Or so they say, then they continue “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish.” This is one of the lines you hear sometime after being raided and threatened with by assault weapons and having your liberty stripped with handcuffs and concrete walls. Since that fateful day Dec 17 2009 I’ve dealt with missing evidence, lead detectives that testify “yes we lie, we lie through our teeth.” And on and on it goes culminating with a debauchal of a trial and conviction on all counts in Judge Sheldon’s kangaroo court just before Christmas.
The past year and a half have been a series of fundraising activities from silent auctions and donated prizes and dinners at friends’ houses to elaborate music festivals with proceeds going to pay legal costs and still coming up short. Today, nearly 2 and a half years after the raid, an initial $25,000 bail (no refund), then a $120,000 bail with a 10% non-refundable bond posted by dear friends out of shear compassion, I got the mother of all kicks in the teeth!
In a moment of justice and a few miracles, I had been granted a new trial. Although this is the very best thing I could have ever hoped for, alas I have no more money to pay for it and most of my friends are tapped out as well. My small nursery and a few teaching gigs barely pay the bills, much less exorbitant legal costs, so I signed up with the public defender’s office.
In less than 2 weeks they informed the court that there was a “conflict of interest” and that the Alternate public defender’s office would need to take the case. I met with, let’s call him “Steve,” who quickly reminded me of the plea deal on the table. It seemed that he wasn’t at all interested in fighting this case but I let him know in no uncertain terms that I was “All In” and that I would fight this on my own if necessary.
Today (May 29, 2012) was a procedural day where my codefendant’s new council was going to officially substitute and my “Alternate” was also going to commit.
While we waited for one of the attorneys to arrive, “Steve” approached the bench and I overheard him tell the judge that he was not going to be able to represent me because I didn’t qualify financially. The defendant and I stepped across the bar and the judge said:
“The alternate public defender’s office informs me that they don’t want to represent you due to financial conflict. Now I am going to try to keep them on but I’m not really sure what the law states here. If I am unable to make them stay you will need to hire an attorney and if you don’t, then you will be on your own. Do you understand this Mr. Grumbine?”
I acknowledged, we set the next date to meet, and my blood began to boil as I approached “Steve.”
“So what do you mean conflict of interest?” I said, obviously irritated.
We were still in the courtroom and he informed me that I owned several properties and therefore didn’t qualify. I just about blew up right there but managed to hold it together.
I choked down my venom for a second and whispered, “I own 1 property, I live there and have for 16 years and it’s way upside down. “
He informed me of several properties and even one that my wife supposedly owned. One was even on the market. My irritation quickly turned to frustration and even anger so we decided to go outside where he proceeded to tell me of his outlook on the case.
He informed me that he had reviewed some of the transcript and as he saw it my partner and I had created a “straw co-op” where “none of the money went back to the members” and that based on our closing arguments, our defense was basically “we didn’t know.”
I about blew a gasket and briefly informed him of the merits of the case as well as current rulings on the law. There in the halls of the court I really wanted to physically assault the guy that my tax dollars (and yours) were going to pay to “defend me” according to Miranda.
He asked if my collectives were still operating and when I told him not for a long time he just had a smug look and told me that I was welcome to talk to his boss. Before I was finished, I asked him if he thought that a jury verdict being overturned meant anything. He didn’t think it was much of a deal “the judge made a few mistakes” he quipped.
I continued to get hotter but somehow managed to maintain composure. I asked him if he was #$@! % kidding and when I told him that I was railroaded and that the trial was a fiasco He smirked and reminded me of the deal on the table.
I walked away as to avoid this getting worse for any of us, especially me and quickly called his office. I spoke with his boss and she informed me that their research showed that I had made millions of dollars from the collective and owned multiple properties and that it was my responsibility to prove otherwise. Add this to the need to prove innocence as opposed to being presumed innocent I am even more motivated to fight for everyone that falls into my category of those unable to afford justice!
As I told the cop that held the weapon to my head “you’ve got the wrong guy” never a truer statement was said!