Chief Crazy Horse
Our day in court didn’t go as planned. I know better than to profess I know or understand the legal system. It involves more than simply what is right, what is the truth and what is wrong. Just because one of my best friends and hunting partners was one of the more successful, respected and prominent attorneys in Omaha for years, doesn’t mean I know the law, courtroom procedure OR protocol. Phils talents, I did not inherit.
Though I spent hours downtown observing his work, none of Phil’s expertise rubbed off on me! I wish he were still alive today. He would have handled this a long time ago. Phil knew the right people to talk to and get stupid deals like this settled. He used to say, “A good lawyer knows the law, A GREAT lawyer knows the judge!
I miss Phil. Not just because of his knowledge of the law and the various community/social/legal contacts he had. We shared a love of good hunting dogs, fast-race cars (red ones), Western Nebraska deer hunting trips, weekend (and very often, weekday) Pheasant trips, cold beer, perfect mixed drinks, Jazz festivals in Kansas City and good horses. We also shared lunch with socialites including fellow Corvette owners, horse enthusiasts, and yes, judges and other prominent attorneys in Omaha. Not necessarily in that order. Phil was one of my best friends…
And so, I thought this would be a simple thing. Show up on time, tell the judge my story, and justice for Skip would be served. I took myself AND my ticket to the courthouse for the hearing. I wrongly assumed that my “loose dog” ticket was just that. A simple ticket. I was very serious when I called ahead several days ago, asking the lady if I could bring Skip along as evidence. I explained that I just wanted to show the judge Skip was harmless and obedient. The lady said I would have to request a hearing with the judge to have permission to bring a dog into the courthouse if she wasn’t a “service” dog. There goes my only witness and evidence! I DID bring pictures of Skip along on my cell phone to show the judge. BUT there was a sign in the courtroom “Turn Off All Cell Phones”. New readers can go back to “Skip May Be Going To Jail“.
I noticed when they started calling out names, they were going alphabetically, and arranging things accordingly. Funny. Sitting there, I thought back to the days when one of my closest life-long friends from Boys Town was still alive. His last name began with the letters “ZV”. We used to joke that as hard as he tried, Ron was always going to be last in anything they did alphabetically! He was the last to be called for sports try-outs, the last in any roll call, the last to cross the Boys Town stage in the auditorium when we graduated.
On this day it looked like I’d be 5th or 6th in line to see the judge. I also noticed that when people stood up to answer the roll call, the clerk asked each one, “Do you have your attorney with you?” When my name was announced and I stood to answer, “Here…”, he posed the attorney question. I wanted to explain to him that my attorney friend Phil had passed away in August of ’91 and that I’ve really had no need to employ an attorney since my divorce in ’96 or ‘7 and that I couldn’t even remember the guys name who represented me. He was referred by Louis, Phil’s former secretary who I’ve kept in touch with through the years…
I wanted to tell the clerk that the reason I was there, was simply a misunderstanding with the power-hungry Animal Control Officer. That Skip and I were being treated wrongly That a 13 pound dog wasn’t worth all of this trouble. I didn’t tell him any of that. I simply replied, “No sir, no attorney”. He made a mark on my “file” and put it in the “pending” stack. If Phil were here, he’d make sure it was at the top of the stack if it ever got that far. “Time is money…” he used to say.
I wondered as I sat there, if I’d put enough change in the parking meter. Kind of laughed at myself. “Yeah, that’s what I need. Another ticket while I’m fighting THIS ticket. Wonder if I’d have time to run down and plug the meter?” I half heartedly listened to some of the cases that went before me, just to get a feeling for the judges mood. Phil taught me that. Two teens charged with Minor in Possession. A guy charged with stealing some stereo equipment. Another guy in an orange jump suit and hand-cuffs, charged with armed robbery (he was accompanied by a County Sheriff). The judge seemed to take it all in stride. I’m thinking my 13 pound dog deal was gonna be no big thing… But THEY had attorneys!When my name was finally called; “The State Of Nebraska V.S. Dennis Buckman. All parties come forward.” I think my heart rate doubled! Standing there in front of the judge, the clerk read the complaint. “Charged with violating State Code blah blah blah Section blah blah blah. Loose Dog…”. The Judge asked, “Is your attorney present?” As if my mind wasn’t already racing enough, I thought, “What IS this, with this “Where’s your attorney…” business? We’re talking about a 13 pound dog crossing the street!”. Instead, I simply replied, “No your Honor. I don’t have an attorney.” He peered over his glasses at me. “How are you going to plead?” “Not guilty your Honor”. Looking to his left at the prosecutor, the judge asked, “Aren’t you just asking for a fine?” “Yes your Honor, $198.00” the prosecutor stated.
Looking back at ME the judge said, “Mr. Buckman, the prosecutor’s office is willing to accept a guilty plea, and impose a fine of $198.00 today. By entering a NOT guilty plea today, this case WILL go to trial. At that time, you are exposed to the possibility of 6 months in jail AND up to a $5,000.00 fine which is the maximum penalty for the crime in which you’ve been charged. You may apply for a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney. After consideration, do you still wish to enter a plea of not guilty or are you willing to accept the prosecutors offer?” Assuming I’d STILL have the opportunity to tell my story and show him my pictures of Skip, I simply replied “Yes Your Honor. I wish to plead Not Guilty.” BUT, I’m thinking “Jail? $5,000.00? HUH?
I knew I was in over my head when the judge rolled his eyes and began reciting a litany of my “rights”. The right to a trial by a jury of my peers, the right to call witnesses, the right to cross-examine the prosecutions witnesses, the right to present evidence to the court, the right to (here we go again) have an attorney present, the right to appeal etc etc. He then repeated the maximum penalty: “If found guilty you may face up to 6 months in jail AND a $5,000.00 fine. Do you understand your rights and the charges against you?.” Hmmm. $198 wasn’t sounding too bad after all!! BUT, in my mind, the truth would set me (and Skip) free.. All I needed to do was tell MY side of the story. “Yes Your Honor, I understand… NOT guilty.”
Sadly I would not get the opportunity to tell my story today. How the mean ‘ole Dog Catcher parked across the street from my house, looking for the neighbors dog. Or how he called Skip out of the yard. How I gave her permission to go visit him. Or how he went ballistic and called in the SWAT team after my refusal to accept a “loose dog” ticket and how the Omaha Police showed up with th friggin SWAT team, and made me take the ticket anyway… I didn’t get to show the judge my pictures of Skip at the scene of the crime either. The vicious 13 pound attack dog.
Instead, the Judge set a “Trial Date and said I needed to see his clerk for the paper-work to sign. I didn’t have the nerve to inject any humor in the situation and tell him Skip didn’t have thumbs. She can’t complete the paperwork without help from me. Then he told me to “Step to the left, see my clerk and have a good day…” Have a good day? Crap, I was just told I have to come back to court and face the possibility of 6 months in jail AND pay five grand that I don’t have lying around, instead of the $198 I don’t have either! All of this because some power thirsty Jack Ass Animal Control employee with an attitude. Who, in MY humble opinion wasn’t doing his job in the first place. It was my neighbors and I who looked after Charlie.
By the way… The Pit Bull puppy that ran loose in the neighborhood for months on end? Charlie? The neighbor, Charlies’ owner? Weeelllll… The house she lived in is an HUD (local government) house that she rented. Nice enough gal from what little contact I had from/with her during my meetings and taking Charlie home from time to time. Weeellll… They were evicted! AND she abandoned Charlie when she left. He was running loose in the neighborhood again. My neighbor Nate called one day to say that Charlie had invited himself into his house! Nate called the Humane Society, and a different officer than the idiot I had at my house, came and picked up Charlie. They did a follow-up call with Nate later and told him that Charlies owner had been evicted from the house…. Go figure.
I will be notified by mail of our trial date. I wonder if they’d be interested in buying some of MY stamps to send the notice… Meanwhile, I’d better do my homework. Do some research, read a few law books, perhaps say a few prayers to, I think it is St. Francis of Assisi, who is the patron Saint of animals. Need to check on that too!
Omaha Doulas County Courthouse
“YOU CAN JAIL A REVOLUTIONARY BUT YOU CAN’T JAIL THE REVOLUTION!!! IT’S A FRESH WIND THAT BLOWS AGAINST THE EMPIRE-” Paul Kantner
To Be Continued I guess…
PS Some photos you can click on and purchase prints and other things. Other photos are just there to accompany my rantings…