On June 26, 2016 at about 11 PM I was working in my dining room and I heard what could only be described as an explosion. It came from my office and upon checking it, I discovered an automobile sticking into my home. Outside the car sat with two people in it: a driver and a passenger. From my vantage point of the passenger was the person I could see best.
I called 911 and reported the accident. They had me check something about the car and when I did the two people were just getting out of the car. One was on each side of the car; again the passenger was the person I could see best.
As they were up and about I told them that I had already called 911. One of them, I’m not sure which one, responded by saying, “you did?” in a voice that wouldn’t of been out of place as a stoner in the 1980s John Hughes movie.
I returned to the 911 call and as I was ending the call with them, they gave me an ETA of just about three minutes for the first responders to arrive. I went back outside and I told the car occupants that emergency services would be here in just a few minutes. In this case the person identified as the passenger turns to the person who was the driver and said, “you’ve got to get the fuck out of here.”
At this point the first responders arrived and I notified them that it sounded like they were contemplating doing a runner.
I had no further contact with the driver or the passenger of the car. I stayed out of the way, although I did observe them talking at some length with the police. I also witnessed the police finding and removing drugs as evidence from the car.
Sometime later the police told me that it was a DUI situation and that the passenger, not the driver, was the owner of the car. Both were significantly impaired.
I noticed that the car occupants were scantily clad. The passenger was wearing a very short dress that, with the slightest movement, lifted up exposing her ass cheeks. The driver was in some sort of an outfit that look like her bra and panties. I never got any closer than 10 feet to either of them and it was dark, but that was my impression of what the driver was wearing.
Eventually, the car was towed away and everyone left – leaving my family and me to spend the months it took to get our home and lives back to normal.
From this point forward, everyone I spoke to from the insurance company to the police indicated that this was an absolutely open and shut case. Imagine my surprise when, over a year after the incident, I was subpoenaed to appear in court, as the defendant was contesting the charges.
The ability to communicate with the city prosecutor’s office was problematic, and it wasn’t until I was driving after work on Friday (the court date was the following Monday, August 21, 2017) that I spoke with the prosecutor. I told her I had time to talk, but that I was driving to pick up my daughter. In response she just said, “I don’t want to distract you. I’ll talk to you Monday morning before court.”
And so it was that I went into court completely clueless as to how the defendant was trying to contest the charges against her. She was taken, blitzed out of her mind, from the scene of the crime, where the car she was driving was buried in a house. What possible grounds could exist? I was mystified.
I dutifully appeared in court at 8:00AM. Miffed that this was likely to cause me to miss the eclipse that morning. (Maximum eclipse time: 10:33AM)
When I arrived at court there were five police officers who’d been there that night, three uniformed and two detectives, there to present evidence. The prosecutor was very pleased to see them and me. It seemed that the prosecutor didn’t actually know on what grounds the defendant was contesting the charges – or perhaps she was holding out on me as a surprise.
Upon my arrival the prosecutor showed me two pictures of the two women in the car and asked me to identify them. I identified them as the two women in the car and specifically told her that it was easier for me to identify the passenger. The passenger being on the side nearest the front door of my house, so that each time I came out to look at the car, the passenger was closest to me, with either her or the car obscuring my view of the driver.
The prosecutor seemed satisfied and told me that when she told that to the defense counsel, his client would almost certainly plead “no contest.”
The defense attorney showed up, but the defendant did not. We spent a fair amount of time discussing what that would mean if she failed to arrive. Either a warrant could be put out for her arrest and the trial would be rescheduled, or they could ask for a verdict in abstentia. However if they did the latter and she had a valid reason for not being here, there could be complications.
The defendant eventually did arrive and spoke with her counsel. Afterwards, she still insisted for a jury trial. The prosecutor asked the defender how she was going to contest the charges. The defense counsel said, “she wasn’t driving the car. Her claim is that she was helping the other woman get out of the car.”
The prosecutor asked if I would be willing to speak with the defense counsel and I agreed. We went back to the room. Again, she brought the pictures he asked me what I saw. I told him how I saw two women in the car and identified the woman in the passenger position. I also explained how I “sort of” saw them getting out of the car. When I came out to look at the car a second time, the doors were already open on the car and both women were out, the passenger just completing that last bit of pulling her trailing leg out of the car. They were standing, in the doors of the car, on opposite sides of the car.
That was good enough for the defense counsel, and he went back to have another consultation with his client to convince her to plead no contest.
She refused. She wanted a jury trial.
Next, the counselors had a talk to the judge.
They told me that the judge was told some info about the case – apparently what people were here to testify, what types of evidence was to be presented, and some general info about the nature of the case. They said, when the judge heard the car had sloughed into a house, his eyebrows raised up on his forehead. He also suggested that the defense counsel go back and talk with his client some more. Which he did.
She continued to demand a jury trial.
It should be noted that she is very young; 22 years old. She had just turned 21 when she ran into my house. Her mother and father were there, and her mother was the one that kept insisting that she go for a jury trial. According to people who actually talked with her, the defendant was taking bad legal advice from her mom instead of from the attorney they were paying for advice.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting with the police officers from the case. They were reviewing their case notes and discussing the case files. They were incredulous that the woman was trying to fight the charges. Or that she was trying to say she wasn’t driving.
Her blood alcohol level was 0.27, which I subsequently looked up and that is in a range that could lead to death. There were drugs found in the car. (Actually I’d witnessed that on the night because I saw the cops going over the car collecting evidence and I saw one of the officers pull out a bag and say, “…and I found a bag of weed.”)
They also confirmed I wasn’t mistaken in that the driver was standing there in her bra. She had admitted that she was driving at the time and some of her clothing was found stuck (ripped) to the driver’s side door.
The defendant have been very belligerent to the police that night, which according to the prosecutor, if that came out during a jury trial would just make her sentencing worse.
At the scene, that admitted they left a bar together with the owner of the car driving, but as she was the one that was more impaired, they stopped and let the defendant drive. That was, of course, before she hit my house.
What was the car owner’s take on this story: Nobody knows because she wasn’t in court.
The prosecutor asked the defender, “Where’s her girlfriend today?”
Defender just has a silly grin on his face and shrugs exaggeratedly and says, “I don’t know, didn’t you subpoena her?”
The prosecutor replies, “Yes, we did, but we got no response of any kind.”
What would she have said if she’d been there? Was she avoiding testifying to help her friend or had she just disappeared? Was the defendant aware that she wouldn’t be available and trying to throw her under the bus?
Now here comes a sentence you never thought you’d hear me say: here’s the point where Donald Trump saves the day.
Because the defendant had been late and because they were other cases that had to be assigned to a jury on the day, we didn’t get to be first for jury selection. A certain number of people called in each day for jury duty – and only a certain percentage of those turn up. Those that show get selected based on how the court cases are assigned. People who get rejected from one jury to get put back in the pool for potential selection on another.
We’d already been there two hours and it was going to be at least another hour before they could start jury selection, which takes about an hour or more. That was assuming that they could even had enough jurors. Apparently a lot of people didn’t want to come down to be jurors on eclipse day. It was a dead certainty that the trial would run over for another day if it went to jury.
On the next day, Donald Trump was scheduled to come to Phoenix for one of his Nürnberg rallies. Apparently absolutely no one wanted to be downtown that day. This includes potential jurors who had been called for duty for that day. Apparently, some days have higher “no-show” rates than others and Trump day was expected to have a lower than average turnout. (Kind of just like his inauguration.)
The fact was, it was becoming a very real possibility but the whole trial would be postponed until a later date.
Now here’s where it gets good: when you are arrested for drunk driving and if your blood alcohol level is over a certain point — and hers was way over that point — they don’t do drug testing even if drugs are suspected. This is because the alcohol level is high enough to secure a conviction and it costs more money to do the drug testing. That’s why, even though drugs were found in the car, and their behavior was consistent with more than just drunkenness, no drug charges had been filed against the defendant.
The prosecutor made it known to the defense that if the trial was delayed, they were going to ask that the blood samples — still in evidence — be tested for drugs. And if they found that she had drugs in her system, they would file all new, more serious charges against her in addition to the five they already had.
That, finally, was enough to convince her and her mother that it would be a bad idea to push for a jury trial.
And so the police and I were dismissed and I was able to get outside with six minutes to spare before the maximum eclipse here in Phoenix — which was obscured by a cloud.