Category Archives: Law

Imperfect Union. Of Thoughts.

As a middle-aged white guy in the South, I would like to remind everyone that I am not what you see. Most of us aren’t. Most people aren’t even really the idea of them that we hold in our heads. If we have a fundamentally different worldview from someone else, we tend to vilify their beliefs or motives. We have to be on guard about that. It infects everything. There are a lot of evil people in the world, but most of us want the same things. No one likes other people interfering in their lives, yet so many do exactly that. People are surprised to discover how calcified their belief system becomes as they age.

I’m no Chicken Little. Despite the appearance of continuity, we’ve faced a lot of major upheavals as a society. I used my Handmaid’s Tale picture from years ago because it is a go-to symbol of a possible outcome if we don’t get our crap together. I made mine out of humor. It’s easy to see that we need a buttload more humor lately. It’s easy to succumb to cynicism and frustration.

Everyone’s social media is going to be flooded with opinions about social issues. Women who’ve had abortions, especially those who did so for their own reasons and often without others knowing, are going to learn a lot about their peers and loved ones. Some of those women did so for medical reasons or in cases of rape. Most of them didn’t choose abortion lightly. As I grew older and shared my personal life, I can’t tell you how many women told me stories that would shock you.

Most of the vocal celebrants of the supreme court decision are past the age when abortion is a viable concern for them individually. Old wounds will open and new ones will arise as people spew words. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I’m not worried about the next generation finding new ways to fix some of this. Old ideas don’t serve as well as many would like to think.

I have my own abortion story, one that tempers my interpretation of others’ opinions. Many of your friends and family members have them, too; most you’ll never know. Human sexuality is a constant drive, one that leads to consequences and turmoil. If we are going to limit other people’s ability to mitigate the consequences, we have to step up and provide a better social structure to support one another. It’s not about condemnation or judgment.

Women outnumber men.

I’m liberal, speak Spanish, and am in favor of just about every social program that helps people. Even if it reduces the defense budget, even if outliers take advantage – and even if the systems we put into place aren’t perfect. I’d start with universal health care, which, despite its flaws, would cost each of us less than our current system. Knowing that everyone around me could get at least basic health services anytime they are needed is something that seems stupidly right to me. For whatever reason, people disagree with me. My principal argument is that the rest of the modern world agrees with me. And universal health care is cheaper than our current system.

I anticipate a firestorm across the board.

Entropy is at play on a societal level. We are never going to be at a fixed point on any social issue. No matter which side of a particular issue you’re on, no issue is safe from review, even if you’ve achieved a momentary victory. If you galvanize a particular group, the system can be destabilized to such a degree that it no longer serves anyone. These issues are far from settled. They might even permanently rupture the system of government.

Politics is a dirty, specialized, and selfish game. If you play it correctly, you can achieve almost any objective, especially if money is involved.

So, I am a middle-aged white guy.

But I’m not responsible for the prevailing conservatism of my age group or those who look like me. We look alike but definitely don’t think alike. Despite that, we share a lot of the same ambitions, wants, needs, and desires. We have to learn to stay out of each other’s way as much as we can as we pursue our version of the dream. Conservatism in its purest form is sound; the evangelical version of it makes me cringe and shake my head.

So many of our problems result from those who “know” what is best for everyone else. Certainty breeds callousness. I try to think of all the things I once knew and believed, only to discover I was wrong. Which surely means that I’m mistaken about things now.

Railing about politics on social media is a fool’s errand unless you tell it as a personal story, one which reflects your life and who you are. You are not going to change anyone’s mind – nor should that be your goal.

Whichever side you’re on, remember that we are all human beings and got to our beliefs by inconsistent trial-and-error. Adding anger won’t change anything, even if it is justified. Like all of you, I admit that sometimes the burn of anger is a welcome relief, even as it short-circuits my humanity. It almost always makes me lesser.

I know that people are legitimately scared because the abortion ban will allow states to foolishly prevent abortions even in cases where it’s medically recommended, necessary, or a result of involuntary conception. That’s fiendishly diabolical and evil in my opinion. It ignores science and human decency.

No matter what changed, anything can be changed again.

Literally anything. With the right lever and effort.

Look for your lever and try to avoid adding to the woodpile of words. Find a way to convert your anger into action. Anger or fear is an immensely powerful motivator.

I know that being a middle-aged white guy contains a certain privilege of thought. I see that. But I can worry along with the rest of you, the ones who see a weird arc of conservative social ideology creeping into places that have little to do with fiscal policy or public health. Most of us think we have a singular plan and path for everyone else to live by. Imposing it only leads to no one having autonomy or happiness.

Love, X
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Anger’s Blossom

I’m reluctant to share this one. While my heart was in the right place, I felt a flare of righteous anger. That type of anger feels right at the moment but often sours with consequences. I am not a hero in this story.

About two weeks ago, I was driving about 35 mph in a way that made me feel alive. Music high, smiling. Not in a hurry.

Her green sedan pulled alongside me in the lane to my left.

She held her phone, crying.

Her black hair reached her shoulders.

She tossed her phone in the passenger seat.

And unexpectedly looked toward me.

Tears on her face.

She nodded and wiped her eyes with a sleeve.

I let off the gas, and she raced away.

Five minutes later, I pulled into the lot.

And saw the green sedan there.

Life reminds me there aren’t many coincidences.

As I parked, I noted she was next to the store.

Cigarette in hand, nervous.

I watched a man pull up and exit his truck angrily.

He hissed at her in a way I couldn’t hear.

She flinched and looked down to the ground. Because of my childhood, I saw the backstory written plain. I already knew what her private life was like. This wasn’t the first time, nor the tenth.

The man gesticulated and shook.

Without thinking, I walked toward them.

“How are you?” I asked her.

She looked at me in surprise.

The man interrupted, “Who are you?”

I replied, “I am the man just in time.”

“For what?” He hissed at me.

“To do what I need to.” The anger flared in me.

I prayed he’d move toward me.

I walked to his truck and opened the driver’s door. “Get the eff out of here, sir.” I smiled like a predator. I admit that it felt good. I’m not sure what that says about me.

The woman watched, fearful of what her man might do.

She should have feared what I might do.

A man in Canada filled my head, his volatile narcissism unchecked, his multiple victims attempting to regain normal lives in his wake. The law does nothing to aggressively meet the abuser’s behavior in kind, even though that is what is needed. Another man was using his long familiarity with control and emotional abuse to impoverish his fleeing wife. Both honestly deserve a measured dose of Southern Justice. This might be my surrogate, one to catch my vengeance. I hoped so. Waiting for ‘someone’ to help might lead to never. I’d felt the burn inflaming me for some time.

“Get home in ten or else,” he told the woman.

“She won’t be there in 10. Or 60. Go.”

He paced around me and pretended to lunge as he did. I didn’t flinch. Ninety percent of all aggression fails to materialize. Had the ten percent emerged, Bobby Dean laid in wait, anesthetized against anything except immobilizing pain. I wanted him to lunge and make contact. The law allows us to defend someone else. If it penalizes me for acting on impulse, that’s fair.

He got in the truck, slammed the door, and roared away. He put down his window momentarily and shouted the redneck equivalent of whatever angry, stupid people say. I laughed purposefully and ignored him.

The woman cried again.

“You know what you need to do,” I told her. “Today, before it’s too late. Do you have someone to go to?”

She nodded.

“Go there. And don’t go back to that. Do you need anything?”

“No,” she murmured.

“Go now in case he comes back.”

I didn’t enter the store.

I watched the black-haired woman get in her car and depart.

I saw a green car today and wondered if the woman was safe. And I wondered who the man’s next victim might be. That there will be is a certainty. I hope there’s a future me waiting for him. It’s evident that I will pull the curtain back and summon Bobby Dean.

My idle pacifist hands are anxious in an unexpected way.

Days later, I’m still thinking about how close I had to get to really hurting someone. And how the realization that the same Bobby Dean inside me was as guilty of the same misbehavior as the man was with his wife or girlfriend. He was a chronic abuser; ironically, I can channel that same energy to obliterate my doubts and step in on the other side of the situation.

There are no easy answers. But I do know that sometimes raw anger is appropriate. Sometimes it’s the only way. It’s not right, proper, or even intelligent. A lot of men need to spit blood to learn their lesson. And some men, men like me, ones who earned their abuse badges when younger, probably need to be more willing to violently be the one to administer a reminder.

PS I know that we’re supposed to call the police. But I also know that they constantly fail to protect people. The law exists to inhibit behavior, but it often does not remedy the need for immediacy. A few weeks after my surgery, I got a reminder of how precarious the idea of safety can be. The flare that lit inside me of me hasn’t abated. As I said, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this admission.

Love, X

Dear Eric: No Means No

Dear Eric:

If you love someone, you value their peace of mind, happiness, and ability to live their lives freely.

And, in a normal relationship, no matter what the reason, each person maintains the right of silence and distance or any range of contact between the opposites of communication and disengagement. Each gets to set their boundaries.

In a toxic relationship, the other person needs distance to feel safe.

Unfortunately, there are times when we have to resort to our agreed-upon set of laws to insist that a person honor another person’s boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s required in some situations where someone has the mental inability to respect another person’s right to autonomy.

That time has passed.

No means no.

No amount of cleverness will protect you from the inevitable claxon call of justice.

I don’t need to understand the complexities of the legal system where you might be.

I’m reminding you that Southern Justice has its standards.

The subject of my post has no idea whatsoever that I’m writing this.

You are accountable.

Stop.

I don’t ask twice.

No means no.

Give the person you allege to love the ability to live a full life, absent your presence, words, or influence.

I’ve asked nicely. If you want to know what Bobby Dean has instilled in me, keep playing stupid.

No means no. Before. And now.

Especially now.

You’ve done your damage.

X

Josefina Fruitcake

Note: this is a different kind of post. It’s not for everyone. Literally. Wink.

We rely on human nature to protect us. We prefer to think that people are like us. Kind, compassionate and reasonable, behaving as we would. When that fails, we turn to the law to mitigate the behavior of those who are not like us. The law has many shortcomings. Its bureaucracy is flawed with delay and a disregard for the victims asking for remedy and comfort. We created a complex system to protect victims and those wrongfully accused.

Its existence does not preclude a return to the chaos of personal justice that preceded it.

The same clever code words used to avoid the consequences of actions? Those exact words can be turned and used in the same sinister way.

If someone asks for peace of mind and safety, it’s their right. Because I’m familiar with toxic and twisted psychology, I know that there’s something wrong with some people’s brain chemistry. That defect doesn’t disconnect them from the commensurate responsibility of behaving in such a way that they don’t inflict further emotional trauma on someone who’s insisted that they have the fundamental right of peace and the pursuit of happiness.

Those it’s rare, some people don’t honor other people’s right to be free and happy in their lives. Some are simply irredeemable.

We all have an instinctive urge toward fairness.

In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb leans in to the villain Percy Whitmore: “…you mind me now. We’ll also see you beaten within an inch of your life. We know people too. Are you so foolish, you don’t realize that?” Percy had been so confident of his connections and deviousness to protect him, not realizing his cohort of fellow guards subscribed to a higher level of fairness and justice. On their plane of justice, people like Percy are given leeway until they have to face the consequences of their actions. If the Percys of the world don’t listen, they face the same fate as the dog that bit the little boy earlier in the book and movie.

It’s not personal. If the equation requires that the side abusing others be minimized, so be it.

Thinking that the legal system is the only remedy to protect others? That’s foolish.

I’m liberal and kind-hearted. But I have an iron rod of my dad inside me. That rod is premised on the old school belief that if you’ve given someone leeway to stop and they don’t heed the warning, then the precepts of Southern Justice come into play. It is no sin to defend yourself or someone else.

Unlike so many other people, I’ve seen behavior turn from trivial to violent. Many people underestimate its probability. I don’t. That’s why I hypocritically subscribe to the belief that it’s better to act precipitously at times without regard to the potential consequences that might befall me simply because I subscribe to a different sort of justice.

I honor the laws to the best of my ability.

My greatest allegiance is to fairness and justice. That allegiance plays by a different set of rules, especially when the intent of laws is being perverted or subjugated by someone who has demonstrated that he or she feels empowered to victimize others.

If you’ve already violated someone and still persist in harassing, intimidating, or making that person feel unsafe, the long arm of the law will get you. There’s a longer arm at play here, one with compunction to compel you to see the light.

There’s time to reconsider the error of your ways.

Please take the route that ensures that everyone is safe.

Otherwise, you are as unnecessary and unpleasant as a fruitcake without liquor.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

X

Want To Perform Weddings?

If you’re getting married, or your son/daughter is planning a marriage, one of the most personal things you can do is to have a friend or loved one officiate the marriage. It will create a memory that everyone will share.

Something that a lot of people tell me is that they are surprised that I can perform marriages. It’s profoundly easier to be a licensed marriage officiant/minister than you’d think.

Arkansas, like many states, does not get into the murky waters of “who” ordains you as a minister. This fact also surprises most people.

If you’re interested, I recommend that you go to the Universal Life Church website. There are others, but this one is tremendously easy to navigate: https://www.ulc.org/ It is not expensive.

Here’s a link that will take you to the State of Arkansas’ information. https://www.ulc.org/wedding-laws/arkansas

Once you obtain credentials, all you have to do is take them to the county clerk and register them, usually for five dollars. Your credentials are permanently recorded; you’ll need the book and page number for each time you sign a marriage license.

Another misconception is about how complicated the ceremony has to be. Legally, both people marrying only have to be in the minister’s presence and sign the marriage license. The ceremony itself can be five seconds or five hours, involving anything you’d want to say in the middle.

If you’ve ever been interested in this, I recommend that you check it out.

Although I don’t claim to be a minister, legally I am. I almost got to perform a marriage ceremony a couple of weeks ago. It’s also fun to put people on the spot when they talk about getting married. “Oh yeah, well let’s go do this right now.”

Personally, I wish people wouldn’t spend so much getting married. The act itself can be highly personal and creative. Spend the money on a down payment on a house or take a trip and create memories. IF you truly love the idea of an elaborate wedding, go for it. And if you’d like to make it more personal, get licensed so that you can directly involved in your friend’s or loved ones’ ceremony.

Again, for anyone who has wondered how to go about being a marriage officiant, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret the very little bit of money and time it will take you.

Love, X

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.

*

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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