Ever have one of those days when you would have been better off if somebody had stabbed you in the head during breakfast?
Jim, one of the lawyers in my office, came to me a couple months ago and asked me to help him with a suppression issue. His client, who we'll call Jack, had gotten a traffic ticket and, since he was apparently 24 going on 13, decided to get even with the police and the prosecutor by egging their cars in the middle of the night. This was in an Akron suburb which apparently sees little crime, so they devoted all their resources to investigating the case, to the extent of sending a wired informant into Jack's home to see if he'd make any incriminating statements. (They probably had a SWAT team outside.) Rick confided to the informant that he'd looked up the address of the prosecutor, and so the cops got a warrant for Rick's house and his computer. They did the search, seized the computer, and sent it down to BCI, which sent a memo back a few days later saying they'd found kiddie porn on it. So now Rick was facing two cases: one a charge for retaliation, a third degree felony, and the other the porn stuff.
If you're like me, you're saying, "Where do we get the search of the computer?" In the three-page affidavit, the only reference to anything having to do with a computer is the allegation that Rick told the informant he found the address by checking the court records online. Alas, the word "online" never appears in the tape of the conversation. So I put together a brief, we filed the motion, and I told Jim that I'd be happy to handle the hearing for him.
So, Tuesday morning I bundle up and head off for the Summit County courthouse for the 8:30 hearing. That's the one nice thing about practicing in other counties, I told myself: unlike Cuyahoga County, when they tell you the hearing's at 8:30, it's at 8:30. Jim told me he'd meet me there a half hour early, so we could go over everything.
Turns out we had lots and lots of time to go over everything, because the hearing was set for 10:00, not 8:30. I spent the time getting information about the judge. The judge, I was told, was new to the bench, but the one comment everybody made was, "He'll listen to you." That's good, I figured.
The prosecutor finally came down, and Jim made one last run at him. "We'll plead to the indictment in the retaliation case if you dismiss the other one." The prosecutor smiled at us and said, "Let me run into the bathroom and see if somebody wrote 'I am stupid' on my forehead." He had a point; given the informant's tape, proving the retaliation was a slam-dunk. Besides, he told us, he thought he was going to win the motion to suppress anyway. And so off we go.
Well, the judge might be the kind of guy who's willing to listen, but he sure wasn't hearing anything I said. He took an instant dislike to me, for reasons I couldn't fathom. ("I've got some ideas on that," my wife muttered when I told her about it at dinner that night.) We got into it from the outset, arguing over every single factual and legal point in the case.
The big bone of contention was my claim that the affidavit didn't give any factual basis for believing that Rick even had a computer, let alone that he had used it in a crime; the cop's argument was that when Rick said he looked up records or an address, that means he looked it up on the computer. Instead of focusing on that, the judge and I went off on a tangent: doesn't the affidavit, the judge asked, state on the very first page that they're asking to search and seize computers and computer-related items? Yeah, but that just simply specifies what they believe that computers are involved; the factual basis for it is in the next part of the affidavit, which starts, "This knowledge is based on the following facts." Try as I might, I couldn't get that point across, with judge finally dismissing the whole thing by saying that he didn't wish to dance on the head of that pin any more.
So I spent the better part of two hours getting beaten like a ten-year-old's drumset on Christmas morning, and stumbled out to the parking lot to head back to the office. I spent five minutes trying to get out of the damned thing, because they've changed it since the last time I was there. They used to have a human take your money, but they closed down that booth and set up an automated cashier by the entrance. I pulled up, stuck my ticket into the slot, and a computer voice told me that I owed $5.25 and could pay with credit card, cash, or "bank note." I put in a twenty, and out came $14.75: three quarters, and fourteen gold $1 coins.
Who wants $1 coins? I drove back to Cleveland and tried to give it to the parking lot attendant, but he gave me a look like he was going to put them in a sock and beat me with it, so I walked to the bank, distributing the coins equally in both front pockets so I wouldn't tilt to the side, and cashed them in.
So how was your day?