing his job. I don't know much about the legal system but it seems like you should be able to at least make an appeal and present all of your evidence.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JR's Bail Bonds

    1. I appreciate your words, but unfortunately when you plead guilty, you lose almost all of your rights to appeal. That's one of the reasons, I believe, my attorney compelled me to plead guilty. That way he was safe.