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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


March 20, 2014

Order in the Court, And Laughs, Too

Harry M. Covert

Amid all the opinionating, commentating and general word-smithing, it’s fun to be a note taker and anecdotist of sorts. It can be amazing what can be seen and heard keeping one’s eyes and ears open.

 

Recently in the Frederick County Circuit Court, a defendant refused to dress in civilian clothes for trial and remained locked up at the start of his trial. Finally, probably at the extolling of his court-appointed lawyer, he came to court to see the trial unfold. At the conclusion of this serious trial, he tossed a full pitcher of water at the prosecutor, obviously he thought of as his persecutor.

 

Obviously, when all was said and done, the thrower received a long prison sentence, not because of the water incident but for a serious crime. It can be reported there was no severe water damage.

 

Another report emanating from the local morning paper had an arrestee apologizing to the undercover police officer for selling him “the wrong” drugs. That is most courteous, but off he went to Chuck Jenkins’ jail.

 

A few months ago, a fellow was convicted of a misdemeanor charge and sent to serve almost a year in the city detention center – the jail. Within a few days, Alexandria's Chief General District Court Judge Becky J. Moore received a handwritten letter in chambers.

 

The jailed inmate in easy-to-read cursive, thanked Her Honor for his courtroom experience. Then asked, quite politely, "Would you have dinner with me when my time is completed? You can pick the restaurant.”

 

The veteran jurist smiled and declined the unusual invitation. She didn’t reply with a personal note.

 

In another Virginia courtroom, Hizzoner asked a guilty defendant if he "had any statement before passing judgment." The guy replied “no” and promptly spit at the judge. Bailiffs jumped on the defendant as the judge wiped spittle from his brow.

 

The late Judge Macy M. Carmel didn't add more time for contempt of court and noted "he's got 12 months on a state road gang. That'll be enough."

 

On another occasion, Judge Carmel, who also presided over the Juvenile Court, was on a summer evening family ride. A carload of high school boys just happened to pass by the family car. Recognizing the driver judge, they "mooned" him, laughing and sped off. Judge Carmel also chuckled. There's more to the story.

 

A month or so later, one of the show-offs was arrested on multiple traffic charges. Yes, the case just happened to come before Judge Carmel.

 

When the teenager's case was called, he became a prayerful young man, nervous, too, as both parents stood with their progeny hoping the jurist had a short memory. He didn't.

 

The boy did squirm, got a bit antsy and started apologizing about his "mooning" before the judge said a word.

 

"You can relax, son. I recognize you better this morning; you have your face on."

 

A defense attorney was knocked cold one morning in Alexandria’s Circuit Court. The culprit made a mad dash from the courtroom but sheriff's deputies nabbed him, falling down the back stairs. He didn't escape, of course, and is enjoying the hospitality of the Department of Corrections – State Prison – for a longtime.

 

A now ranking sheriff's deputy I know was on courtroom duty early in his career. It was his first day and came during a high profile case. The defendant suddenly belted his lawyer. The young deputy didn't flinch, launched a choke hold on the fellow, who promptly fell down unconscious. He was restrained for the rest of the trial.

 

Here's the oxymoron. The deputy, doing his duty, was praised by the judge, thanked by the attorney and reprimanded by his commander. Such is life.

 

Then here’s a good bail bondsman true story. The bondsman had been searching for a female bail jumper all over the city and county. Her boyfriend had been released from prison and she wanted to get married, hoping to hide any of her “professional” activities while hubby-to-be was satisfying the state. She finally telephoned the bondsman and offered to surrender on one condition, that the bondsman arrange a marriage and quickly.

 

The couple received a proper marriage license. Holding hands they met the bondsman in a city park. Handcuffed they stood in front of a minister and exchanged vows.

 

Within a few hours, half of the happy couple was surrendered to jail authorities. Following a few weeks of incarceration, the marriage resumed but only for a short while. The husband went back to a prison term for parole violation. His wife returned to her questionable business enterprises. Her activities, despite promises to the reverend, did not include church services.

 

On a Friday night two lustrums past, an off-duty detective from the District of Columbia stopped by a Latin restaurant where amigos and amigas were dancing, singing and having a good time. No fighting or anything like that. The Spanish-speaking detective, after some unauthorized beverages, whipped out his Glock, started waving it to the ceiling and scaring the daylights out of the merrymakers, who were entertained by a tune, “South of the Border.”

 

In only moments, police cruisers arrived, grabbed the visiting “peacekeeper.” The good guys subdued and disarmed him as customers resumed dancing a version of the tango. Attempting to answer charges to the magistrate, a brief scuffle erupted before order was restored. Lockup deputies got the upper hand.

 

It should be noted courtroom drama as often portrayed in popular television shows is just fiction. Defendants and attorneys aren’t allowed any verbal threats or intimidation while the wheels of justice are turning. Outbursts are handled quickly and decisively 99 times out of a 100. There is always a gag if malefactors misbehave. A belt to the nose also works well.

 

There are lots of heartaches and cries in courtrooms everywhere every day, but there are many times when laughter takes over and anecdotists scribble and chuckle.

 

hmcovert@gmail.com

 



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