I KNOW this writing is lengthy, BUT…
I can’t remember WHEN the last time was, that I broke out any of my suits. I have been a “jeans and boots or tennies” kind of guy in more recent years. It may surprise you but yes, as a matter of fact, I DO own some suits. Nice ones. More stories for another time. I set out my favorite black, 100% “Pure New Wool” suit that had been tailored by the guys at “Montage”, an upscale mens clothing store, back in the day. I figured if I lost the trial and had to go to jail, I would at least look good! I’d polished my Allen Edmonds wingtips and ironed my best white dress shirt (YES! I know it’s hard to believe, but I DO own dress shirts and wing-tips too. Five pair as a matter of fact!) the night before. All I could think about as I showered was “Be sure to stop and get more parking meter change…” and “Don’t cut yourself shaving!”
Skip sat in the bedroom, watching me as I picked out one of my favorite ties. The old Phil Collins tune kept rolling through my head… “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord…”. Have you ever physically shaken your head back and forth a few times in order to clear meaningless thoughts from your brain so that you can concentrate on the job at hand? “I don’t think Skip has EVER seen me in a suit!” I thought. “What do you think Skip? Am I looking distinguished? Do I look like a successful Midwestern Artist? Am I The Man? If you were a “honey” would you be attracted?” Back when I was little, and spent weekends with my grandmother, she used to say on Sunday mornings when we prepared for the walk to Sunday Mass, “Boy. You clean up pretty good!”
Tying a “Full Windsor Knot” came back to me just like getting on a bicycle after years of absence. Standing in front of the mirror, I remembered the fragrance of Dads after-shave when I was eight or ten years old as he leaned over me at the bathroom mirror there in Louisville. “I learned how to tie this knot when I was in the Air Force he’d say… ” Cross the wide end over the narrow end… Now, YOU do it…” Old Spice I think. That was Dads cologne of choice. “Boy have I come a long way” I thought. My cologne of choice is “Red” for men, or “Lagerfeld Classic.” Dad would flip! “Concentrate Dennis. Concentrate!” One last check in the mirror, gather up the parking meter change I had on the table, count the $198.00 out one more time. “I hope this is all they ask for. Boy. I clean up pretty good!”
My “paperwork” said to be in the courtroom by 9:00 a.m. Heck, I was in front of the courtroom by 8:30. Checked the door, but nope, it was still locked. Patiently pacing outside of the courtroom, a guy stopped and asked me, “Are you a lawyer?” “No, I’m just here for court.” “Dam! I clean up pretty good!”
Phil must have been talking to me from heaven. “Visit with the prosecutor BEFORE court officially starts”. In his day, I remember him making a lot of deals with the prosecutor before the judge ever entered the room. And SO when they did finally open the doors, rather than grab a bench, I chased down the clerk and asked her to point out and name the person prosecuting my case. She gave me his name and pointed at him, standing near the corner sorting through a stack of legal sized manila folders. “I suppose MY name is in there somewhere”.
“My name is Dennis Buckman. Can I visit with you a minute?” I asked, extending my hand. He actually shook my hand in return, then asked to repeat my name. “Dennis Buckman” I restated. “I am here for my trial today.” I could tell he was looking me up and down, trying to assert what kind of opponent he would be facing in this trial. “Where’s your attorney?” “I don’t have one…” “Go have a seat. When I find your folder, I’ll look you up…”. Hmm. Over to the “Group W bench.”
Activity in the courtroom was picking up as 9:00 a.m. neared. Clerks racing in and out, setting up the judge’s bench. Attorneys and clients and witnesses entering the room. SURE ENOUGH as I looked around, there was the &*^%$!! Animal Control Officer. He was seated in the back of the courtroom, alongside the 3 Omaha Policemen he’d summoned to my house! My heart was pounding. “What in the world would they have to contribute to this? I cooperated with them, I was nice to them and even let the one pet my dog!” “Dennis Buckman?” I heard my name called by the prosecutor. “Lets go out in the hallway.”
Before he had a chance to speak, I hurriedly told Mr. Prosecutor: “I know you’re busy with more important things, but… The Humane Society Officer CALLED my dog out of the yard (handed him my phone with a photo of Skip). I plead not guilty originally, thinking this would be a simple thing. A few days ago, I had second thoughts and rather than take my chances here, figured I’d just come down and pay the damn ticket. BUT, they wouldn’t let me. I haven’t worked since February and can ill afford to lay out $198.00 for what I felt was major injustice, BUT I can’t run the risk of jail and a bigger fine. I wanted to know from you, if I could avoid this trial and simply pay the fine this morning. We’re talking about a 13 pound dog here!”
NOW he could speak! I got my abbreviated story in as he scanned the file. “Why were the police called?” he asked. “Because the Animal Control Officer was being belligerent and verbally abusive. As a result, I refused to produce my license OR sign the ticket he produced. The Police came and explained that I HAD to take the ticket, but that I could lay out the facts here in court and they thought it would “go away”. Instead, here I am…”
Mr. Prosecutor was reading through “the file” as I spoke. When I finished, he inhaled deeply and then asked; “Do you have $115.00 on you today?” “Yes. I brought the whole $198.00”. “If I lower the fine and court costs, can you pay $115.00 today?” “Yes, I can do that.” “So what we’re going to do, is I’m going to tell the clerk we are accepting your “guilty” plea, re-entering the fine and costs, and that you are paying this $115.00 today.” He went on to say, “I will notify the judge of our agreement. Lets go back inside. You have a seat until your name is called.” He handed the i-phone back to me, Skips photo still on the screen. I shut the phone off as to not screw this up!
After we re-entered the courtroom, Mr. Prosecutor went directly to the desk alongside the judge’s bench and visited with the clerk. I went to the Group W bench. In a LOUD booming voice she announced; “The witnesses for the Buckman trial are dismissed. Thank you. You may go.” I glanced back and sure enough, “Mr. Dog Catcher” and the 3 police officers stood up and meandered out of the courtroom!!! “Hooray” I thought! “This is going to happen!” I smiled.
Sure enough, in a few minutes, the clerk called my name. As I stood in front of His Honor, he glanced at me over what I thought to be dime-store reading glasses (no offense Judge). “Mr. Buckman; By entering a guilty plea you realize you are forfeiting you right to…” and he read an entire litany of “rights” I was sacrificing when I agreed to pay $115.00 to keep Skip and I out of jail. “Do you understand?” “Yes, your honor.” “Mr. Prosecutor is this plea agreement in order?” “Yes your Honor.” “Mr. Buckman, this court finds you guilty of violating City ordinance Section 6 dash 147. A dog restraint ordinance. You are hereby ordered to pay the court $115.00 which includes the fine and court costs. See my clerk for the necessary paperwork.”
Sooooo… I stepped to the left, signed a couple of pieces of paper that said I agreed to pay the fine or go to jail (have been trying to avoid that!) and I was OUT of the courtroom!
The good news? I’m not in jail. Skip is free to stay at home (although since this nightmare started, I have NOT allowed her in the front yard without being tethered to her elongated leash!) AND I think this ordeal is behind me.
The bad news? I am $115.00 poorer, NOT including the fact that I had to plug the doggone parking meter Lord knows how many times. AND the gas going back and forth downtown to defend what I believed what right. I know I disappointed Abbie Hoffman, Arlo Guthrie and maybe even Country Joe & The Fish with my guilty plea, BUT I am out of jail, the reduced fine is paid and Skip and I are FREE!
I can’t thank everyone enough, for your support and your input as to this ridiculous injustice. You would think our court system had better thing to do. Skip and I are BOTH appreciative! For those of you still riled at the actions of the Nebraska Humane Society, their address is:
Nebraska Humane Society
8929 Fort Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68134
Call: (402) 444-7800 Fax: (402) 546-1476
Meanwhile, as the Judges have told me: “Have a good day!”