Category Archives: Law

Get Rid Of That Stick

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A sufficiently long time ago, I sent this letter to the Sheriff of ______ County. I know the letter was received because the Sheriff took the time to write an idiotic email to the email address that I included with the letter. Because of the audacity and hypocrisy of the county employee who pulled me over, I decided to use my wit and sarcasm to drive home the point that people often do things that achieve the opposite objective of what they allegedly intend. Everything about the policeman who pulled me over that day reeked of a lack of professionalism, courtesy, and human kindness. From what I’ve observed over the years, this kind of person is the worst kind to wear a badge.

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Honorable **** *****
________ County Sheriff

I have searched the news and internet for the medical GoFundMe page for ________ County deputies. So far, I haven’t found it.

I enjoy donating money to worthy causes, especially ones which help fellow citizens to live more productive and happy lives.

Before I forget to do so, I would like to thank you in advance for your prompt response and for providing me with the resource links to help a couple of your deputies. It is painfully obvious that they need medical support. Without it, performing their job duties will continue to be increasingly uncomfortable and difficult.

Specifically, I noted that one of your lieutenants walks with a pained gait in his step, as if each step renders him momentarily paralyzed. Having a GoFundMe account will help trained surgeons to relieve this pain.

I can only surmise how far up his ass the stick must be inserted. I don’t know when the stick got stuck up his ass but is obvious that one of great girth and length must be stuck up in there. It is the only explanation for the manner in which he conducts himself while dealing with the public – and the look of disgust he carries on his face each day. He is the ‘before’ picture of almost any tragic story. I’m here to help.

I will gladly donate to help him have the stick up his ass removed, under the assumption that the stick is indeed the cause of his attitude. It’s hard to perform one’s job duties while in pain, angry at the world, or working under the assumption that people are not worthy of respect.

Please let me know where I can send money to help your deputies and the lieutenant specifically. If I don’t hear from you, I know that at some point in the future I’ll be inexplicably pulled over when the county coffers are depleted. I’ll gladly donate then, too.

Regards,

Juan Q. Public

 

P.S. No one cares what rank a police officer holds, especially when doing traffic citations. You’re here to protect and serve the public, rather than the other way around. If the public employee behaves badly, his or her behavior reflects poorly on the department – not just the officer.

P.P.S. Your Lieutenant was driving recklessly prior to pulling me over, as well as having run another driver off the road. I could be wrong, but I’m convinced the personal cellphone call he was making probably interfered with his ability to drive safely. I know you’re glad I sent you these unsolicited comments.

Another DNA, Another Day

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I’ve always had my DNA set to ‘share’ on the sites I use. Recently, because of renewed interest because of the show “Genetic Detective,” I ensured that it was uploaded to GEDmatch for law enforcement use. I’d been a victim of my own procrastination, even after watching a season of “The Innocence Files” on Netflix.

Are there cons to this? For some people, yes. No pun intended with the use of the word “con.”

Are there advantages? Definitely yes.

I can understand why some people have objections to DNA sharing. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. There are legitimate reasons. There are also many unfounded reasons. The good thing about DNA is that only a portion of the populace needs to participate to map out everyone else – so even if you withhold your genetic map, it is likely another relative will divulge theirs and make your decision moot.

I’m that guy. I have to be. It would be immensely hypocritical for me to constantly tell everyone that privacy is both a leprechaun and unicorn while foolishly attempting to protect my invisible genetic blueprint.

Despite being a liberal, I’m in favor of never having another unidentified soldier, as well as ensuring that crimes involving DNA are solved. It would be ironic for me to be charged with a crime based on voluntarily-submitted DNA results. Mistakes do happen. If humans are involved in the process, things are going to go wrong. If the government can force me to sign up for the Selective Service, I don’t see much of a problem with us collectively expecting a genetic database to protect us all. Again, I recognize that this sort of thing can (and sometimes will) be abused. Using the potential abuse of a few to justify doing nothing different doesn’t appeal to me. No system is going to be perfect.

However, I’ve always believed that DNA (and other advances) are going to strip away generations of mistruths and ignorance about our ancestors. If this information assists law enforcement with doing their jobs, I’m for it. I have the same argument for fingerprints. As long as scientists have review power over the application of such evidence, I’m at no greater risk by others having it.

If I don’t trust the government, I’m already screwed.

Believe me, I have some problems with the government, especially under our current President.

As for the police? If you know me, you know I have a sideways opinion about several of them and systemic objections to the way they are operated. Focusing on these concerns, however, as an excuse to fail to help in the way I can, that would be a greater sin of omission.

The interesting thing about the show is that it beats the drum that even remote ancestors allow for research and triangulation toward suspects in crimes involving DNA. This means that my DNA could potentially come up in a criminal investigation. It’s possible that someone will knock on my door as a result.

I have relatives who I believe are capable of committing crimes, even crimes a generation ago. Many currently living certainly committed such crimes already. It’s not a question of debate. It’s true.

Though I have no proof per se, I also know it’s likely that family members might have fathered children during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I have only whispers to base my suspicion on. However, my other suspicions have been proven correct, too, even though I waited years for some of them to find confirmation.

For much of my life, I endured ridicule and hostility for some of the views about my Dad. Just a year ago, I found out that my suspicions were correct and that he’d fathered a child with a very young woman in the early 70s.

Such revelations, in combination with a checkered past for many of my relatives, paints a realistic picture that other shenanigans may have gone undetected, too.

I’d like to part of the solution to the problem.

For those thousands of people who’ll be reachable because of my participation, please accept my apologies.

It is my DNA, after all, freely given.

In the same way that some of my ancestors kept their foot on the closet door, gun in hand, in order to protect the skeletons in the family closet, I now stand on the other side, with the door wide open.

 

A Note About Initials, Signatures & Identity

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Given that it is likely going to be an issue in the future…

In addition to having a weird name, I’m also a notary. When I had just one name, I signed my name with a pictograph next to my ‘X.’ This pissed people off. People get pissed off about everything, as you probably know. For many, it irritated them to see my have fun with my signature. Additionally, having a short name made signing amazingly easy. When I had just one legal name, it annoyed some folks that I could technically NOT ‘initial’ anything – because people with large sticks up their butts insisted that ‘to initial’ meant one had to sign two initials. Obviously, that was both incorrect and stupid. Pointing out that someone is wrong, obstinate, and probably stupid isn’t a good course of action. Fun, but not necessarily useful. Note: most of us have learned that last part the hard way on the internet. Can I get an amen?

For generations, people who couldn’t read or write could legally ‘make their mark’ using an ‘X.’ These signatures were as legally binding as if one had signed Josephus Antonio Freebird, Jr. on the contract to buy 10,000 pig bellies. They still are, if you are wondering.

In the same way that you can use whatever name you want, you can also spell it (and say it) however you want, thanks to the majesty of our strange English language.

As a notary, I got a stern warning from an autocrat that my signature absolutely had to be consistent each and every time. In her case, I went to the courthouse and found records with her name on it. Guess what? She’d changed her signature style several times – and often in the same year. Shockingly, she did not greet me with a smile when I proved that she was a hypocrite.

Once, when I went to vote, the elderly poll worker scrutinized my ID with a critical eye. I almost always took my birth certificate and every imaginable form of ID. “What’s this little doodle on there? Where’s your name on this license.” She had a large “Gotcha!” waiting to scream at me. I smiled. “My name is in the blank where everyone else’s name always is. The doodle is part of my legal signature.” She scowled. Her pointed finger scanned the book. When she realized my voter registration had the same nonsensical doodle face on it, she looked at me like I had swallowed a live snake in front of her. “Is it legal to have just one name,” she asked as she processed my ballot. “Absolutely not!” I told her, winked, and moved on.

Now, I try to make my signature more or less the same on legal documents. Let’s face it: I like the weirdness of it. I change it up for a while. It’s kind of weird to worry a lot about my signature when just about anyone can get a copy of my credit report for a few dollars, hack my wi-fi traffic, or spoof my phone.

Because there are people out there who watch a lot of Fox News, there’s a growing argument that one principal detriment to mail-in voting is signature matching. It’s a dumb argument. The incidence of fraud aside, we can eradicate all the potential ‘issues’ with both logic and a bit of technology. In my case, I would love for my vote to be publicly recorded. It would be very difficult to use my identity to vote under such a scenario. I know that many are not comfortable with this. For whatever reason, they don’t want people to know how they voted. The red hat is a dead giveaway for conservatives, and the drooling is a giveaway for the liberals; we don’t need to see your vote to know who you voted for most of the time. I’m a liberal, so I’m obviously going to vote for whoever can spend the most tax money as quickly as possible.

Here’s a simple trick if you’re worried about your signature matching: for your license or state ID, use it as your “official” signature. When you sign a ballot, use your license as a template. If we all switch to mail-in voting, all possible objections can be overcome with a bit of preparation.

Demanding a perfect system when we don’t have one now is an admission that you’re not thinking logically.

It’s not true that your signature must match your name letter for letter, just as it is untrue that your signature must be legible. Equally true is that your signature does not need to be in cursive. Your signature, legally speaking, is whatever you make it, and the intent with which you do so.

Take it from someone with a weird name: for almost all of us, it is no burden to use a similar signature for most legal purposes. Pick something, even if it is weird, and stick to it. For everything else, it is not as pressing of a concern, especially in the age of digital signing.

Personally, if it were me, I’d like to have all the voting rolls published for all to see. Anyone voting dead, in the wrong precinct, or otherwise up to shenanigans could be easily spotted. Also, I would ask each of you to use better names, such as Squirrel Aficionado, Buffoon Jackson, and names Key & Peele used in their famous “East/West College Bowl” skit, especially names such as “T.J.A.J.R.J. Backslashinfourth V.”

I’ll note too that an awful lot of y’all aren’t using the names which are clearly spelled out on your birth certificates. If your name is Beauregard, don’t call yourself Bo unless you’re willing to change that messy moniker.

P.S. For all of y’all freaking out about your legal signature, I’d like to remind you that your signature is everywhere. If you own a house, it is likely that the deed is online, saving you the trouble of going to the courthouse. Your signature is all over those documents. I included an example in the picture to use randomly. If I know your birthday, I can look up your voter registration. That’s why I refer to all of this privacy stuff as either “The Unicorn of Privacy” or “The Leprechaun of Privacy.” (One is imaginary and the other is almost impossible to get.)

Accused By Legacy

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Legal Disclaimer: The case I’m referring to could be anywhere, involving a variety of professions, geography, and people. I don’t want to be accused of libel, even though the truth is the only defense one needs against the claim of libel. I could be talking about one hundred different places and one thousand different faces.

This is another story I’ve archived many times. At its heart, it is an accusation against most smaller towns and many people with doubts about victims who come forward against their own best interest.

I’m amazed at how uncritical people are about allegations of wrongdoing, especially if the person in question has a smiling face or resources. Predators most often hide in plain sight and are adept at concealment. Rarely does one see an obvious smoking gun. No one enjoys being unfairly accused. No one enjoys being doubted when telling the truth, either, especially when the deck is stacked against the accuser – which it invariably is.

Someone I know was once reluctantly enlisted to be a litigant in a case involving a person in ______, who was accused of touching females inappropriately. While researching the archives about the accusations, I encountered several quotes such as, “At least he wasn’t raping them.” Some of those quotes were from women in the community. When people doubt accusers like this, it is likely that women around them are grimacing in recognition that their own family members and friends are mocking them. My acquaintance moved on from the case without scars. She knows she was lucky.

This same attitude was on display here in Northwest Arkansas after a local priest admitted to abusing boys and then killed himself. Even then, after being exposed as a predator, many people couldn’t bring themselves to call him what he was. He lived a secret life; publicly devout and privately monstrous to those he victimized. There are others out there. Saying it doesn’t do anyone good to talk about it is a sure sign that the discomfort strikes a bell of truth for those saying it. I get angry when I see people being guilty of the backlash against discussion. It’s a sign of malignancy. That malignancy and secrecy is a big part of the problem.

My acquaintance wanted nothing other than an admission of wrongdoing from the person who had been fondling women. She didn’t enter the list of witnesses or litigants easily. Despite wanting nothing from the case, she had to endure listening to people who were initially unaware of her involvement in the case, as they openly mocked and questioned the motives of the female accusers. Cases of abuse invariably peel back the mask of misogyny that runs permanently beneath the surface.

To be clear, the accused man was alleged to have inappropriately touched several women. It was a pattern of behavior and concealment. His excuse to explain away many of the allegations was ridiculous.

I default toward credibility on the part of the accusers. It’s easier to dismiss or doubt singular cases. My life as a child proved that barbarians could victimize openly in society and survive, often even when their brutality left consequences in plain sight. Several of the people I went to school with have individually come forward with their own stories of abuse; some at the hands of family, other at the hands of coaches, teachers, and clergy. Note: those abusers lived and worked around us all. Many victims carry their stories close to their hearts, working each day to avoid painting the entire world with an accusatory brush. The prevalence of stories substantiates that abuse was, in fact, common here, poisoning people in secret. Almost none of the abusers were held accountable, even when those abused attempted to come forward. Most people prefer that scandals remain secret, a tendency still flourishing today in society.

One day, assuming I outlive some of them, I’ll name a couple. It is my burden to outlive them. I think the proper word for it will be a ‘reckoning.’

Years later, because the case of the fondler fascinated me, I investigated it as thoroughly as I dared. The accused was never forced to account for his actions. He remained in his position. The message to everyone was simple and effective: come forward at your own peril. The accused had resources to ensure that those on the periphery of the case would be silent, cooperative, or punished. Many of the female litigants felt punished for their testimony and victimized to varying degrees by the system. Their trust in the legal system diminished. I’m confident that all of them infrequently think back and hope that the accused stopped abusing other women. That’s all they could do, though. Hope. I know that some of them took their fear from being treated badly by the justice system and passed it along to their daughters, nieces, and friends – and rightly so. It is their right to teach their family that women can be abused with impunity. This distrust has to have eroded their confidence in the legal system that failed them. The effects of their failed attempt for justice must still bear consequences today. I don’t see how it’s not the case.

The case is fascinating in several regards. Going back through the specifics is a template for how to retaliate if you’re guilty of the accusation but wish to flail and obfuscate to avoid accountability. Knowing that this individual twisted the system to avoid punishment underscored the fact that the public institutions which could have also demanded accountability also failed. The fondler had access to the best lawyers, researchers, and his tendrils reached into some surprising places where power precludes disclosure.

Because I’m very familiar with the allegations against the fondler, I can’t escape the fact that everyone else tasked with ensuring public safety sidestepped at least a portion of their responsibilities, too. Some of those people are still in their positions. The legal system is a useful tool to silence those with legitimate claims. The legal system so seldom provides closure and justice to victims; there are times I’m surprised anyone comes forward. In their defense, it is often an impossible job with no reward waiting for them.

In the case in question, a civil case was undertaken. There are a number of details of this case which lead anyone to place credence in the accusation(s) of impropriety.

I never fail to imagine the duplicity of this man who ruined a part of several women’s lives. He’s rich and has all the amenities such richness brings. He will never have to hang his head in shame or to feel powerless. The contempt I feel for him is measurable.

He walked away because many in the community where my acquaintance lives thought, “That can’t happen here,” as if geography somehow conferred a magical blanket of protection. Many of the jurors said the same thing. It’s troubling that they weren’t told many of the simple facts which would have immediately changed their verdict into a shout of “Guilty.” Many trials are that way. Good lawyers can easily control what the jury sees and hears, or color it with so much doubt that jurors forget their own names. In this case, there were several surprises which the jurors didn’t get to hear. Hearing some of them so many years later, I couldn’t help but feel shock at how badly the pursuit of truth could be perverted solely because of the overwhelming power of money. When I was almost a juror for an accused murdered a few years ago, I witnessed this firsthand.

At my age, knowing how many people were abused, it’s hard for me to reconcile the fact that people are so stupid – or so cloistered from monsters that they can’t imagine others are powerless to stop them when they abuse.

The women involved dispersed back into their own lives, each of them no doubt contaminating countless other women with the conviction that coming forward is a fool’s errand.

All these years later, it’s still a shame. It’s shame that can be distributed to many in the community. “That doesn’t happen here.” Even as it does, every day – and with most victims staying silent.

For years, I’ve waited, hoping that someone with resources would come forward and paint the man in question to be what his victims know him to be. It hasn’t happened yet. If it does, though, I’ll be at the doorstep of the lawyers, friends, and jurors of those who denied justice to a group of women.

The case would make a great book.

I reached out to the attorney(s) involved and none wanted to discuss it, given the repercussions from the initial trial. Everyone who helped the women in question paid more than their fair share in pain. Revisiting it is a wound for everyone involved.

Silence from all quarters, except in the minds of the women who know.

It’s a small town legacy that many recognize and few acknowledge.

I’m going to discard my notes and the archive of the case and release it back into history, where it will fester. Rinse and repeat.

 

 

 

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The Rightness of Right

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In the early 1990s, I worked at a large poultry company. The company was large, not the poultry. Never mind, the poultry was large too. During an hour break, a discussion emerged about mandatory breaks at work. Someone said they’d prefer to only get thirty minutes. Another said, “They have to give us an hour. It’s the law.”

Previously, I had been caught up in a web or absolute corruption and stupidity at another employer. They did everything wrong. They learned the hard way. I learned it was never worth it to stick your neck out. I’ve forgotten the lesson a couple of times since then. The universe reminds me forcefully.

I said, “Look, it sounds wrong, but for the most part, employers don’t have to give us breaks at all, with a few strict exceptions.” Everyone howled in derision at me. After a few minutes, the second-in-command for the entire 1000+ facility said, “You’re wrong. We have to ____________.” (You can fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter what he said because he was wrong.) Again, this guy was second in charge of the entire facility and it was part of the largest private company in the world at the time. He was in the break room with a couple of line supervisors and heard the conversation become more heated.

His lack of information didn’t surprise me. It was common, and I’d had the conversation at least 100 times over the years. Whether it was the person cleaning the bathrooms or the CEO, I didn’t care.

“Boss, you’re wrong. You can write the State of Arkansas if you want, but I’ll bet you $100 to $1 you’re wrong.” He got a little angry. The break room was packed and several people heard me throw down the gauntlet. A few brave souls egged it on. I turned to everyone and said, “I’ll bet all of you $100-to-$1 you’re wrong, too.” To soften the issue, I said something like, “It’s easy to be wrong. A lot of people have simply been told the wrong thing so many times that it sounds true.”

That evening, I sat and wrote two letters and mailed them off. A few days later, the boss found me privately and said, “You were right! We’re not required to even give you guys 30 minutes break.” He explained that he had reached out to several people and had been shocked to find out I was right. He was peevish about the entire mess. “Can you imagine if I went out and told everyone we’re no longer giving ANY breaks?” He laughed.

I walked out of the office, laughing. I said nothing to my co-workers. About a week later, I received another letter from the State of Arkansas, explaining that “no,” employers didn’t have to provide breaks based on length of shift.

I took the letter in and during our hour lunch break; I showed the letter to the loudest group of people who had bet me. “No way!” and “You faked this letter!” were thrown at me. “I know for a fact that the Labor Board has laws,” and so forth were shouted. I just kept saying, “You are all wrong.”

Five minutes later, someone had found the boss who had contradicted me.

Everyone was shouting at me, waiting to see me eat crow.

“X is right. There is no law that requires us to give you a break at all, much less thirty minutes or an hour, not here in Arkansas.”

I’m pretty sure I heard 15 jaws hit the concrete floor. The break room was silent as everyone stared at the boss. He refused further comment and just walked away.

My boss was unhappy I brought the letter to work and not pleased that I made him eat a little crow. A bit of his chagrin was also because employers really didn’t appreciate workers knowing the rules.

Fast forward a few years. I was taking a great Human Resources class at NWACC, the community college. I had a presentation about my experience at my previous employers and the misunderstanding with the bosses. Several classmates critiqued me afterward and told me I was wrong. I repeated my assertion that they were wrong. Even the professor, who I adored, chimed in and said I was wrong. I remember stopping and saying, “Why in the world would I do a presentation with cited sources about something that is demonstrably not true?” I didn’t get an answer.

I still had letters in my filing cabinet at home to prove they were all wrong. Because I was trapped in class without proof – and being accosted by people who were pissed I insisted they were all wrong – I told them who to contact to find out that were all mistaken. I told them that I didn’t want an apology afterward but would instead like to be given the benefit of the doubt for all future issues wherein someone was being accused of being mistaken. They all agreed.

Next week, the professor opened the class by giving an apology. She had followed up with multiple sources. A couple of sources she contacted simply because she couldn’t believe she had been so breathtakingly wrong about the issue, for so many years. She told the class directly that my presentation was accurate. I had my letter in my folder since the previous week. I was going to do another presentation for extra-credit without giving away the subject had it not been brought up before I had the chance. I pulled out the letter. It was dated from my time at my last employer.

I used to keep it in the same file as the warning ticket I got from the Johnson Police for driving too fast. On a bicycle. That story is true, too.

Because of the revelation that everyone is often wrong, I did my next presentation on several other issues that people just always got wrong, no matter who often they were told otherwise. This time, no one doubted that I might be right. They still checked, in hopes of catching me in the wrong.

Even now, there will be people who’ve read this far who will have it in their heads that I’m wrong. And that amuses me.

Just as people think their employer can tell them they can’t discuss their wages, there are many people who have the erroneous idea that most employers have to give us breaks. (Using the traditional system – not access to bathrooms, medication, etc.)

I’m speaking generally here. Also, I’m not making the argument that employers can’t violate the spirit or letter of the laws regarding pay discussion – or any other law. That’s not the point. Someone always chimes in and makes it even when I point out that it isn’t the issue at question.

This post didn’t start with the goal of being about mandatory breaks. It’s about certainty and the pitfalls it presents.

We’re all guilty of it. This story presents me in a favorable light. I’ve written other stories that prove I can sometimes get both feet in my mouth simultaneously if motivated.

The Gavel Is Hollow

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I’m in a bit of a strange state.

 

I arrived home after a Celebration of Life.

 

I absent-mindedly opened my email, assuming that someone had decided to take me up on the offer of watching a memorial video I made and needed an email link.

 

Instead, someone close to the defendant in a murder trial from 2016, had written to me today. I wasn’t chosen to sit on the jury. It turns out that the letter I wrote to the defense’s legal team had been turned over to the defendant and his family.

 

As I wrote back then, the jury selection process in the murder trial being held in Washington County had legal defects, ones which precluded the defendant from receiving due process from the court. I don’t say this lightly.

 

I did right by the defendant, the prosecution, the court, and the process by sticking my neck out and informing them of what I had observed. While I heard back from the defense back then, I did not hear back from the court or the prosecution. I wrote them all the same truth: things were done improperly.

 

I’m not surprised by the failure of the prosecution team to respond. It would have been impossible to defend the defects I reported to them. They go directly to the efficacy of the jury process. I understand the need to persist in the illusion that the system does not fail. A good prosecutor and human being could not faithfully convict people if he or she knew that the process is fundamentally flawed.

 

My wife will tell any of you that because of my exposure to the frailty of the human process, that I don’t believe that justice as we imagine it exists in most places. It permeates my ability to watch, read, or consume any stories about the justice system.

 

The person reaching out to me alleges that in addition to the glaring problems I documented, that one of the jurors had allegedly threatened another sitting juror on the case. I don’t know if the allegations shared with me are true.

 

I can say, however, that I tend to believe them, given the disparity between what I personally witnessed and the lofty promises our criminal justice system proposes we accept as true.

 

To paraphrase my misgivings: “It just ain’t right.” What I witnessed was not an impartial jury, nor one honoring the requirements of eligibility to sit and faithfully serve. Because I reached out to inform them, everyone involved knew at the time that someone involved in the process had serious issues about how it was handled. A dedication to the truth would drive most people to inquire; otherwise, we’re not dispensing justice.

 

I look forward to hearing more about the allegations that an actual sitting juror had more than simple misgivings and was threatened for it.

 

I have a feeling this is going to take me down a winding road.

 

The gavel is hollow – and so am I.