As I wrote yesterday, I had to go to court. I was the victim of a crime in a parking lot in Parker, Colorado. While I don’t really want to go into the details of what happened, until the case is resolved, the defendant was charged with False Imprisonment (a misdemeanor). Truly that sounds much worse than it was. Basically, he would not allow me to leave the parking lot.
Today, the man (who is a stranger to me) was to appear in court to plead. I was told that I could attend or not attend, as I wished. I had already sent a two page typed victim statement to the Victim’s Advocate. I wanted this man to understand what he did to me, so I decided to attend.
First, I arrived at the courthouse early. I wasn’t sure how far away I would have to park and how long it would take me to get through security. So, I arrived at 12:50. The defendant was supposed to appear at 1:30. The Victim’s Advocate was supposed to meet me (somewhere) and introduce me to the District Attorney.
No one was in the FAC (First Appearance Court) area when I arrived. The clerks windows were closed and the lights were off. I sat and waited. At about 1:20 pm the defendant arrived with his wife. While I knew that I wouldn’t be happy to see him, I was not prepared for my reaction. I started shaking and having a panic attack (trouble breathing, feeling like I was going to pass out or throw up, heart racing). Obviously, I was in the courthouse and there were police officers all around and I was safe, but I didn’t feel that way.
At about 1:30 pm a woman wearing a court badge approached me and told me that if the clerk didn’t open the window, I should go in the courtroom and check in with the clerk there. I told her that I was waiting for the Victim’s Advocate and asked if she knew where she was. At this point, the woman told me that they were getting her and I sat and waited again. Finally the clerk opened the window and everyone lined up to check in. I waited off to the side until everyone was finished and the approached the clerk. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to check in or not and handed him the letter I had received from the District Attorney telling me I could attend. The clerk told me that he would let the District Attorney know I was there and to take a seat. About 10 minutes later, a man and a woman (wearing court badges) approached me and confirmed my identity. They told me that they were District Attorneys and that they would like to speak with me.
I followed them into a conference room, where they had me sit and told me that they would like to hear from me, what happened. I was confused, as I thought my victim impact statement was quite clear. Apparently, the Victim’s Advocate had a doctor’s appointment and wasn’t in and they couldn’t find the statement. Wonderful.
I told them what had happened during the incident. The District Attorney told me that originally they were going to offer the defendant 12 months of probation, but upon hearing my story, he felt that it was not appropriate. He told me that they were going to file the additional charge of harassment. He explained that it was a Class 2 or 3 (I can’t remember False Imprisonment was one “class” and Harassment was the other) Misdemeanor and that with the False Imprisonment and Harassment charges they would allow the defendant to plead guilty to one or the other. But they weren’t going to let him plead today. The District Attorney also told me that usually the victims don’t appear in court, but upon seeing me there and hearing my story the additional charge was warranted.
Both District Attorneys told me that what happened prior to the False Imprisonment and Harassment did not give the defendant the right to do what he did. The Police Officer who arrived at the scene in the parking lot, when I called 911, was kind and calming, but he did not give me any indication that the defendant’s behavior was inappropriate. I cannot tell you how much better I felt after hearing that the defendant had no right to do what he did and that he committed a crime.
With the two charges against the defendant, he could serve jail time (up to 12 months) although I don’t see that happening. Most likely he will be fined and put on probation. I can live with that.
There are a couple of things that have me wondering, though. Why didn’t the defendant hire an attorney? He seemed to be middle class (retired) and should have understood that this was a serious thing. It just seems stupid to not have an attorney, when you are facing a criminal charge. Did he think that I would not show up and the charge would be dismissed? I didn’t have to attend. I did because I didn’t want him to get away with what he did to me and I felt that if the Judge knew I was there, he would realize that I was taking this matter seriously.
Also, if I was so rattled after my ordeal with this man and having to see him again (and he didn’t physically touch me), how must other crime victims feel? Going into the court building was overwhelming and intimidating for me – I didn’t do anything wrong, I am a strong, well-educated person – what would it be like for a crime victim who didn’t have any understanding of the legal system or have much of an education?
Why do crime victims and defendants have to be in the same area while waiting for court? Shouldn’t I have been “shielded” from this man? Would I have been if he had physically attacked me?
What happens now, is that they are setting a new court date for this man to appear. At that point, he will need to plead. Since I spoke with the District Attorney today, I do not need to attend that day. The District Attorney will then, provided the man pleads guilty, ask for sentencing to be deferred so that I can attend (as I want to). I am not sure what happens (except that there will be a trial) if the man pleads not guilty. I didn’t ask that and I guess I should have.
I feel validated because of the additional charge of harassment. This man took away my feeling of safety in my community. He took away my confidence in strangers helping strangers (a man got into his car next to me while the defendant was committing his crime and did nothing). He caused Michael to become hysterical. His actions have resulted in spending my time reliving the episode and having to attend court. He did this and he needs to be held accountable.
Yesterday left me physically and emotionally exhausted. The anxiety I had will dissipate until I find out when I need to go to court again and then I will have another day wasted getting ready for, driving to, sitting and waiting at court. I will have to deal with all of this again and then deal with the exhaustion, again. So, while I am glad that the District Attorney feels that a crime was committed and that additional charges should be filed against this man, I wish that it had just been resolved today. Actually, I wish that it had never happened. But wishing on a star doesn’t necessarily mean your dreams will come true, so heigh-ho, heigh-ho it’s off to court I go, again!