Jack did. Jill did. Before explaining why, let me provide some background. In a former life I had the fortune – or misfortune – of trying a least ten federal criminal conspiracy trials (a safe guess), ranging from one week to six months in duration. A conspiracy occurs when two or more persons agree to participate in criminal activity in the violation of the laws of the United States.
The pattern was always familiar, and still remains embedded in still my psyche: a federal judge reading at a controlled pace, telling jurors “a participant need not understand the full extent of the overall conspiracy to be held criminally culpable.” Every time his/her honors said those words I touched the client and prayed that he/she would not be subsumed by the encompassing broadness of the conspiracy laws.
People normally confess for a reason: to clear ones conscience – a possibility; narcissism and a belief ones conduct has no consequences; sometimes as simple as being much like the chicken – to reach the other side of the road. This muse may be a little of all.
Recently, I was asked to participate in the reading of the Mueller Report. “Whatever section you desire me to read”, were my words. I was given a time to appear. I complied and appeared. Before talking a seat to review the materials, I saw copies of the report stacked on a table. I then to move backward in time, seeing the past dredge upward, like spoiled buttermilk: his/her “Your Honors” reading slowly, deliberately, to citizens engaged in their compelled civic-duty, looking over seeing the familiar conduct of the federal prosecutors, cocksure, confident, comforted by the conspiracy laws’ breath. These visions didn’t cause me to walk out before reading. I displayed exceptional bravery and stayed. I did what I was asked to do.
While reading a familiar emotion visited – anger. Previously to agreeing to participate I had read new accounts of the Mueller’s conclusion on the conspiracy count. I had a difficult time reconciling the conclusion with the known facts, particularly with experiences in the criminal justice system. Why overt activities don’t constitute a conspiracy? What exceptions did the report attempt to carve out? Is this somewhat akin to George W. Bush exception, creating new rules out of whole cloth? Why are free passes being issued these, while others of lesser means have never been accorded privileged positions? Why?
No matter what the press releases said – explaining why. No matter how the political commentators’ angled the fact, the conclusion did not make sense to me. I understood the words meaning then – in that other life – I understand the meaning of the words now.
Turning the pages, I reminded myself of the interconnection of money and power in the daily administration of the criminal justice. This was something I found difficult explaining to clients and others while attempting to balance the mythical scales of justice. This was the difficulty I encountered in the just reading Mueller’s finding on conspiracy.
May I digress slightly – I promise I will get to Jack and Jill – before you accuse me of being a bitter man. I will own my bitterness, I am. Not bitter because of my previous life. Not bitter because of having to try conspiracy cases and the results achieved. Do not let my previous confession – or profession – confuse you.
I enjoyed my work. I was successful in the representation of those approximately ten citizens. An eight out of ten success-ratio, in any profession, is a good return; work performed in federal courts in Houston, San Antonio, Little Rock, Galveston, among others. The results achieved are an anomaly. Lucky man was I – perhaps. However, this previous work is not the reason I muse.
Slowly moving through Section 2 – thinking too much – witnessing voice tone and tenor involuntarily shift – to the point of being shrill – wanting to stop and tell the audience … Are you kidding me! Enveloping an insane desire to pivot in place and give a lecture on the law … This means this. The same as those federal judges have instructed juries in the past, daily, in the future – over and over – in different jurisdictions throughout this country.
I continued to read. Jack fell down and broke his crown; Jill tumbled after him – he did – she did.
The finding of no conspiracy makes no sense. The tortured journey the report took caused a recurring dream to recur- in broad daylight – not in the dead of night, not while succumbed under covers. The criminal justice system is at its worse when power, money, and protection of a political class are at stake.
When I read, “no one is above the law”, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time and throw the report to the side and leave the podium. I didn’t, I kept reading.
Jack’s fall was complete. Jill’s too. My voice and tone irretrievably broken, like Jack’s crown … louder, louder, louder … shrilly was me.
Forever an optimist I remained, reading with an embedded hope, wanting to find an undiscovered gem, which would say something – anything – different. Hope notwithstanding, Mueller said what he said, the report said what the press said it said (they are what we thought they were).
Time incrementally continued it predictable pace, permitting errors to highlight the ready – misspeaking, grappling with a dry mouth – clearing my throat – mispronouncing one word, two, flipping pages, moving toward the end of the text – Old Negro Spirituals played in my head, while I looked askew, praying for a better day.
Somehow I finished. I moved slowing out of the room, toward the exit, into the clarifying arms of Mother Nature. The heat encouraged me to move from one place to another, quicker, quickly, little boy in trouble fast. My movement didn’t prevented anxiety from accompanying me out the door, down the street, back into protective covering. It did. While Jack did, while Jill did too.
I have been pushed into a stupefying silence over the last few months; watching, reading, seeing the assaultive dance on the constitution – hourly, daily, weekly – tweeting, preening – telling us what we saw, read and heard is not what we saw, read and heard. Reading about the litigation assault, trying to count the number of lawyers engaged in the civil litigation designed to slow, stop, cease inquiry, keeping others at bay; using money, time and influence. Watching rights flitter away – much like birds in flight – while the others stood in the shadow of my dreams looking, wondering why the law reads one way of them and not for them.
What an impressive dancer. A smart dresser, a stable genius; holding on, delaying, pardoning, obfuscating. Dancing, moving across the landscape, insulting what little integrity remaining in the criminal justice system, telling the rest of us how poorly he/they/his supporters are being treated, while the minions parrot the hysterical conduct, applauding profusely, sprouting the same rhetoric, threatening others who dare disagree with the invitation back to the wild, wild west.
Watching the deadly mix of diversion and hate occur; obtaining the desired effect, in Gilroy, California, in El Paso and Midland/Odessa, Texas, in Dayton, Ohio. Mimicking historical voices – the words used aren’t by accident – repeating the words of yore – over and over and over again. Jack died? Jill died?
Hearing the citizenry now explain how vulnerable they now feel. Whether she/he/they likes it or not, she/he/they are now the others; those we have read about, saw on television, thinking not them, that she/he/they were safe. None of us are safe from the persistent madness.
Fear now anger has laden my watching, having seen this before. The criminal system becomes eschewed when an office, a man, a party is placed above the rest of us. So that I am clear, I don’t muse to be pessimistic. I don’t muse to be scared, angry or anxious. I muse to say we have seen and survived worst – at least my grandparents told me as much.
Francis Hall Johnson was one of America’s greatest composers. Johnson genres were spirituals and classical. He coached some of America’s greatest talents – Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Robert McFerrin, and Shirley Verrett. In 1930 Johnson selected and arranged a series of Negro spirituals. In 1958 he gave us the Negro spiritual Hold On, like other Negro spirituals, birthed under seemingly impossible conditions; conditions which would cause an ordinary people to succumb; throw their hands up and quit. Let me see if I can make the reference to Negro spirituals make sense.
A childhood friend’s father occupation was that of a trash man. The father contracted with residents in the unincorporated areas to dispose of their trash. His mother cleaned homes. Mr. and Mr. Hiawatha Bradley had thirteen children and made sure each one of them completed high school and college. Hiawatha told his children they were not captive by others realities. His/her words are part of my life’s lesson.
Spewing hate, encouraging violence, playing stupid along the way, while assuming the rest of us are stupid will not work; pardoning his way toward an election – playing the system from one end to the other, also will not work. The recurring refrain in Hold On is, “keep your hands on the plow and hold on,” is part of the reminder.
No, no, no, I didn’t fall down on the steps of the library and awaken imbued with an over-bearing religiosity, albeit my relatives and friends would love for a small accident – a miracle – if that is all it took. Just a small knot on his head, Lord!
Holding on will force this president to step aside sooner than we anticipate, causing him to cut a deal (remember he is the deal maker), to avoid future prosecution. No, the speeches and encouragement to violence from his and his supporters will not cease. Money, power, and different life realities are privileges accorded few and their activities are designed to protect as much, tilting Lady Justice’s Arm to the point of breaking one – both – if necessary. This conduct should alarm the rest of us. Freeing Lady Liberty from this conduct – this assault – is an obligation bestowed upon all of us. We fail at our peril.