Monday, September 28, 2009

I Will Never Do That Again

Take heed now, all my family and friends and even friends yet to be: don't break the law. I can't sit through another hearing. I can't be there for you if you do.

The morning started like a regular morning, except that it was Friday and I wasn't going to work, I woke up an hour later than normal, and I was at my parents' house. Dad was out of town and Mom had already left for work. I woke, chose a simple linen dress, ate a waffle, and headed off to Monty's. I left a little later than I wanted, but still with plenty of time to get there. His hearing was to start at 0900, and he had promised me coffee.

I met two of his friends: awesome ladies both. We joked over our coffee like it was a normal day. We prevented him from putting the bright orange shoelaces his eldest son had bought for him in his dress shoes. I made him give me the book I had made for his birthday, for safe keeping, just in case.

We took two cars to the courthouse, where the six of us met five other people who were already there. His lawyer made it a point to tell the judge, and us, that she's never before worked such a case where so many people came out to support the defendant, not only in the amount of letters that were sent to the judge, but in the people in the courtroom too. Eleven doesn't seem like a large number. I guess many people find themselves very alone in such a situation.

I'm not really sure of the dynamic of their relationship, but one of the ladies I met at the house that morning seemed to be very close to him. Monty had only mentioned her a few times in the last few weeks. She sat next to me, and took my hand as we took our seats after the judge came in.

I have never said that Monty didn't deserve to be punished. I have never said that his crime wasn't horrid and deplorable. But, still, he is my friend and has always been a good person to me. One of the arguments that his lawyer made was that he had made remarkable progress, in growing as a person, healing, and repenting, in the two and a half years that this has been building.

It didn't matter.

None of it did. Progress under therapy and medication didn't matter. Changes that his loved ones saw in him didn't matter. The judge only saw what was horrid and deplorable. It didn't matter that it was only one side of him, a side that was subdued under medical care. Nothing else mattered.

The lawyer argued heavily for the minimum sentence of five years, that he wasn't a threat to anyone anymore and could be granted a few weeks to get his affairs in order, that the sentencing guidelines set forth by Congress didn't apply in this case. The judge agreed that they didn't, but said that five years wasn't enough, and so decreed 121 months. Ten years. He disregarded the statements of Monty's doctors and decided to offer his own diagnosis. He said there were medical issues yet unknown and that did make Monty a threat, even though there has been no prior criminal history and no criminal behavior for the two and a half years since the FBI first raided his home. Those ten years began right away.

I don't think I shall ever forget how hard it was to force my tears to vanish, so I could smile my support and wave when he looked back before they took him away.

The whole thing took two hours. Somehow, it felt like 20 minutes, at the same time that it felt like half a day. There is nothing to compare with listening to some stranger talk only of a friend's bad qualities when you know there are good ones too. It was among the most painful things I've ever had to endure. That's why I won't do it again.

In that moment that felt like it was too short and too long, all of my questions, doubts, and struggles of the previous months meant nothing. At the end of that two hour moment, they took my friend away, allowing us, his family and friends, nothing more than a glance.

The lawyer spoke with us for a time. She mentioned that someone had personal items that were seized from Monty and his wife's home for evidence. "They'll give it all back," the lawyer said. "Except my boy," his mother replied.

After that, we went to a diner to try to shake off the stress of the morning. Some of us had large meals, some of us had coffee, some of us had lavish milkshakes. We spoke of other things, because we had no information and it wouldn't help anyone to deal with what we had witnessed if we just moped about it. Some lady came up to us on her way to the restroom and commented that it looked like we were having fun and she wanted to join our table. We stared. Then one of our party said we must be in the company of good actors; more than half the table raised their hands in confirmation.

Unlike most of the others in the group, I wanted to be alone. I have known him longer than more than half of them. I didn't feel like a part of them. I didn't really want to be around anyone. I had made plans that evening and I kept them. It was a distraction. I talked a little about my day, but felt like they didn't really want to be bothered with it. That's ok, I really wanted to be alone anyway.

Around 11:30 today, I looked at my phone, expecting it to ring. That's about when Monty has been calling me recently. It didn't ring, of course. Because he's gone. Not for good, but for now. I can't even say when I'll see him next.

I'm still left with questions. Right now, only one is coming to mind. Who are these tears for? Me? Him? His family? The people who were hurt indirectly? I don't know if I'll ever know.

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