“Jacqueline, as your court appointed attorney, I think you should take the plea deal, but ultimately the decision is yours. If you plead ‘Not Guilty’ and this goes to trial, things could turn out much worse for you.”
I looked at the deal in front me and read through it for the umpteenth time. In summary: If I plead ‘Guilty’ to the multiple charges against me, I may get a lesser sentence if I give them all the details of the crimes my husband committed.
Now I had no problem giving them everything they want on him. Hell, I’d do anything to put him away for life and beyond for all he has done over the last twenty-five years. The problem is…this didn’t start with the girls he sold as sex slaves, the girls he kidnapped, beat and sexually molested/assaulted, the girls he cheated on me with…this started when I fell for him and ran away to be with him. Who knows, maybe it started way before that…I really wouldn’t be surprised anymore.
I truly did feel guilty for my part in what those girls endured day after day, week after week, month after month and even year after year. I hated hearing their screams as my husband took their innocence from them; I hated cleaning up their rooms after he destroyed their bodies; I hated the look in their eyes as they pleaded with me to help them; but I hated having to act like I was enjoying it all the most.
I know I need to serve my time and I’m absolutely fine in spending time in prison for not doing anything to help those girls. Is getting a lesser sentence a good thing? Yeah, it’s great, but do I deserve it? I was nothing but an evil woman who had no real family, had no one left to love and no one that loved me. At least in prison, I know I’ll have someone around all the time. I smirked to myself.
“Jacqueline…Mrs. Mickelson…Jackie!” the attorney tried to get my attention.
I looked up at her, “I’ll take it…but before I sign anything, I have to ask you a question and I want an honest answer.”
“Of course,” she said.
“If I was to plea ‘Not Guilty’, is there any chance of winning based on the ordeal I was put through from the time I met him until now?”
“What ordeal is that? From what the jury would see when the trial started is that you assisted your husband in kidnapping and trafficking hundreds of young girls and women for over twenty years and did nothing to stop him. They will get images in their heads of the girls beaten and scarred for life because of the things you let him do.”
I looked down and sighed, “I would put me away for life if that is all I was told.”
“Exactly, is that what you want?”
I shook my head no, “No I don’t, but I would want to be able to tell my story. My life was nothing before I met him and I thought being with him would give me a purpose. I was completely wrong and lived through more abuse than any of those girls and if I didn’t do what he wanted, he would make it even worse. I never volunteered to be in this situation and wanted out. I did try to stop him, but I am nothing to him.”
“I get it Jacqueline, I really do, but it will be hard to prove that and it’s your word against his. What if I added to the deal for you to get a chance to share your story?”
“How so?” I asked.
“I believe what you have told me and I truly feel that you need to seek services to help you deal with what you’ve been through and understand the situation you were in. I’m not an expert, but I believe you have Stockholm Syndrome, and only did what you were asked to do because of his ‘brainwashing’ or manipulating you. Part of the deal would have you receive psychiatric treatment in a facility rather than in prison.”
“So by admitting my guilt in court for these crimes, I could get the help I need from the abuse I endured?” She nodded. “Would this guarantee no prison time and would I have a shorter sentence?”
“It will not guarantee any prison time, but your chances of having a shorter sentence will greatly improve if you agree to counseling, and following all orders.”
“OK, I will sign it if you include that in the deal. I want to help bring him to justice, if that’s all I can do to still help all those girls.”
The prosecution accepted the new deal and I told them everything I knew about Don’s crimes. I found out there was more than what I knew, but I wasn’t surprised.
As I entered the court room on the day I was to make my plea, I saw several of the older girls that were recently freed sitting in the gallery, including the one that made their freedom possible. I looked down in shame and felt sick to my stomach.
“Jacqueline Mickelson, how do you plea?” I heard the judge asked.
“Guilty,” I replied.
“I have read through your plea deal and although I agree with most of it, I still am not convinced of your claimed ‘innocence’ in all of the crimes you have been charged with. Until I have reviewed further documentation, I reprimand you to the women’s correctional facility where you will begin psychiatric services until I am convinced of the need for a specialized treatment facility. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Is there anything you would like to say to the victims that are present today?” the Judge asked me.
I nodded and turned around to face the gallery. I told my attorney that I wanted to say something if I was given the chance, even though she didn’t think it was a great idea.
“I know what I’m about to say will never be enough for you to forgive me, but I need to ask each of you that are here today to give that a chance. I know I couldn’t help you when you pleaded with me, I know I couldn’t release you from the hell you lived in and I know that what you went through day after day was enough to make you feel like giving up until nothing was left. I know because I was in your place once.
If I agreed to do his bidding, he said he would leave me alone and I tried to believe him, but it didn’t stop. Every time I heard your screams, I covered my ears and heard my own. Every time I helped bathe you to clean off the blood, I saw my own wounds. I hated myself that I couldn’t help each and every one of you that came to that horrible place and on more than one occasion I tried to take my own life.
I am not asking for your pity, nor am I telling you this because I want to get out of my sentence. I am telling you this, because I am truly sorry for everything and I do ask for your forgiveness when you are able. I never could have children of my own because I didn’t want them to face what each of you did, so I did my best to take care of you in any way that I could. Again, I am sorry.”
I turned back around and faced the judge. I heard a few of the girls crying behind me and I let a few tears fall down my face as well.
“Thank you Mrs. Mickelson,” the Judge said. “Bailiff, please escort Mrs. Mickelson back to holding until she is transported.”
As I walked out of the courtroom, I took one last glance at the girls and gave them an apologetic smile and silently wished them all the best of luck.
I was taken to the local women’s correctional facility, processed, given my new clothes and shown my new home: a small cell with a set of bunk beds, a toilet and a double cabinet in which I get half of for my toiletries and other items I may eventually earn. My roommate was an older woman who I found out was there because she robbed a ‘few’ banks.
A few days into my stay, I met with my psychiatrist for the first time. He informed me that Don had pleaded ‘Guilty’ to all charges and was waiting for sentencing for his crimes in Illinois in a maximum security prison. He was also being charged from other states including Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and quite possibly others as well.
He reminded me of my orders to be open and honest with him about my situation and that in normal situations, everything said would be kept between us. Since this was not a normal situation, everything I said, would be recorded and shared with the court. If it helped my case, then I guess, let me begin…