Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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This is America? Really?

Whitney Curtis took this picture for the New York Times, of a peaceful protest in Ferguson, Missouri, where a policeman days earlier shoot to death an unarmed 18-year-old. The only one peaceful here is the man with his arms raised.

Whitney Curtis took this picture for the New York Times, of a peaceful protest in Ferguson, Missouri, where a policeman days earlier shot to death an unarmed 18-year-old. The only one peaceful here is the man with his arms raised, who believed the teenager had his arms raised too when he was murdered.

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Two Miracles in Uganda

Second from left, Nicholas Opiyo, an Ugandan hero

Second from left, Nicholas Opiyo, an Ugandan hero

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

A few months ago I wrote about a Nigerian judge who was criticized for merely ordering a man beaten nearly to death for the crime of being homosexual: his critics in that Islamic state wanted the offender stoned completely to death, as provided by law.

A couple of thousand miles to the east lies Uganda, an overwhelmingly Christian country. Until just this month, homosexuals fared much better there, facing, at worst, life imprisonment for that status crime. Then Uganda’s constitutional court struck down that law, sort of, on grounds that not enough homophobic legislators were present around Christmastime when its parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA).

The court — as supreme courts everywhere like to do — declined to rule on the actual merits of the law. So, whether the law is a human rights abomination remains an open question (in Uganda at least) for another day — for example, the day the lawmakers gather the quorum the court insisted is necessary to legitimize throwing gay people in prison.

Still, it was at least a temporary victory, particularly for folks who believe that Jesus’s message to the world was love and not hate. And it was thrilling to read the Tweets of a lead Ugandan lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo, who brought suit against the AHA. Here are some of them, in the buildup to the court’s ruling:

(Tuesday 29 July)

It’s D-day in court tomorrow. The hearing of the Anti-homosexuality Act petition starts at 9.30am at the Constitutional Court.

Let’s now focus on the legal &human rights arguments not religious, cultural or politics. The AHA is unconstitutional &violates human rights

(Wednesday 30 July; the hearing begins and the government wants to stall.)

Constitutional court rejects the application of the AG to adjourn the AHA case & refused to grant leave to appeal. Hearing in process.

(Opiyo meets with Martin Ssempa, an Ugandan evangelical Baptist preacher who favors putting gay men and lesbians to death, shows gay porn videos in church to drum up support for this proposition, and incidentally is a favorite of evangelical preachers in the West.)

Pastor Sempa & I had a cordial chat after the AHA hearing.Although I declined his ofa 2pray 4me,we agreed 2 chat lata

“@jjuukoa: @nickopiyo thank you for making submissions in the case. I am confident human rights shall triumph.” Thanks Adrian.

The constitutional court adjourns to tomorrow further hearing of the AHA petition in Ug. We believe that the court will find in our favour

(Thursday 31 July)

The constitutional court adjourns to tomorrow at 9.30am to make a ruling on the AHA Petition. We will all be in court.

The parties are assembled in court. It’s a packed court house. The AHA decision due any minute. Let justice prevail

Court stands over the AHA ruling/judgment until noon today. The lawyers and petitioners are put. Going nowhere till noon

(Friday 1 August; the preacher Ssempa is beside himself — and everyone else in the courtroom — as the judges debate in chambers. Ssempa howls prayers to God and insults to petitioners until security guards ask him to please sit down and shut up. A miracle occurs: he actually does.)

The theatrics of Pastor Sempa aside – praying in the court room & making a nuisance of himself- the most important words will come 4m court

Judges in- giving the press 5 mins to clear so court can start

AHA struck down for being unconstitutional

Justice prevailed- we won

I will leave Kampala tomorrow for Washington Dc to attend the US-Africa Leaders Summit. What a better news to carry to the rest of the world

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Though Homo Sapiens, We’re Not Necessarily All Gay

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Over in Utah, where I’m pretty sure the native language is English, a man who teaches that tongue to nonnative speakers was fired for broaching the delicate topic of homophones. Homophones are words that sound alike but mean different things, like read/reed, told/tolled, and raise/raze.

The owner of the Nomen Global Language Center, whose motto is “English Will Take You Higher,” thought the term had something to do with gay sex. That was to/two/too much for him.

It isn’t known if the owner had embraced his school motto a tad literally, but after firing the teacher, he immediately canceled his milk delivery.

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Rear Window

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

My neighbor went to jail today, the first day of a sentence that could be of the rest of his life. His lawyers advised him it was for the best, a good deal. I was to have been a witness at his trial. A witness, because I knew he did not commit kidnaping and rape.

I knew it — and worse, everybody involved in the case knew it, or should have known it.

A week before trial, my neighbor took a deal to plead guilty to a lesser charge, in exchange for the district attorney dropping the rape and kidnaping charges. The DA asked no jail time, but my neighbor would have to register as a sex offender and be on probation for ten years. The judge added six months’ work release in county jail to make appearances a little better, considering the gravity of the original charges.

It was a great, great deal for a rapist and kidnaper. For my neighbor, who was neither, it was an obscenity. For a woman who had actually been kidnaped and raped, the sentence was a greater obscenity.

My neighbor asserted his lawyers begged him to take the deal, told him if he was convicted he would go to jail for the rest of his life, told him he would nevermore see his father or mother, told him they would die alone without him, told him he would be singled out as a sex offender in prison and sodomized again and again.

Because he took a plea deal to a sex offense, I couldn’t agree with his lawyers more…now. Not before the deal, but now, Now, a single screwup in the next ten years can revoke his probation and impose the full sentence, which for a sex offender can be for the rest of his natural life.

The DA could not have believed that my neighbor would be convicted at trial, that she could prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. What prosecutor offers no jail time for what she described in court documents as “a prolonged physical and sexual assault”?

For the same reason, the defense lawyers should have known how weak the case was, But there was more. The day after the alleged assault, the “victim” called her ex-husband (or so he planned to testify) and said she had done something terrible to her friend, and lied to the police, and asked what she should do.

Four days after the incident she asked the court to modify the criminal protection order against my neighbor so she could phone, email, and meet with “my best friend,” whom she described as “pretty close” to “perfect.” He was “the only reason” she didn’t kill herself some months before, and implied she might try again now: “I’m afraid something will happen to me if I can’t at least talk to him.”

“He knows more about me than anyone…the truth is I trust no one like I trust (him).” One of the things my neighbor told me he knew about her was that she had made similar claims about other men she tried to break up with, and that her ex-husband would testify to that.

But that wasn’t why I believed my neighbor. It was because of the screaming.

It was ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit, and humid, the day I lay down to sleep, a couple of hours before my neighbor supposedly committed his crimes, in and around a van and car parked in front of his house. Our bedroom window is maybe 150 feet away, line of sight and sound. Because of the heat, and because we have no air conditioning, the window was wide open.

According to the police report, this is what my neighbor’s girlfriend said happened, from around two in the morning until four, under that wide-open window:

It began with an argument in his Ford Mustang convertible. At some point she tried to get out of the car, saying she’d walk home. He grabbed her with force, pulled her back into the car. Eventually he started to leave the car, she saw her chance and tried to get away. He went after her, his left leg “popped out,” yet he still managed to tackle her to the sidewalk, drag her back to another vehicle, his van, and throw her into the back of the van, slamming the door shut behind him.

In the van, as she kicked and fought, he managed to get her clothes off. She hit him in the mouth with her elbow. He pushed her down. She was crying. They continued a heated argument. He wouldn’t let her put her clothes back on. He threatened to take her to another house and leave her there, naked, and tried to pull her back out of the van, but she held onto something so he couldn’t.

During the next couple of hours she tried, “a few times,” to escape but he forcibly stopped her each time. At one point she did escape and ran down the street looking for help, he caught her and again dragged her back. At another, she said he forcibly performed oral sex on her, she screamed, and he punched her in the stomach. After yet another escape from the van, he caught her, threw her onto the hood of the Mustang, and resumed his assault. According to the police report.

Did all this make any noise, any noise at all?

My wife is a light sleeper, disturbed by almost any noise at all; she’s like the princess and the pea. She didn’t wake up and hear any of this, taking place nearly just below our open window. I didn’t wake and hear any of this.

But most of all, our dog didn’t wake and hear any of this. Our dog is a Tibetan mastiff. The mastiff is bred for protection. For centuries these dogs protected peaceful monks from less peaceful robbers who would otherwise loot their temples, and even from tigers who would otherwise eat the monks. The things weigh from 150 pounds to over 200 (ours is a petite 160). Its bark — and it barks to protect — would frighten the walking dead. We are so, so protected. One of our other neighbors hates us, we are so protected.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been awakened by the barking of our dog, protecting us. From a raccoon ambling quietly down the street, From distant thunder only she can hear. From people walking down the sidewalk and having a quiet conversation.

I can’t help but believe she would have protected us from a heated argument in the middle of the night. From people running up and down the street. From the sound of a body slammed atop a car hood. Most of all, from the screaming.

That’s why I was to be a witness at his trial. Because we all slept that night.

Because there was no trial, because my neighbor was too afraid, perhaps because his lawyers were too afraid, my neighbor is not my neighbor anymore. We live across from an elementary school. A sex offender is not permitted to live across from an elementary school.

He will never again be able to hug his own young nieces and nephews. He will never be able to hold his own child. If he meets another woman and she wants to stay overnight with him, he has to tell her he’s a sex offender. Great opening line at a bar, if he were allowed in a bar.

His probation officer can tell him when to be home at night. He can’t hitchhike, or pick up a hitchhiker. He can’t use the internet.

There’s more, of course. There’s always more. And if he violates any of these rules, his whole purpose in taking a plea bargain, rather than taking his chances at trial, is lost.

Because then he can go to prison. Real prison, for the rest of his days.

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Old Habits Die Hard

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Slavery is illegal in every country of the world. The last slave nation on earth, Mauritania, abolished the practice in 1981. But in 2014, scattered around the planet, and including in the United States, are twenty million slaves.

Twenty million.

That’s a big number. Every living soul in the state of New York. Every man, woman, and child in Australia. Every one, sold into sex, both children and adults, or forced to work through fraud, coercion or threat of violence.

It’s Twelve Years a Slave in our own time.

The Trafficking in Persons Report, published last month by this country’s Department of State, tells the stories of a few of these people:

• Of a twelve-year-old Cambodian girl whose mother took her to a local hospital to get a “certificate of virginity” so that she could be sold to pay a family debt.

• Of a U.S. runaway and the man who promised to help her and pimped her out instead, beating and threatening to kill the teenager when she refused any man forced upon her.

• Of an Indian Cinderella sold for her labor to an upscale Brahmin family who kept her locked up and rewarded her labors not with cash but with regular violent beatings.

• Of a boy inflamed by the stories of his cousin of a job to be had that would pay him in chunks of gold in the mining region of Peru, then forced to work eight months to pay off his cousin’s ”recruiting fee.”

• Of an unpaid Filipina housecleaner sold from house to house (eleven houses in all) in Saudi Arabia, beaten so severely at the last house she was deemed unsuitable for “work” and deported back home.

There are more, but the stories don’t tell the whole of it. Often these slaves are arrested by police for the things they are forced to do, then jailed, then prosecuted because police and prosecutors are trained to see the crime and not the “criminal,” then convicted, then jailed again. The State Department report acknowledges this is common practice in our own justice system.

Sometimes, police moonlight as security for the very businesses that engage in human trafficking, a kind of double protection for the traffickers because one cop tends to look away from the actions of a fellow officer.

And all this goes on with the full knowledge of the governments of the world, a fair number of which don’t care and some of which at least tolerate, if not encourage, the traffic. Hell, some congressmen, senators, and even presidents of our world nations — again including the United States — are beneficiaries of human trafficking.

The United States, where every year 100,000 children are trafficked for sex, says all these nations need to do more to curb the trade.

Some truths we hold to be self-evident.

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