It has been a hell of a morning, let me tell you. But it hasn’t been just this morning-it has been a hell of a 9 months, and it culminated in the sentencing this morning. I kept waiting for it to be postponed, since that has been the way of it so far; hard to be hopeful, really, but this time it wasn’t postponed. Instead, we got to sit in the courtroom with the news camera rolling, listening to the bullshit flow from CF’s sleazeball lawyer’s mouth, listening to the prosecution rebut anything said, watching the realization sink into CF’s eyes as it finally, finally occurred to him that maybe he is, perhaps, in trouble.
And at first the judge was very calm, his face kept perfectly blank and devoid of any emotion. When it was my turn to address the court, he was unfailingly polite, but while I spoke, he very carefully kept his thoughts to himself. I honestly can’t remember what I said; my knees were shaking so badly that I could feel the legs of my pants brush up against each other, but obviously I said something. Irrelevant, probably, but everyone in the courtroom sat up a little straighter when my dear sweet daughter stood up. The judge told me that I could stand with her, and I did, my arms around her holding her up while she shook. But she spoke. She spoke eloquently and well, her voice raw with emotions and tears running down her face. She said, “I hate you. I trusted you and my family trusted you and I hate you for what you did. I hope you get what you deserve, and that is to go to prison and be afraid and embarrassed and ashamed just like I have been.” There was a lot more, but it was so emotionally charged for all of us that I can’t clearly recall all she said.
One thing she did say, though, that almost had me laughing out loud was this: She was very vehemently pointing her finger at him and said, “I hope people MOCK you. I hope everyone reads the paper and remembers your face, and I hope one day you are at the grocery store and a little kid runs up to you and I hope his mom says, ‘Stay away from that man, he is very, very bad.” And no, it isn’t funny at all, it is very true, but God, I was so proud of her, her staunch assertion that he is bad and that she hopes people make fun of him, that it truly WAS funny. Sweet, sweet girl.
And as Hannah spoke, the judge became more and more upset, visibly so. While the defense attorney (aka Sleazeball) was doing the baffling with bullshit thing (I think his intention was simply to bore everyone to death, really), the judge was up there shaking his head, and even when the prosecuting attorney was talking, the judge was not pleased at all. Both the pre-sentence investigation and the psycho-sexual evaluation recommended retained jurisdiction, which is a 6 month sentence where the criminal can get some sort of rehabilitation (otherwise known as a RIDER); however, since there was this plea agreement in place, the prosecutor felt legally obligated to uphold that. The judge, he was pissed. He said something about how he understood that at the time the agreement was made, Hannah was not in any position to go to trial, but based on how excellently she had held up today he was tempted to throw out the guilty plea and take it to trial on all four counts. However, since everyone was clearly in agreement….
And at this point, I just bowed my head and prayed. Prayed that he would understand that the only reason we EVER agreed to it was because when it was slated to go to trial, Hannah was in no way emotionally ready to testify and be cross examined. Prayed that he would see the very real affect this has had on our lives, prayed that in the end justice would be served. He got really, really quiet for a few minutes, and I think the whole courtroom was holding its collective breath.
So then he pronounced his sentence: 120 days in county jail. Registration as a sex offender. 10 years felony sex offender probation. No discretionary time (which means he can’t be given, say, 30 days by his probation officer if he gets caught violating terms of his probation). The underlying sentence, fixed, is life in prison. What this means to us laypeople is that he will be on strictly supervised sex offender probation for TEN years; this is huge in and of itself. Sex offender probation is very, very difficult; he will be required to undergo a more detailed psycho-sexual evaluation and will be prescribed a treatment plan based on their findings. There will be classes and therapy and group counseling. He has to submit to polygraph tests quarterly for the first year, then at least annually thereafter, plus any time his PO has a reason to ask for one. He can be searched-his home, his car, his locker at work, his person-for any reason, at any time. And then, if he fails to adhere to the terms of his probation, he goes to prison. For the rest of his life. With no possibility of parole. Ever.
I will admit to hearing the “120 days” and thinking, “oh, crap, it really is going to be bad as we thought, he is going to get a proverbial slap on the wrist….” but then when the judge continued on to give the rest of his sentence, well, Hannah and I both just started crying. Just-crying. This is so huge, so unexpected, so-amazing that I can’t believe it. I really can’t. On the surface it stinks, right? But it doesn’t, not at all. His actual sentence is life in prison. For the next ten years, he will have that hanging over his head. Every move he makes will be watched, not just by his probation officer but by the public (even before this happened, I regularly checked the sex offender registry, so it stands to reason that other people do as well), and he will have to worry every single second about whether or not something he says or does could be construed as being inappropriate. The story will be on the news tonight and in the papers tomorrow, and with hope, people are not going to forget his name or his face, at least not right away. Typically, sex offenders have a hard time complying with the terms of probation, too, so he very well may end up in prison. The judge was very funny, too, although I don’t think he meant to. He said, “One of the things you mentioned in the pre-sentence report is that you want to die sober; I can guarantee you can die sober in prison!” And I really, truly, don’t think that CF thought this would happen. Often, the defense will ask for and be granted a request to have a week or so to finalize “affairs” before having to report to jail, and J., the prosecutor, nipped that one in the bud. He said that if the defense had been thinking of asking for that additional time, he would object, loudly, because he has had nine months to finalize his business affairs, plus he “would really like to give the victim and her family the satisfaction of seeing him taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs” ( Tee hee, it was great, too). When asked if he had anything to say to the court, CF just said, not even looking at us, “I would like to apologize to the victim and her mother,” and the judge said, “Don’t. And if you EVER think you need to get in touch with the victim, her mother, or any member of their family to tell them how sorry you are, just don’t. Because I will put you in prison.” Only at this point did CF start to look scared, like he finally realized that he was, in fact, in some major trouble. It was a great moment, seeing it dawn in his eyes that he wasn’t going to get away with anything.
Afterward, amidst tears and hugs, the prosecutor told me that I need to gather together a detailed explanation of any expenditures related to this case. From day one, any time taken off of work, whether it was paid time or not, and additional expenses such as gasoline and meals and the hotel from when I had to take Hannah to Idaho Falls, all medical bills even if they were paid for through Medicaid, etc…clothes for court, additional childcare needed for my other children, anything. In 30 days, we will have a another hearing to decide whether or not he has to pay restitution. In addition, he said we need to be thinking about taking her in to have a professional evaluation done with regards to what further counseling she might need, and have them submit a projected time frame and expenses anticipated; it might be possible to have a fund set aside by him for future therapy. And while I can’t stand the idea of taking any kind of money from him, for anything, and of course they can’t guarantee the judge will approve any of it, J. said it IS very important. Not so much for what we might GET, but to acknowledge the additional burdens his actions has caused our family. So there may be another court hearing or two ahead of us, but nothing major at all, just tying up loose ends.
So. We-Hannah, Steve, my friend Jacquie and her husband, and I-all went out to lunch afterward, giddy and silly with the relief of not just having it over with but feeling like it was a good sentence. We laughed-over the silliest, stupidest things-and we all just feel so much better. This is the beginning of healing, for all of, and maybe, just maybe, sometimes justice truly is served.