Book One / 14
As I was working in my office one afternoon I opened an email that contained in its subject line the following words: “I’d like this to go to the judge.” A number then appeared that indicated the author was writing about a case that had been initiated nearly ten years earlier.
I opened the email. It was written by a former defendant who retained a grievance with the court that had sentenced him years before. He began his correspondence to the judge by asserting, “When I was a United States Marine, a de-briefing specialist told me my problem would always be with women.” He then proceeded to explain that although he lived now in another state, active warrants for his arrest in this state were being served mistakenly upon his brother. He asked the judge either to quash the warrant or leave his family alone.
I pulled the file to see how much information I could find on the case. I learned that following a plea agreement eight years earlier the judge had sentenced this man on one count of unlawful imprisonment and one count of forgery. In the charging documents the investigating detective had described the alleged circumstances of the offense.
The victim had been an intensive care nurse in the city’s children’s hospital. She had met the defendant when she answered an online personal ad he had placed. The man told her that he was the CEO of an investment firm. They began to date, and a few weeks later he moved into her apartment.
The woman soon discovered that this man was not the CEO of an investment firm. When she confronted him he told her that he was actually a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps and was working in an undercover intelligence operation at the company. He explained that due to his top-level security clearance their apartment was bugged and the National Security Agency was monitoring their activities at all times.
A short while later the man began detaining the woman in her apartment. He warned her that the NSA required that she remain in the apartment with the curtains drawn when he was away at work. She could not answer or use the phone, and was not allowed to speak to anyone until he returned and gave his consent. He insisted that if she disobeyed him then national security could be comprised and she would be arrested by government agents. The man referred to this as the woman’s ‘securement.’ On one occasion he secured her for twelve days in a row, returning to feed her once a day in the evenings.
As a result of the man’s activities, the detective wrote, and his insistence on her compliance with his demands, the woman was forced to quit her job at the hospital. Then, following his arrest, she was evicted from her apartment for non-payment of the rent the man had told her he was paying. She was currently living in a women’s shelter, attempting to get her life back in order and her credit re-established.
I returned to the email still waiting for my reply, and I read the words more closely. Further into the letter the man complained bitterly of child support payments he still owed the state. The issue of child support, of course, bore no relation to the criminal offense for which he had been sentenced in this court years earlier.
He ended his letter with the accusation that this court was causing all of the problems he and his family were now experiencing. “Lift the warrant and let us get this settled,” he wrote, “or come arrest me.” He then closed with his out-of-state address and a phone number where he could be reached.
I brought the email and case information to the judge’s attention and we discussed the man’s options. I then wrote a brief reply, explaining that he could surrender to his local law enforcement if he wished to address the active warrants. Alternatively, as he had indicated that he’d been advised by an attorney in this state to write the court directly, I informed him that he could have the same attorney arrange to bring his issues before the proper authority on his behalf.
On the mistaken assumption that the court itself was involved in attempting to serve the old warrants, the man wrote one more email, demanding that the judge cease harassing him and his family, and insisting that I give his emails to the judge.
I wrote one final reply. I informed the man that the court could do nothing more without a formal motion, properly served and noted for hearing. I then placed a copy of his emails, along with my replies, in the yellowed case file and returned all the papers to the filing cabinet.
Finally, as I always did in situations like this one, I wrote the man’s name on a piece of paper several times before tacking it to a board near my desk. I then took a few minutes to stare at it, committing the name to memory. I knew that weeks or even months later I might receive a phone call from this man. He might walk into court one afternoon and ask for me. If so, I would want his name — and the circumstances of his demands on the court — to return immediately to my memory. With the opportunity to place a quick call to security, I might avoid inheriting the man’s “problem with women.”