Arraignment

© Copyright 2011

Winter, 1994

#

Puerto Rico, Ponce City

#

There were a few interruptions during the night as a few new women were put into the big cell but Sylvia could fall asleep in just a few seconds when she wanted to. Just after first light there was a bustle outside the cell as food was delivered and more than thirty women wanted to use the two toilets in the room.

The food was delivered on plastic trays with plastic utensils too soft to be filed against concrete and made into weapons. It was a big scoop of scrambled eggs with bacon and vegetable fragments in it, a large cookie, a container of orange juice and another of milk. Serena, the battered woman, had no appetite but Katrina managed to bully her into eating half the cookie and drinking all her milk. When Sylvia saw Serena eying Sylvia’s milk and gave it to her, she finished that as well. Sylvia got everything the battered woman did not consume.

As women began to finish eating Sylvia walked around finishing off scraps. She ate so much that shortly some women were betting when she would quit. When the attention got too noticeable she belched loudly and stopped eating.

Shortly after the breakfast remnants were cleared away pairs of guards began arriving and taking women away in small batches. The prostitutes were among the first and departed with loud friendly (and two or three not-so-friendly) exchanges.

Halfway through this process a couple of big guards came for Sylvia with the same restraints she had worn coming in. Some of the prisoners set up jeering comments.

"What a bunch of scaredy cats!" "None of us were torn limb-from-limb." "Poor widdle police."

The two guards argued and finally one of them said to Hell with it while the other said,

"Come on, Connelly! We’re going to see your lawyer."

Sylvia pulled the battered woman with her as she left the cell.

"Hey. Just you, Connelly."

"She’s my lawyer’s client, too."

"No way. We’ll come back for her, but you’re going alone."

"OK. Serena, I’ll be back, and I promise you again that you will have a good attorney. You go lie down and rest some more."

Out of sight and sound of the cell one of the guards said, "I could tell these restraints were bullshit. The woman who put her life on the line in the jungle to save those kids wouldn’t go crazy like they say you did."

She laughed and squeezed his arm. "I did go a little crazy when those men ignored me. I snatched one’s hands of cards and threw them away. And after that, well, when they started trying to beat up on me, I got really pissed if you’ll excuse my English."

He laughed and the other guard gave a wintry smile.

Later, several twists and turns and up a flight of stairs, Sylvia heard sounds that she guessed meant they were nearing a public area. Which meant possible photographers and journalists. She stopped.

"Uh, you know, I appreciate your not putting all that stuff on me. But your bosses might be annoyed with you at ignoring their orders. Maybe you should restrain me."

The friendly guard scowled but the quieter one nodded slowly.

"You know the Sergeant will be unhappy."

"Sorry, Doctor, we have to do it."

She lifted her arms for the heavy leather belt, held out her arms for the cuffs, and then set each foot forward in turn while they cuffed those too.

#

The first public area contained only police and jail workers. The monster did get some attention — or her guards did. It did not overjoy them.

"Hey, boys, I see you you’re safe from that terrible professor." "God, she does look dangerous." "Careful! She might rip those chains right off!"

Her two guards scowled but didn’t answer back. They hurried her out of the office area and down a couple of hallways that she guessed were back ways into the arraignment area.

There was one public hallway they could not avoid: the one leading into the arraignment court. There journalists ambushed them. Camera lights flashed and a half-dozen journalists with microphones yelled questions at Sylvia and the guards. She kept her head up so they could see her unkempt hair and spectacular bruises to which she had added yellow, green, and purple highlights during the night.

She was not the only prisoner inside the court room, nor was her attorney the only one. The guards led her to a well-dressed older man with a neat grey beard, salt-and-pepper hair with dramatic grey sideburns, and a magnificently aquiline nose. His name was Humberto Salinas and she had dealt with him before, although on publishing matters and property transfers.

"What the Hell is this? Restraints? On Doctor Connelly? Get them off!"

The older of the two guards squirmed. "Can’t. Our sergeant ordered them. For her own safety, he said."

Her attorney opened his mouth but Sylvia interrupted.

"Thank you for your concern, but these men are just following their orders. And the restraints are not uncomfortable. Nor do I mind wearing them."

She turned to the guards. "Thank you, gentlemen, for your courtesy."

The quieter of the two guards said, "You are a classy lady. Good luck."

The other seconded his sentiments and they both left.

Under the oversight of the bailiff and his assistants her attorney led her to a bench as far from everyone as he could manage. It was marginally quieter there.

"Well, let’s sit down here. Tell me what happened. The man who called our office last night just said you’d been accused of assaulting someone but that you had just defended yourself. But it says here that you put four men in the hospital."

"Oh, it’s true. But they did attack me first. Here’s what happened."

She gave him a quick summary of the events of the previous night, admitting that she had lost her temper and insulted the men but not telling him just what those insults were.

"It’s hard for me to believe that you bested four men, especially men who have been active out of doors all their lives. And they’ve probably had plenty of experience as brawlers."

"My younger brother Ricky was into martial arts and eventually became a police officer in Miami. We were close and I was his practice partner for several years. And I’ve been active in water sports since I was a little girl. I’ve always been in very good shape, and when I decided to go into those jungles I trained intensively so I’d survive."

"Did you have to bite his nose off?"

"Just some skin off his nose. He’s lucky I didn’t bite his tongue off when he stuck it in my mouth. Especially since he had his hand on my crotch."

"He did? Hmm. I think the women on the jury will be inclined to side with you on that."

"I intend to sue those men for assaulting me. In addition to any criminal charges."

"There should be if you told me the truth."

"I have going on a hundred people who will support my side of the story. But I’m pretty confident that as soon as those men are out on bail they’ll will flee the area."

"I should put a word in so they’ll be prevented from doing that. But why are you so confident?"

"Their attorney will probably tell them they’ll be at a disadvantage in any trial. And the other fishermen will be putting a lot of pressure on them. And I want them to leave the area. So keep silent on that score if you will."

Just then the bailiff announced the arrival of the judge. As everyone rose to their feet Sylvia whispered to Counselor Salinas, "I have another matter I must discuss with you before you leave."

He started to ask what it was but Sylvia turned her head respectfully toward the judge, who was seating himself on the bench.

She saw the judge’s eyes flick toward her and continue on to survey the courtroom. He could not have missed that a half-dozen photographers had taken pictures of his arrival, albeit discreetly: from their seats and without flash.

A couple of dozen cases were presented to the judge and dispatched in several ways. A few were dismissed outright. Some were assigned to public defenders, and most of their defendants released on their own recognizance or assigned small bail amounts. Then other cases dispatched for larger bail amounts. Apparently the easier cases were being gotten through first.

Then there were a very few defendants left. All of them had attorneys who appeared to have considerable experience. Sylvia was amused. She was among the hardened or dangerous criminals, apparently.

Then they were dispatched, big bails or no bails at all for the charge of first-degree murder.

At last she was the only case left, a mere assault case but with a celebrity, though a very minor one.

When her attorney prompted her Sylvia rose with him to face the judge.

"Bailiff, why is this defendant in chains?"

That man, an elderly but still hearty man with a heavy helping of Indian blood, looked down at a clipboard in one hand.

"Apparently a misunderstanding, your honor. It was originally ordered to protect her when they had to put her in the group holding cell. The sergeant on duty thought it might intimidate some of the tougher inmates. And then when he went off duty the word wasn’t passed on that she was to be brought from the cell without them."

"Well, get them off her. And pass on my reprimand to the on-duty personnel that night. Even those guilty of crimes must be treated with minimum use of force consonant with the situation."

Playing to the crowd, mostly journalists at this point, she thought. And maybe he even meant it.

While the bailiff did as he was told the judge (Antonioni, she saw from a nameplate on the front of the dais where he sat) said, "I hope you were indeed kept safe during your stay last night, Doctor Connelly."

"Yes, your Honor. My worst discomfort was listening to medical complaints from inmates who thought my degree was medical."

Chuckles rose from the onlookers, even one (disguised as a cough) from the assistant district attorney who was bringing an accusation against her.

The judge allowed himself a wintry smile. "I would imagine the sleeping accommodations in the holding cell was worse."

"Oh, no, your Honor. When you’ve spent most of a year sleeping in trees in a jungle a nice plastic bench in a cozy jail cell is positively luxurious."

Having shown himself humane the judge let the additional chuckles die away then became judicial again. He addressed the ADA who, like Sylvia and her counsel, was standing.

"What are the charges?"

"Assault with a deadly weapon, you honor."

"Hmm. It says here that she put four fishermen in the hospital with, I see here, minor injuries. I see no mention of a deadly weapon."

"Dr. Connelly is a noted athlete, your Honor, with martial arts training. Her fists and feet are deadly weapons."

"I see. Counselor, how does your client plead?"

"Not guilty by reason of self-defense."

"Does the DA’s office want to impose bail?"

"We do, for the amount of $100,000."

"That’s quite a large amount."

"The accused is an employee of ArgenSpace. As long as she resides on Space Island, which is Argentine territory, we cannot retrieve her directly and must request their police, in effect, to deport her."

The judge turned his gaze to Sylvia’s attorney and raised an eyebrow.

"We consider any bail for a respected academic with no prior convictions an insult. Furthermore, she is the injured party here. She was assaulted by four large tough men who she reasonably believed were going to rape her and beat her, possibly to death. A fact for which we have nearly a hundred witnesses. This accusation is certain to be overturned and my client knows it. Dr. Connelly is not a flight risk."

The ADA did not seem to have his heart in his job, but he obviously intended to go through the motions.

"The accused has a prior history of violence, your honor. In Venezuela…"

Salinas said, "Those events took place outside the United States and she was never convicted of anything. This is inadmissible as evidence."

"We’re not in a court of law — that is, we are not in a trial. The judge is quite capable of assessing the Venezuela incident in his judgments."

"So I am. Hmm." The judge tapped his desk with a fingernail as he ruminated. He had something of the distinguished looks of her attorney, Sylvia suddenly noticed. She glanced at him then back at the judge. Not quite a family resemblance. More as if … yes, that eagle’s nose meant they were both in direct line from Spain. A complex web work of beads spun in her imagination, each bead a gene….

Now where had she read about that web work? She had not. It had suddenly appeared from some deep library of information that must have come from her new body. Or at least access to it had come from her unhuman body….

"Dr. Connelly, are you a flight risk?"

She jerked back to reality. "No, your honor. I have too many responsibilities I cannot abandon. And one of them —" She let her voice rise. "— is to see those dolphin-killing, ah, FOREIGNERS jailed for assaulting me!" She pointed one arm dramatically off to the side as if pointing at the hospital where the four men lay.

The judge nodded. "I believe you, personally. However, you understand that as a member of the court I must exercise caution. Your bail is set at $10,000. Bailiff, if you will see that Dr. Connelly and her attorney are escorted to a conference room?"

Before the judge could rise Sylvia raised her hand.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"Two things, sir. First, I promise you personally that on the day of my trial I will be here bright and early. Second, I wonder if I might wait in the holding cell where I spent the night till bail is arranged. There is a woman there who has a medical condition that must be treated. Nothing serious, but it worries her unreasonably, and my presence will ease her mind."

"The jails are not under my direct supervision, but if there is room in the cell I can’t imagine that the jail administrators will have any objection."

With that he rose and left the courtroom.

#

Go to chapter eighteen, Ricky.

© Copyright 2011

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