Will the Judicial System Protect
Individual Liberty?

by Thomas

On April 2, 1997, I went to D.C. Superior Court where I was subjected to a trial which might be interpreted as evidence that the judicial system can deliver justice. Unfortunately, my day in court wasn't enough to make me a complete believer.

The whole thing started last November 4th, it was the day before election day and I got arrested across the street from the White House shortly after I did a T.V. news interview, which a couple of Park Police officers had unsuccessfully tried to prevent. For want of a better excuse, they charged me with disorderly conduct.

April 2, 1997 marked my third court appearance to answer the bogus charge, and the system finally got around to putting me on trial. On a meatball charge like this, of course, the system had long ago determined that there is no right to a jury trial. Here in the big sh!tty, where our allegedly understaffed, beleaguered system claims to be sooo terribly overworked, I wasn't even entitled to a judge trial. Instead I lucked out and got a trial before Commissioner Trainor. Commissioner Trainor was appointed by JFK and has a reputation as a fair fact-finder, I figured this was a lucky draw because the the only other card left in today's deck was Commissioner Hess, a Reagan appointee with a reputation for fascistic narrow mindedness.

I had three witnesses, in addition to myself. This little adventure in the halls of justice represented a tremendous energy drain from other. In our collective consensus, much more meaningful activities, but for this bloodsucking, time-wasting procedural drain. The government had only the arresting officer, who was getting time and a half.

Along with eight other folks who were interested in watching the contest, we'd all been in the courthouse since 8:30 a.m. -- remember, this is the third day in court for some of us. In a pre-trial conference at 2:00 p.m. the Commissioner informed my mouthpiece that he was going to leave the courthouse for some other engagement at 3:30, therefore, he might only have time to do half the trial day, and we all might have to come back tomorrow to finish up. My attorney pointed out that an awful lot of time had already been squandered on this matter. I was told that the Commissioner admonished him, "If you want justice, you need patience."

Well, Okay

We started the trail with my attorney insisting that the government make an opening statement. The government complied. My man immediately moved for acquittal. The prosecutor pressed the bounds of reason and logic with one of the lamest arguments I ever heard. Being a very open-minded fact-finder, Commissioner Trainor, gave the government the benefit of doubt, and denied the motion.

U.S. Park Police Officer David Lombardi took the witness stand, and swore to God that he would tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." For the following hour Officer Lombardi continuously embellished, exaggerated, omitted, and fabricated in his version of our mutual experience involving a T.V. crew across the street from the White House on November 4, 1996.

I was very favorably impressed with the alert manner and pointed questions with which Commissioner Trainor addressed the officer's testimony.

At the end of the officer's testimony, the Commissioner asked the government if it had anything further to present. The government replied in the negative, and my barrister renewed his Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, which the Commissioner quickly granted -- meaning the trial was over, I was "not guilty," and we wouldn't have to waste any more of our time the next day.

Momentarily, as Officer Lombardi stumbled in defeat from the witness stand, and began dragging his sorry butt toward the door, it seemed a good omen for the Absolute Faith Cult.

"Oh, Officer." The Commissioner sang sweetly, "Would you please remain in the room for a few minutes?" The shaken, slightly bewildered looking law enforcement official paused, an apprehensive look on his face, fearing a tongue lashing? "Sir," The Commissioner said, turning toward me, said something like, "Although you didn't violate any law, you were nasty to the officer. You were very rude. Our police officers put their lives on the line. Society needs the protection of it's police officers......"

I short circuited and missed some of what he was saying, as I tried to figure out why he was giving me a "the policeman is your friend" lecture, after he had just ruled that I had not offended any law. I couldn't figure it out, I wasn't guilty of anything, what was so friendly about this police officer arresting me and having me dragged by perjury through the system?

"Your honor," I said, raising my hand.

"I don't want to hear it." The Commissioner replied. "I don't know whether you are a literary man, but there was an English author named Rudyard Kipling." He paused.

"Yes, I've heard of him, your honor." I said, sitting back, looking him dead in the eye, trying to appear attentive, while Commissioner Trainor regaled me with his rendition of "Tommy." Truthfully, if he was making some valid point I missed it, my mind was wrestling with his perceived need for protection OF the police vs. my perceived need of protection FROM the police.

"Your honor," I raised my hand again.

"No, I don't want to hear anything."

I flashed on the pretrial conference. "Your honor, how can there be justice if you only listen to one side of the argument?"

"Okay." The Commissioner relented.

"I was favorably impressed by the way you conducted this hearing, and I certainly think you made the proper decision by acquitting me, but this gentleman," I indicated Officer Lombardi, "was lying through his teeth, and I think if you'd have heard my witnesses, you'd be forced to agree."

"That's enough! That's enough! This is over!" Said the Commissioner, turning a very bright red.

NOTE: The foregoing is to the best of my recollection. Usually, I like to think, I do pretty good at remembering what is said in a given dialogue. In this case, 'cause I was slightly stunned, my recollection is probably less accurate than usual. My lawyer has ordered a copy of the transcript of the trial, and I hope to have it in about a month, that will let me get the precise wording, but I think the following is a pretty close approximation of the proceeding.

If and when I get the transcript, Officer Lombardi's testimony will be available. In the meantime, our side of the story, which is definitely more amusing than Officer Lombardi's, and which Commissioner Trainor didn't get to hear, is available in the form of declarations by myself and my three witnesses.

Contents | Case Listing
1601 Pennsylvania Ave.