May 10th, 2018
“The details don’t matter. All you know, for sure, is that your brain starts humming with brutal vibes as you approach the front door. Something wild and evil is about to happen; and it’s going to involve you.” – Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Karin and I walked through the front door of the court room. We had been there twice before. The room itself was rather innocuous. There was some wood paneling on the walls. A few watercolor paintings of landscapes passed for artwork. Behind the judge’s chair were two flags: that of the U.S., and the Wisconsin state flag. We sat down on one of the wooden benches in the back of the room. The court room was nearly empty. The only other people there were the prosecutor, who was looking intently at his laptop, and some mysterious guy whose job apparently was to make sure that things kept moving along.
Yes indeed, I could feel the brutal vibes. In about ten minutes the judge would pass sentence on the girl we love. Our loved one’s attorney walked into the room. She chatted briefly with the assistant DA. Then we heard the sound of rattling chains, which meant that our young woman was being led into the court room. She came into the room, fashionably dressed in a bright orange clothing. Our girl and her lawyer walked into a back room to talk over some last minute details.
Those two returned to the court room, and then both attorneys indicated to the quiet and unobtrusive man in charge that they were ready to start the show. The man wandered into the back room and mumbled something to someone. Then the bailiff came out of the back room, said, “All rise!”, and then the judge walked in and took his place.
There is a certain amount of drama involved in a sentencing. In some ways, it is anti-climactic because most of the decisions have already been made. The woman we love has already pleaded guilty. The prosecutor has already made his case. The defense attorney has already made her bid. Everybody is done except for the judge. Now it’s his turn to rock everyone’s world. He did.
There was some initial discussion between the judge and the attorneys about the pre-sentencing investigation, and about other details. Then the judge got down to business. He started by saying how difficult it was for him to decide on an appropriate sentence. The vibes got really brutal at that point. The judge patiently explained that he had to balance the prospects for rehabilitation of the defendant with the safety requirements of the public at large. The fact remained that this young woman was now guilty of four drunk driving charges, and the question was: “Will she do it again, and maybe kill somebody?” The judge made it absolutely clear that the young woman was not in court because she drank too much. She was in court because she drank and then drove a car. The judge acknowledged that there were mental health issues involved in the case, but the crux of the matter was whether or not our girl would commit the same crime again, and thereby endanger other people. The judge had no desire to allow our young woman to kill an innocent person or herself by driving drunk.
Things hung in the balance for a seemingly endless period of time. Finally, the judge announced that he would stay the sentence (two years in prison followed by two years of probation). Instead, the young woman would spend another two months in jail, and then she would have three years of probation. If she keeps clean, then everything is fine after the three years is up. If she screws up, the sentence takes effect, and she goes to prison. Done deal.
The ball is in her court.
It’s not over. Nothing is over. We are just starting a new chapter in this saga. Regardless of what happens, Karin and I are deeply involved in the process. We have some answers, but we also have more questions.
It’s not the endgame.