Sunday, September 09, 2007

He's In The Jailhouse Now

Bert works across the hall from my office; I see him occasionally when I go into the lunchroom. Thursday he looked up at me when I walked in. "Brett is in jail. He was sentenced to 150 days."

"Oh?" said I.

Bert's tone was between anger and anguish. He's a big guy with a scruffy beard. He works as a printer, and I think of him as having limitations in the brains department. He's also a dramatic person. He likes to milk a situation for all its Shakespearean qualities.

In this case, he thought the quality of mercy was strained. "The judge ignored the plea bargain. The prosecutor told us he'd only get two weeks but then the judge sentenced him to 180 days, and knocked off 30 days."

"You know," I said in my most noncommittal-sounding voice, "the judge isn't obligated to go by what the prosecutor agrees to if he thinks justice isn't being served."

Bert sputtered a little but continued on with why it wasn't fair. "Brett has gone to the rehab program. He's done everything the court told him to do. But the judge said two felonies didn't get two weeks in jail. They got more time."

Bert left, shaking his head, and I sat at the table with my lunch pail.

Brett, Bert's 22-year-old son, used to work with him in the printing department. I knew the kid when he was a teenager. A couple of years ago he got another job and I hadn't seen him since. Not until I saw him on the news, that is.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Brett and a friend sat down for the game, and during the course of the afternoon and evening Brett claims he drank ten shots of J├Ągermeister. He was driving home when he got lit up by a cop car. He pulled over and thought, "I don't want to go to jail," so he did the single dumbest thing he'd ever done, even beating out his dumbness at drinking ten shots of J├Ąger. He ran.

The next morning I was watching Channel 2 News when the story came on. "A local man was arrested after a high speed chase on State Street last night. Speeds reached in excess of 80 miles per hour. The man's car crashed into a pole in a business parking lot in Murray, and 21-year-old Brett **** was taken into custody." Sure enough, there he was, being escorted in handcuffs.

That was nine months ago, and he finally had his day in court. Sentenced to 180 days, with 30 days suspended. It was because of his stupidity, not because a judge had it in for him, as Bert seems to think. I thought about how many charges cops could have filed against Brett: DUI, evading arrest, damage to private property by hitting the pole in somebody's parking lot. The list goes on. Actually, I'm surprised the young man didn't get more time. Somebody could have been killed.

This isn't the first coworker whose son has gone to jail. One coworker's son was in jail for drugs, then in prison for youthful offenders. He's out now and has his own carpet installing business, scared straight. Another guy's son is serving time in a federal penitentiary because he trafficked in drugs. He's been in and out of the justice system since he was a young teenager and his dad and mom are sick of all of it.

On the other hand, my son walks the straight-and-narrow because he's like his old man, me. I know for sure I couldn't spend a night in jail, and neither could he.

When I was a young guy, driving drunk wasn't the big deal it is now. I didn't drink until I was old enough, because there wasn't anyone I knew of legal age who'd buy alcohol for me. Truth be told, I was also a little bit scared of it, and hated it when my buddies bragged up their drinking exploits. But in those days, the early 1960s, if one of my buddies got pulled over, about the worst thing that would happen is they'd spend a night in the drunk tank, or sometimes it was worse when their old man was called to come pick him up. Maybe charges wouldn't even be filed. There was more of a boys will be boys attitude in those days. Nowadays we have Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, and they've lobbied for tougher laws. They want to keep impaired drivers off the road, and some pretty harsh penalties are enacted for breaking drunk driving laws. I wish they'd form Mothers Against Cell Phones, or Mothers Against Putting On Makeup In The Car While Stopped At A Traffic Light. I think the cell phone offense should warrant an automatic death sentence.

Anyway, I liked Brett when he worked with us. The other guys who worked with him told me he was impaired most of the time, hungover, or drunk after lunch, but he held it well because I didn't see it, and I've seen some drunk coworkers in my time. I'm not sorry he's doing time in the Crowbar Hotel, though. Trying to outrun cops when you're dead drunk is a really poor decision to make, but he made it early enough in his life that hopefully he'll learn a lesson and straighten out from here on in.


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