52) HARD ASS JUSTICE
The gang of seven, comprising Ratso, Sammy, Zipper, Flash, McPuke, Mitch, and Bozo solemnly marched into the precinct jail. The procession resembled a parade as they went through the protocol of being strip searched, finger printed and lined up for mug shots. The clerk logged and placed in evidence bags, every item in their possession. The most damaging items turned out to be a can of spray paint Raphael kept in his jacket pocket and Sammy’s switchblade knife.
As soon as processing ended, each boy learned what the inside of a holding cell looked like. The cell measured approximately 12 x 12 and was empty. The conveniences of any chairs, tables or even mattresses didn’t exist. The cell didn’t even provide a sink or urinal since the designer’s only intended the cell to serve temporary residents. Seven teen-age boys in a 12 x 12 cell became a little cramped.
“How long are you going to keep us here Copper?” Sammy shouted.
“Don’t you worry about your length of stay, punk,” the desk sergeant answered. “We put together a long line of charges against you Lovelace; as well as the rest of your buddies.”
“What about my phone call,” Zipper complained. “I’m sure we’re supposed to get to make a call.”
The desk sergeant walked over to the holding cell and perused his collection of young criminals. He seemed to take delight in their situation because displayed a broad smile on his face.
“You don’t get a phone call until you go in front of the judge. But if anyone would like to make a statement ,” he announced, “now is the time to speak. Once you go to arraignment, I can’t do much for you.”
Ratso conceded the fact he was in big trouble. For starters, he’d never experienced mug shots or fingerprinting in his previous brushes with the law. Based on the events of his life earlier in the day, he talked. A statement may get him out of the majority of this crap on his plate. Perhaps he might even charm his way out of jail.
“I’ll nmake a nstatement,” he acknowledged.
“You fucking rat,” Sammy screamed. “Keep your hairlip mouth shut Ratso. If you say nothing, they can’t prove shit against us.”
The desk sergeant motioned everyone to back away from the cell door. He opened the latch and allowed Ratso/Raphael to exit, then slammed the steel barrier closed again. He escorted him to one of the private meeting rooms and removed his handcuffs.
“Sit here and someone will be right with you,” he directed, as he left the meeting room.
Raphael initially thought about making a break, since his earlier dash from the classroom loomed fresh in his mind. After thinking about escape, he decided against a rash move because the cops previously identified him and probably would find him easily. After cooling his heels for 20 minutes, the door of the meeting room opened and Lieutenant Paul Sherman walked in.
“Well, Mr. Hernandez,” he began. “I guess you liked your experience at Lakeview and would like to go back.”
“Those nguys ntalked nme into hanging nwith them,” Raphael lisped. “They ntold nme nthey nwould hurt nme if I didn’t ngo nwith nthem.”
“We found a can of spray paint in your jacket Raphael,” Sherman badgered, “how did you come to possess paint?”
“Sammy nwanted nme to carry the paint,” Raphael continued, “because he didn’t nhave npockets.”
“You do realize you are in a lot of trouble don’t you?” Sherman countered. “Even by giving a statement, you aren’t going to avoid charges. At the moment, you are looking at sexual misconduct, vandalism and attempted arson. Two of these are misdemeanors and one is a felony.”
“I didn’t ndo anything,” Raphael pleaded. “I nwas only nhanging out nwith them because nthey made nme go nwith them.”
Lieutenant Sherman understood he wouldn’t be getting a confession from Raphael. Trying to take a statement from him would be like peeling paint off an uncooked egg without breaking the shell. And releasing him wasn’t even an option. He informed him he would spend a night in jail and going to court tomorrow.
“I’ll call your mother and inform her,” he sneered. “I’m sure she will be real happy with you. Oh. You won’t be spending the night with your friends. We saved a special cell for you in city lockup. You might even meet your future cellmate.”
Once Sylvia got the call about Raphael’s arrest, she contacted Raul’s former business partner to get his input .
“Lieutenant Sherman told me they intended to hold him overnight,” she reported, “and he would be arraigned tomorrow.”
“What are the charges, Sylvia?” Fred asked.
“He told me they are charging him with sexual misconduct, vandalism and attempted arson. I think everything is trumped up, only to get those hooligans he hung out with.”
“Jesus Christ Sylvia,” Fred insisted, “they don’t trump up charges. They must have evidence or a witness against him. I’ll call Sherman and find out the details and go to court tomorrow to represent him. In the meantime, I need you to gather Raul’s death certificate, Raphael’s report cards and anything else you can find to help his case.”
As a final word, Fred warned Sylvia, ‘this isn’t going to be cheap’.
Fred and Sylvia appeared in Municipal Court the next morning. Once again, Prosecutor Cindy Downes, who dealt with Raphael in his last appearance, represented the State. The Court came to order with Judge Damien Williams presiding over the case. He also became familiar with Raphael last year when he sentenced him to Lakeview last year.
“Raphael Franklin Hernandez,” his voice echoed from the bench. “You are charged with Sexual Misconduct, Vandalism, and Attempted Arson. How do you plead?”
“My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor,” Fred confirmed. “We also request the court take into consideration, the young age of the defendant; currently 12 years old.”
The Prosecutor broke in making a statement to the Judge about the age of the defendant.
“Your Honor,” she explained. “The State of New York finds no relevance to Mr. Hernandez’s age at this time. This is not the first appearance by the defendant and these charges against him are heinous. We intend to take this matter to a jury trial if a plea cannot be arranged. Under the legal statutes, the maximum term, if convicted, would be 15 years for the felony alone.”
Judge Williams glared at Raphael, standing shackled in front of him. Ordinarily, he would cut him some slack because of his age and his innocent presence. However, the Judge didn’t like repeat offenders.
“We are considering additional charges also, Your Honor,” Ms. Downes continued. “On the books is still an open shoplifting case pertaining to the jewelry store. We also have a petty larceny case involving the tailoring shop. Neither case received adjudication because Mr. Hernandez accepted a plea deal and went to Lakeview Boot Camp. We intend to add these charges also.”
The Prosecutor glanced over at Raphael. She realized piling charges on him would be a lot of weight for him at his young age. But her job focused on convictions. A plausible explanation from Raphael would be helpful .
“Your Honor,” she said, “as this court is aware, many times we deal with defendants who exhibit psychiatric issues causing their illegal activities. I recommend a psychological evaluation of Mr. Hernandez to ascertain if such an issue is present.”
“Mr. Hernandez,” Judge Williams grumbled, “these are serious charges against you. I realize you’ve given a statement to the Police; would you like to also make a statement here?”
“You can’t ndo shit, Judge,” He barked. “You and nthe Coppers think nyou are so nsmart, but I’m the one nwho is smart. You nthink I’m crazy because I don’t ncare who I hit; but I’m the one who is nhitting out and not nyou.”
“That’s correct, Mr. Hernandez,” the Judge confirmed, “You are the one who brought all this on yourself. Perhaps you think we are being unfair, but that doesn’t make your actions right.”
“I don’t ncare who I hurt,” Raphael stated, “and I don’t ncare who I do nwrong. This is your nmess I’m living in and I really don’t belong nhere. You think nyou will blame nme for some old building catching nfire. Ha. ... When I take out nmy bottle filled up high nwith gasoline, you’ll be able to tell by nthe night fires nwhere I’ve been. You can’t buy nprotection from the nway I feel because this hate is nmine . So I will nburn it to ash. And the graffiti nyou say nyou found ... Prove I nwas responsible.”
“You’ve gotten to be a regular little smart mouth,” the Judge remarked. “You don’t show any respect at all; not for me, not for my position, not for your mother or anyone else. I read the statement you gave the police and now this statement in court. Frankly, I’m thinking of adding perjury to the charges.”
“Big deal,” Raphael shot back. “I’m 12 years old. My nfriends told nme all you can ndo is send nme home with nmy mother.”
“Your friends are wrong,” the Judge shot back. “They are wrong about a great many things. Because of the Prosecutor’s statement and the statement from the Police Lieutenant, I will schedule this case for a jury trial. I will also refuse any request for bail. Until trial, you will be housed at the juvenile facility of Rikers’s Island Complex. Now, what did you say about how I could do nothing?”
The judge cracked his gavel, Raphael stuck his tongue out, and the Prosecutor showed the hint of a smile. Fred showed a visible disappointment by Judge’s because originally hoped to keep this from going to trial. However, because of Raphael’s legal history and his actions today, any arguments fell upon deaf ears. The only option now would be to convince Sylvia to accept a plea on behalf of her son; for whatever the Prosecutor wanted.
He moved over to conference with the Prosecutor for a moment. Sylvia saw a lot of head shaking and finger wagging between the two parties. Eventually Fred nodded in muted agreement and motioned to Sylvia he wanted to meet her outside the courtroom. The bailiff took Raphael back to his holding cell.
“Sylvia,” Fred told her, “the Prosecutor is being a real prick. I can get nowhere with her. She wants to send Raphael to Tryon School for a three year sentence. To be fair to you Sylvia; a trial will cost at least $100,000 and maybe even be more. These are serious charges because Raphael is caught on videotape setting a building on fire.”
“Fred,” Sylvia cried, “how can they do this? I can’t afford $100,000 in legal fees. How can they send my boy to reform school? He’s only 12 years old. What about the other boys involved? What are they doing with them?”
“Those boys won’t be getting off Scot-free either,” Fred claimed. “Sammy Lovelace and Mitch Stockton seemed to be the ringleaders and the Prosecutor wants to send them to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Being over there is one helluva lot nastier than Tryon.”
“What’s this shit about sexual misconduct?” Sylvia wondered. “With whom and where did this happen?”
“Apparently a teacher caught him with some girl at The Dalton School.” Fred confided. “Mr. Brooks decided to throw Raphael out of the school because the girl claimed Raphael forced his attentions on her.”
“This keeps getting better and better,” Sylvia sighed. “Did Raphael engage in sex with her?”
“No,” Fred denied, “but the encounter may have been leading up to intercourse. They questioned the girl and she finally claimed her meetings with Raphael started innocently. Their involvement gradually increased. The girl stated Raphael’s actions didn’t seem out of place because she had sex all the time with her father and brothers; like incest was no big deal. The father and one brother were picked up on a charge of statutory rape and are in custody. The case is being investigated as we speak.”
“Fred,” Sylvia sobbed, “I don’t know what to do. What would you do?”
“Quite frankly Sylvia,” Fred declared, “Raphael has been on the road to trouble for a long time. You need only to think back on the bragging he did to the judge. He needs to be taught a lesson.”
“Will I be able to visit him?” she asked. “A year is an awful long time.”
“I’ll make sure visitation is part of the plea deal,” he asserted. “Don’t worry; I’ll do everything I can to keep him out of too much trouble. But he will need to help himself.”
“Oh Fred,” Sylvia sputtered. “How can I ever repay you?”
Fred grinned as he thought of several ideas.
Raphael expected to be put back in the holding cell with his friends when he went back to the jail. He intended to brag to Sammy about how he didn’t rat on anyone. He would claim he only gave the Lieutenant and the Judge a ration of shit. His little smile left his face as he realized all his friends had disappeared from the holding cell.
“Where did nmy friends go?” he questioned.
“You didn’t think we let your compare stories did you?” the bailiff responded. “Your buddy Sammy got bailed out by his father and those other punks are over at Riker’s Island Juvenile. It’s going to be a long time before you run into any of them again.”
The statement depressed Raphael because things didn’t seem to work in his favor. First the Prosecutor screwed him with those additional charges. Next, the Judge screwed him by not sending him home. Finally, the jail screwed him by sending his friends away. The only option present would be to wait for the other shoe to drop.
Hurry up and wait.