I’ve got a story that’s been knocking on my head for months so I finally worked up an outline for it. I’m in the middle of writing A Place of Safety and Dair’s Window, so can’t really focus on this, but I wanted to get it down. Maybe make it my next project, once these two are done.
Not sure of the title, yet. Maybe Misdemeanor or even the more obvious one, Pyrrhic Victory…
Phillip, an older gay man, is in town for business; goes to a late night convenience store for food, is followed into the store by an extremely well-built juice-junkie named Maxwell, followed around the store. Even follows him to the cashier’s counter. Phillip gets spooked so, when about to pay for his things asks the clerk to hold them and goes to look at magazines. Maxwell pays and leaves. Phillip waits 5 minutes then pays and exits.
Maxwell is outside by streetlamp, waiting. Follows him. Stops him. Asks for sex. Phillip says no thanks. Maxwell arrests him, says he’s a cop. Phillip argues. Is take to jail. Booked.
Next day, arraignment. Timothy, the DDA, asks for $100K bond since Phillip’s from out of town. Claims the Phillip followed Maxwell into the store, followed him around the store, followed him out of the store, stopped him on the way to his car, asked him for sex then exposed his erect penis to entice Maxwell. Phillip calls that a lie and argues has no criminal history, no outstanding warrants, not even an unpaid parking ticket. No evidence whatsoever. Winds up having to post $10K in bond. Finds out he’s lost the job he came to do.
Phillip rejects Public Defender, Gavin, because only wants to get him a deal. Shrugs off claim of innocence. Phillip talks to two other lawyers; both give the same advice. He decides to defend himself. Buys a map of the area, drives around in his car, tries to get the store’s owner to give him a copy of the store security surveillance tape but is refused. “Get it from the DA’s office; they have a copy.” Phillip winds up getting it from the store’s security service, then goes to his hotel and begins working out his strategy.
The next day, Phillip meets with Timothy and his associate. They push for deal. He refuses. “I’ve done nothing wrong or illegal and I’m not going to say I did just to make your job easier. If you want to turn me into a criminal, you’re going to do it in court, on the record, in front of God and everybody, and without my help.”
They argue, then Timothy slaps him with a motion to increase the charges. They go before Judge Karen Goldberg and Timothy claims arrest happened within 600 feet of a school. Never mind it was nearly midnight. Phillip pulls out map and proves no school within 600 feet. Last one moved a year ago. Has a printout of the school’s webpage showing new address and recorded himself driving up and down every street within 650 feet to show there is no school. Goldberg reluctantly refuses the motion.
Timothy taken aback. Phillip quietly berates him for not practicing due diligence, only caring about winning case, but Timothy says it’s his job to. Phillip laughs. “That’s what the guards at Auschwitz said.” Then he says Timothy’s job is to make sure justice is served, not just to win.
Timothy talks to DA, Fred, who asks to talk to Phillip. He’s already driving back to his home so doesn’t want to bother. They trick him into thinking the charges will be dropped if he does. He turns around.
Instead, the DA uses strong arm tactics to try and force a deal, says they found two witnesses to back up the cop. Phillip refuses, and says, “You have no idea what you just told me. You know that little shit who arrested me is lying, and you will do everything you can to help him get away with it.” Phillip figures out the witnesses are fellow cops, so says, “If those two want to risk their careers, and maybe even their freedom, in order to help a fellow office win a conviction in a misdemeanor, far be it from me to deny them the chance.” He then tells the Timothy, “I will not believe another word from your mouth.” And leaves.
Deanna, Timothy’s assistant looks at the video at the store and sees it doesn’t match what Maxwell claimed, inside, and tells Timothy. He talks to the man and is told there are two witnesses, and they insist Maxwell’s version is correct. But Maxwell admits he was tired and irritated and just wrote down the basics needed; it only felt like the guy was following him around the store…and he assumed he came in after him because he didn’t see him till after he was inside.
Phillip turns out to have no criminal history, as he claimed. Timothy now concerned if he drops the charges, Phillip will sue the city and cause trouble. Fred says let Goldberg decide. That gives their office cover.
Phillip researches Timothy and Goldberg. He went to Harvard School of Law, as did she. Also finds reference in announcements section of old law journal that she was being made partner in a law firm and has photo of her with Timothy’s parents. Timothy’s father was already a partner and she was made a godparent at Timothy’s christening, in caption. Checks with town’s county clerk and told not considered a close enough relationship to matter in appearance of impropriety. Keeps researching.
Phillip headed back to town for trial but stops to contact state chapter of the ACLU, in capital. They aren’t interested in helping him; too much else going on. Do give him pointers. He reaches town and checks in, and is approached by Gavin as go-between with DA’s office. Offering a really good deal. Phillip refuses. “How did you know where I was?” “License plate’s been tagged. Cop saw it and told the DA’s office.”
Just before trial, Timothy makes one last effort to get Phillip to make a deal. Goldberg is very hard-assed and she’s rendered convictions with less evidence. No go. All in court, Goldberg enters.
Opening statements then Maxwell testifies. Kinder, gentler version of what happens, but also emphasizes Phillip exposed himself. That’s why arrested instead of handed citation. Timothy has him explain harsher incident report. Phillip asks when he decided to change version of encounter. Goes through step-by-step. Have no physical evidence except backup of “two fellow police officers.” No one else around. At all? Deserted. Phillip shows video in court, strongly suggesting Maxwell followed him in and followed him around but nothing visible after they exit, it seems; store’s windows are covered with ads painted on and paper taped up on glass. Maxwell irritated by line of questioning, barely held in line by Timothy.
1st backup witness, Landon, patrol officer. Across street in patrol car. Saw Maxwell under street lamp, talking on phone and smoking. Saw Phillip exit store, see Maxwell and approach him, then headed on. Phillip asks why they didn’t stick around in case Maxwell needed backup. Didn’t feel the need to. Car they’re in is black & white, emergency lights on top, headlights on, computer console in car. Headed north, stopped at light at intersection. 70-80 feet away? “So you say I came to a city I’ve never been to, before, and approached a man I’ve never seen before and asked him to do something I don’t know he’s ever done, before, with a city police car not a hundred feet away?” “Don’t know what you’d do.” Makes it sound like the cops left Maxwell to fend for himself in a snotty way. Landon not happy.
2nd backup witness, Ron, younger and good-looking. When Phillip sees him he asks him to back away. Not get involved. Say he doesn’t recognize him. Shrugged off so says, “Remember, I offered you a way out.” Same info as Landon…but asks about store security video. Ron knows the store has it. “Would it back up your version of events?” “Why wouldn’t it?” “Let’s see.”
Timothy fights replaying the tape. “Already seen it.” Phillip says it proves cops were not there. Goldberg curious so agrees to play it. Shows Phillip enter, followed by Maxwell, obvious Maxwell stalking him, leave 5 minutes after Maxwell…then Phillip points out, “When Maxwell exited, he turned to the right, where the streetlamp and corner are. When I exit, I turn to the left and walk away from him.” So what? Could have turned around. Then Phillip asks, “Tell me, why are there no headlights?”
Phillip points out throughout the video when a car passes outside, its headlights reflect in the door’s frame. But none seen from before the point Phillip exits. “May not show every time.” Then Phillip runs tape further to point out far corner of uncovered window shows him passing…followed by Maxwell. Timothy tries to argue could be anyone but Maxwell said was deserted.
Timothy asks for time to check veracity of the tape. Phillip argues DA has own copy and should have done a better job of checking. “Not my fault they don’t know how to do their job.” Timothy asks for two weeks continuance; Phillip against more than a day’s continuance. Lives 400 miles away. Difficult to get back and forth, expensive. “Not the concern of this court,” says Goldberg and gives Timothy his two weeks.
Timothy talks to Maxwell, Landon and Ron. Figures out the latter two agreed to back Maxwell up as a favor. Now angry. Maxwell insists his version is correct, but Timothy doesn’t believe him. “Contact your union reps; get lawyers. This is going to get nasty.” He talks to Fred, who is now angry. “It’s a goddamn misdemeanor; why’d it get this far? End it.” Never mind he told Timothy to let the judge decide.
Phillip learns he cannot get a copy of the trial transcript for 3 weeks, but surreptitiously recorded it so has a voice-transcription program shift it to RTF on his laptop. Sends a PDF to his contact at the ACLU along with info about Goldberg being one of Timothy’s godparents. Also sends to state’s attorney general’s office and state bar. He digs in and finds out Timothy’s father went to Yale School of Law, not Harvard; same for grandfather. Odd. Asks ACLU if possible he was brought into Harvard as legacy thanks to Goldberg.
Early morning, cops bust in and arrest Phillip on fugitive warrant. Big and noisy. Take all his things down to jail and book him. Hauled before a judge and held without bail pending extradition hearing to San Antonio. Phillip furious and says only, “This is all a lie.” He’s kept in isolation “for his protection.”
Timothy meets with Phillip. Warrant is from June 1979 regarding arrest for sex with an underage boy while working at a newsstand in downtown San Antonio. Have a copy of the incident report but won’t let him see it. “Make a deal or get an attorney.” “I am my attorney.” “I won’t go along with that, this time, and neither will Goldberg.” Phillip still refuses.
Arraignment before Goldberg. Gavin forced on him as “backup attorney.” Other charges blended in with accusation he’s a serial child molester. Finally shown the incident report. “Is it in the record?” He’s told yes and cannot be changed. He specifically asks the court reporter and she answers, “Yes.” So Phillip points out number 0183 is at bottom right of report form, meaning it was not put into circulation till January 1983. Timothy dismisses that as nonsense. Then Phillip says, “The address is wrong. In June 1979 this building had been torn down to make way for a parking garage. Look it up on Google Maps; you’ll see it’s still there. This is falsified evidence.” Uproar. Even Gavin is angry at the subterfuge, tells Phillip, “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”
Then Deanna gets a text. Phillip’s laptop cracked and they found email to ACLU and AG. That causes a ruckus. Continuance till can be sorted. That is when Phillip loses it and accuses Goldberg of favoring Timothy in everything. Should not be hearing any of his cases due to them being so close — godparent and long-term friend of the family. Adds he’s seen how she looks at Timothy and he knows it and is playing her. Sends Phillip back to jail as he screams, “You better have me killed in there!” Gavin takes over case and says will apply for writ of habeas corpus.
Deanna calls Fred in. They all meet in Goldberg’s chambers. Fred got a call from head of ACLU in capital wondering if he knew what was going on. Trying to reach Phillip but heard he was arrested, however jail says not there. Found out Goldberg got Timothy into Harvard. She admits that and being his godparent, but defends herself against accusation of sexual yearning. BUT Wanda sees a look she sends Timothy and now does not believe her. Lets Fred know, in secret.
Gavin gets Phillip released before taken back to jail from courthouse. His things are shoved at him, stuffed in his suitcase and valise. Phone’s screen is smashed and it barely works. Laptop obviously dropped. “File a claim.” Has to get his car from the impound lot and pay $250 in fees. It’s scratched and dinged. “File a claim.” Gavin promises to assist him in every way.
Phillip gets another hotel room. Takes a shower. Gets a new phone and blue tooth ear buds. Very tired. Very depressed, but also angry. Stops at Starbucks to use WiFi and have tea. Gets his laptop fired up to find it’s been wiped clean. “Stupid people.”
Deanna finds him there. “How’d you find me?” “Close to your hotel.” “So you’re tracking me.” She asks why he’s being so difficult. He is apathetic, says, “I’ve always had this streak where, when someone is trying to make me do something I do not want to do, I won’t do it.” Shows her scars from where this got him hurt or in hospital. “Do you know what a pyrrhic victory is? I’ve had several.” Accuses her of helping DA’s office in campaign to destroy him just because he wouldn’t back down. “You’re standing by and letting them do it. BTW, tell your cop buddies it didn’t work.” “What?” He shows her his laptop. “I have an automatic backup to an archival file off-frame. Everything’s there.”
Deanna learns state bar has been in contact and thinking about investigating Timothy and Goldberg for conspiracy to suborn perjury. Reporter also called about rumors he’s hearing that several past convictions might be under review for reversal. Head of cop union not happy. AG coming down to look into cops committing perjury. State police getting involved. Can probably weather it, but will be a mess.
Goldberg and Timothy talk in her chambers. She does feel strongly towards him but never wanted a relationship. Watched him grow and helped him every way she can, from introducing him to people and getting him on political campaigns and finding for him every time and also sending him a signal to withdraw the charges when the case was too obviously going to be not guilty, making it look like he had fine judgement. He was like her son, since she only had daughters and both were daddy’s girls, never hers. “It’s reached a point where I’ll have to give a not guilty verdict in your case against Phillip, no matter what you do next.” “Don’t bother; no more case. I’m suspended and Fred’s dropping it.” He leaves. She goes home, has wine, talks to husband, calls her kids and grandkids, goes into bathroom, fills the tub, undresses, gets in and cuts her throat open.
Town explodes with news of her death, next morning. Phillip wakes to it and is called into DA’s office, or else. Gavin suggests he do it. “Should I be sorry she wasn’t strong enough to face what she had done? I’m not.” Turns out arrest warrant and incident report from SA were fabricated. Maxwell going to jail for it, once they find him. Landon and Ron may join him. Timothy facing disbarment. forty-two cases may have to be revisited. “That make you happy?” DA asks. “Yes. If you people had done your job instead of act like a branch of the police department, none of this would have happened.”
Phillip wants Gavin to file perjury charges against Maxwell, Landon and Ron and file complaint with State Bar against Timothy. “The DA is already doing that and the state bar is already involved.” “I don’t care; I want it official.” Now has a solid lawyer from capital to handle things so files $25,000,000 claim against city. Driving home, Phillip pulled over by police car. Isolated area. Landon and Ron driving. Phillip calls 911 on phone and hides it. Bluetooth on. They arrest him and force him into police car as he demands they explain themselves. Lets dispatcher know where he is all the time. Taken off the road into a forest area.
Dispatcher loses the call, but sends out chopper to seek and find cop car. Calls in Captain. Chopper sees car but Captain slow-walking it, unsure. Trying to locate Landon and Ron to verify. Sends message to specific cops, taking their time trying to find them.
Phillip sees he’s been taken to Maxwell and knows he’s going to be killed and buried. Refuses to get out of the car. Wraps the seat belt around his arm. Fights with Maxwell.
Chief of Police arrives at dispatch and explodes. Howls they’d better stop what’s about to happen. “If I get any idea they’re not going balls to the wall to find that man, I will tear them a new one. Send out the APB, all channels.”
APB comes over radio, startling them. Landon takes off in another car. Ron calls for Maxwell to stop, “it’s too late so let’s get out of here.” Phillip will not give in then cops heard approaching, full blast; chopper overhead. Maxwell furious so shoots Phillip three times and bolts into the woods, leaving Ron to take the heat. Survivalist so knows how to live off the land. Ron crying over shooting. They just wanted to talk but Maxwell went nuts. Comforted by fellow officers.
Landon blocked from leaving by cops at other end. Shoots at them, hits one, but still taken alive.
Phillip wakes in hospital. Gavin tells him Ron and Landon pled guilty to conspiracy. Still searching for Maxwell but closing in. Timothy is disbarred and Deanna was suspended. DA is not running for office, next term. Feds are investigating, as is State AG. “Hundreds of guilty verdicts and plea bargains are now in jeopardy. Happy now?” All Phillip can manage to say is, “Haven’t told you? Blind in one eye. Paralyzed from waist down.” “All because you wouldn’t give in.” “No, because they wouldn’t, and you let them.”
Gavin leaves, asked by reporter about Phillip and his reaction. He finally accepts his part in it and says, “Had I fought for him half as hard as he fought for himself, this never would have happened. This is what you call a pyrrhic victory.”