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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Day in the Portsmouth City Court System -- Paying For Justice

To preface this entry, I want readers to understand I have personal bias. This bias is built upon my recent past experiences. As I have grown increasingly critical of local law enforcement and the local courts, I am definitely bitter about some of my contacts with the system.

During the recent past, I have tried on more than a few occasions to communicate with local enforcement and do what I consider to be my part to assist in keeping my community safe. I have met with much resistance along the way -- distrust and reluctance are common, and sometimes I have experienced anger from those in charge. Among other activities, I have actually done these things within the past five years:

1. Organized a tribute to law enforcement at Tracy Park that included the Ohio State Patrol Post 73, the Portsmouth Police Department, and the Scioto County Sheriffs Office.

2. Met with Lancaster family members and friends at the Portsmouth Police Department to offer assistance finding Megan Lancaster.

3. Tried to inform the Scioto County Sheriffs Office and the Portsmouth Police Department about threats and malicious defamation instigated by guards, attorneys, and owners of Temponeras's Unique Pain Clinic Operation.

4. Organized and led ten Pill Mill protests in ten different locations in Scioto County.

5. Communicated frequently about crimes with the DEA and the Ohio Attorney General.

6. Informed law enforcement officers many times of drug activity including rx distribution, meth operations, and trafficking of illegal substances.

7. Served on the SOLACE and Garrett Maloney Foundation board of directors.

8. Served as a member of the Scioto Drug Action Team and assisted the Portsmouth Health Department with many activities to stop drug abuse.

9. Established Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse Facebook group with more than 3,500 members where a constant effort was made to praise the good works of local law enforcement.

10. Attempted to organize a Congratulatory Breakfast thanking Ohio State Patrol Post 73 for an increase in drug-related arrests along Route 23, the Heroin Highway. This was eventually cancelled due to fear of undue favor and gratuity.

My Day In Traffic Court

I was charged for speeding in a trap on Coles Boulevard. It was alleged by the Portsmouth Police officer that I was doing 38 MPH in the 25 MPH zone. I confess that the radar reading that day was probably accurate.

Admittedly, I was extremely upset because I had also been arrested by the Ohio State Patrol within this same month for traveling 56 MPH in a 45 MPH near Rosemount Point on Rt. 23. I pleaded "not guilty" on that charge only to be confronted by lies on the stand by the arresting officer. Of course, I was convicted.

These were my first tickets in many, many years. I feel I drive slowly and safely. In fact, my wife constantly tells me I am driving too slow. But, being aware of points against my license and the possibility of revocation of driving rights, I went to plead "no contest" for the Coles ticket.

Upon arriving early for my 8:45 court date at city hall, I was metal detected and directed to the second floor. After climbing the stairway, I confronted a crowd of more than 50 individuals who apparently had the same appointment time as I.

One wooden bench was available for the comfort of the accused. This small bench was already occupied by four or five people, so the rest of us, young and old, stood in the close quarters of the hallway awaiting the opening of the court door.

I wondered why the courtroom, where there was sufficient seating for all, couldn't be opened as a place to be comfortable. (I had been told before that portable seats couldn't be placed in the hallway because they were "potential weapons.") But, despite the fact some aged folks were having trouble standing for the better part of an hour, the court chose to ignore this inconvenience.

The space in which we stood was old, dreary, dirty, and, of course, congested with people of all ilks. I thought about the run-down facility and the lack of pride presented in its dank appearance. Portsmouth City Hall mirrored the crumbling downtown of its namesake. I envisioned a tourist who might have wandered into the city. Perhaps, one came into this building and found its creepy, old, intimidating confines. I believed anyone with their senses would see, hear, and smell a structure that presented an unfriendly, uncooperative environment full of filthy windows, closed doors, and an air of stagnation.

All the time I waited to enter the courtroom, a crew of vested janitorial staff that I assumed were inmates from the city jail freely walked among the crowd, stopping at least ten times to converse with others and to open a once-locked closet containing what appeared to be little more than a broom or two. Their presence was a little unnerving, but so were more than a few in the group awaiting their hearings.

Of course, no one in the crowd appeared to be happy to spend their morning in court, and I began to wonder about the seriousness of the charges some faced. In honesty, I felt more like a caged, corralled animal there instead of a tax-paying citizen. Waiting in discomfort in a confined space intensified the irritability of all present. Thank God for the metal detectors downstairs.

At 9:20 A.M., after a wait of approximately 35 minutes, someone opened the door and instructed the people who were there to make pleas to enter the courtroom. Fifteen minutes later the judge entered, and naturally he expressed his regrets for making us wait amid the human sweat and the building mold. He instructed us of procedures and began to hear the pleas.

Another half hour or so passed as people were called forward. The woman who pleaded right before me had also been ticketed in the Coles speed trap. She went on about her and her husband's state of health while traveling on Coles to reach Southern Ohio Medical Center. She also told the judge she just didn't have the money to pay a speeding fine. Blah...blah... woof ... woof. This and that was asked and answered. Then, it was my turn to bow and face the truth.

After asking a question or two about possible points against my license, bemoaning a speed trap set on my home turf of Coles, and informing the judge that the arresting officer told me how the city had recently received a grant to ticket more "dangerous 62 year-old speedsters," I admitted my guilt and pleaded "no contest." I told the judge being honest was more important than anything to me. I told him I had speeded this time but that I was very upset about the lies told by the state trooper during my previous recent speeding trial. I also told the judge I hadn't gotten a speeding ticket for decades before these two offenses. It really didn't matter what I told him -- the system, the lies, the connection hold the trump card. The code keeps them together. Justice does not mean fairness.

To save me points, the judge charged me with some penalty I didn't understand and instructed me to stop on the first floor to pay my ticket. I owed $84.00 for the ticket and the court costs. That raised my combined fines for the tickets to $243.00, and I hoped the total I paid might finance putting  another bench in the court hallway to ease the backs of future, fellow vehicular criminals like me.

I descended the stairway and entered the clerk of court's office. As I took my turn at the window, I asked if I may have a receipt for my payment. This question caused considerable dismay and confusion among the staff. At once, I felt as if I was in a Steve Martin skit. "Well, excussssse, me."

I was told in no uncertain terms by Sherry someone, the ward of the ascribed deputy clerk Susan Adams, to wait for answers. Having dealt in the past with perturbed Portsmouth officials, this "official" curtness was not uncommon to me, so I sat down and waited. I had evidently just ruined "someone's" day. Sherry acted as if I had just farted aloud in church.

Then in a few minutes, after being summoned to the window again, I asked about the receipt and was immediately reprimanded and sharply told I would be returned to the judge for being non compliant if I didn't be quiet. In Charge Sherry looked around at her coworkers for instant approval of her direct command.

The others didn't say anything, but Commander Sherry told me not to ask any questions at the time. I honestly believed she intended to have me arrested for something. My confusion heightened, reaching the level of a Portsmouth resident unsure of what day garbage was to be collected.

I did politely tell the rude woman that I was a citizen and a taxpayer in the city, but she acted as if social decorum and due process didn't matter in her "beloved" Portsmouth City Hall, and she again threatened to have me taken back to court. I began to have visions of eating bread and drinking water in the pokey for having the temerity to induce a SNAFU into the system.

Then, a few minutes later, Sherry called me forward and began to read mechanically the instructions on a printout of my charge. I stood speechless, worrying about whether I would soon share a cell with Big Bubba for going over 25 MPH on Coles Boulevard. At that point, I was in a state of shock, and I felt as if I had been reduced to the level of dirt littered by unfettered promiscuity for my brazen speeding ticket.

I didn't answer her immediately. I guess my temporary silence really pissed her off because she verbally attacked me again. She also re-informed her coworkers that I should be arrested for noncompliance. Very simply, I hated her at that point. Her domineering behavior had made me ashamed of intruding in her perfect little legal world. But, I bit my lip, held my temper and without the slightest visible displeasure, regained my voice.

Finally, Sherry instructed me to sign the papers, which I did. Then, she did ask me at that point if I had questions. Completely exasperated by that time, I gave up and quietly left the building. I felt like a criminal, a subhuman who wanted to leave town and crawl under a rock in some faraway place. The only semblance of self worth I felt was due to the fact I not once had I raised my voice, said anything remotely derogatory, or caused the slightest insult.

Portsmouth justice had just taught me another well-deserved lesson, one I want everyone to practice -- please, just do this for me. Just once, drive under 25 MPH on Coles Boulevard, get rear-ended and fingered by a long line of angry motorists behind you who are shouting about carnal relationships you have with your mother. And through it all, remember if you exceed the limit, an officer, a judge, and Sherry are licking their lips and waiting down at city hall to abuse your ass for your dreadful, selfish crimes.

Reaching my car, I thought about my past experiences with enforcement and the courts -- the good things I had tried to do, the efforts of praise I had tried to assemble, the help with arrests and wrongdoings I had offered, and, naturally, the two speeding tickets I had received.

Two tickets have reformed me and changed my life. They are the final straws that have led me to a real awakening.

The dealings with the clerk of courts was indicative of my total feelings. I realize that enforcement and courts in Portsmouth, Ohio are self-inclusive, uncooperative, and hateful of the public. With corruption, power, and money in the system, they disdain any outside help, fearing interference. They cover up inconsistencies committed by each other, and sometimes they deny justice to those deserving it because those needy individuals are outside the higher class they so willingly protect.

I understand my bias and my propensity to believe that decent people should be treated with respect; however, I, all too often, have seen firsthand much incompetence and complete indifference. After this experience, I want to scream, "Get off your tender asses and find missing people, deal with real crime, and clean up your own cancers in the legal and enforcement systems!" I want to scream, "Try to communicate with people and stop treating them with suspicion when they want to help solve crimes!" I want to scream, "You good old boys are a major part of the problem!"

What I say here, in my blog, comes from my own mind based on my own experiences. I do not care if you want to deny or refute evidence of the problems of which I speak. I am bitter -- I admit my bias. But, it is difficult to remain a member of this community who trusts the law. For years, people have confessed knowledge of legal wrongdoings, police bias, and political pressures to me. I used to listen and laugh about many of the reports, preferring to file them under "gossip" and "unfounded allegations."

Lately, I believe more and more of these stories of corruption. Despite names like Shipley, Barney, and Pratt that I have trusted, I really don't care for cops anymore. And, we all know a lawyer or two who needs to be admonished for criminal activity. In addition, when a top dog judge or enforcement official breaks the law, hand slaps are usually administered. People involved with the law who have been charged are seldom revealed by the press but instead remain employed or rehired with records of reduced charges. And the beat goes on.

Recently a video titled "What The Hell You Know About That 740?" surfaced on YouTube. I watched the video, which has been produced and filmed by local youth, and I felt it is honest and portrays cultivated understandings about the environment of Southern Ohio. It punches the gut hard but true. You should watch it. I included the link below.

Right now, I believe any activism I support will be the movements aimed at changing the present antiquated system. Maybe Sherry, the "bi-atch," could start the ball rolling by saying "thank you" to hard-working people giving up their precious cash for speeding tickets that help keep her employed as a civil servant.

There is an underlying hostility and a distorted desire for political control present in our county. Leadership is grossly lacking that might change this. For too long, those in charge have sought to blame everything under old sol for their laziness, lack of proper goals, and substandard performance. Scapegoats are plentiful here. You can bet the law, the courts, and their officials will conduct "business as usual" until some brighter light focuses upon the real problems. God help us.

"What The Hell You Know About That 740?"



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