Wednesday morning – 10:15 A.M.
Entering the courtroom, Aden looked around to see who was there. Judge Alberts had closed the courtroom to the press. The only people allowed in the courtroom were family members and people associated with the case. Aden expected to see Sandy and the kids, maybe Sam and Jacob, but the sitting area was filled with men and women wearing various uniforms and suits.
Aden flushed. In a breath, he took in the terror on his children’s faces and the blank look in Sandy’s eyes. His impulsive act had placed fear in their hearts and minds. His embarrassment turning to guilt, he smiled to reassure them as he walked by. Noelle waved, Nash nodded and Sandy winked. But nothing changed. His children were terrified and the love of his life had shut down.
He followed Samantha Hargreaves to the defense table. He had just sat down when the bailiff called for everyone to rise. They stood and waited while the judge got situated. Sitting down again, Aden felt the heat of judge’s eyes on him. He felt as if the elderly man eyes bored right into his soul. Aden couldn’t bear to meet his gaze.
“I called this emergency hearing. So if you were wondering who called it, I did,” Judge Alberts said. “I wanted to get all the players together and see what we can work out. Mr. Norsen?”
“Yes, your honor.” Aden jumped to his feet.
“Sit down,” the judge said. “We’re going to be here a while. You’re here because the Federal Bureau of Investigations would like to charge you with…”
The judge looked at his bailiff and the man placed a paper in front of him.
“Obstruction of justice, disruption of a federal investigation, interfering with a felony, tampering with evidence… Well, it’s a quite long list.”
“Your honor, I don’t think…” a man said from the prosecution table.
“That’s the Federal Prosecutor, Mr. Norsen. Why don’t you introduce yourself Mr. Xavier? You’ve had plenty to say about Mr. Norsen in private. You may as well say hello.”
“Sir, it is not necessary…”
“This happens to be my courtroom, Mr. Xavier and my trial. You don’t get to tell me what’s necessary and what is not. Now sit down or I’ll have you removed.”
The Federal Prosecutor sat down.
Samantha Hargreaves leaned over to whisper in Aden’s ear, “Something’s going on. This isn’t normal.”
“Now, if Ms. Hargreaves has finished?” the judge asked.
“Yes, your honor.”
“I will continue,” the judge said. “See these people in the audience? They’re all here to make sure that Mr. Norsen is held responsible for the death of their key witness. Their reasoning goes something like this: if Mr. Norsen hadn’t acted when he did, their witness’s arrest would not have been so public. And, possibly, their active pedophile witness would still be alive and ready to perpetrate his evil upon the children of Denver.”
“Objection, your honor.” Samantha hopped to her feet. “You cannot take one minuscule assault case and make the acused responsible for an international child pornography scheme that has been going on for decades!”
“Sit down, Ms. Hargreaves,” the judge said.
“Sit down, Ms. Hargreaves. I’m about an inch away from putting every single lawyer in the City and County of Denver in contempt of court!”
Samantha sat down.
Mouth open with shock, Aden turned in place to look at Sandy. She shrugged at him.
“Uncle Howard,” Sandy said. “How are you?”
“Angry, my dear. Angry,” the judge said. “You must know how heart broken we are about all of this.”
“Your honor, I hardly see…” the District Attorney said jumping to his feet.
The judge pointed at him and he sat down.
“I bring up the fact that I know the victim in the larger case. She is my brother’s step-daughter and my niece,” Judge Alberts said. “Even though I am the senior justice, and this case falls in my specialty, I had no intention of trying any of these cases. My duty was to oversee the entire debacle while other judges can hear these cases. It’s my understanding that death threats have been received by our justices. Is that correct, Lieutenant Robinson?”
“Yes, your honor.” A uniformed police officer stood in the back row of the audience stood. “They are in protective custody.”
“So we have death threats against judges. A pedophile who the Feds were willing to leave roaming the City and County of Denver looking for victims until they got around to arresting him. And surprise, surprise, the cretin ends up dead. The FBI, CIA, UN and a bunch of other people irked at the cretin’s death. In the middle of it all, we have… what was Ms. Hargreaves term? Ah yes, a miniscule assault case.”
Nervous, Aden shifted in his chair.
“Mr. Norsen, no doubt you remember who I am?”
“Yes, sir,” Aden said.
“Do you remember what I said to you the last time we were in a courtroom like this?”
“Good,” the judge said. “Ms. Hargreaves? Your motion to dismiss?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“I’m going to set that matter aside for the moment.”
The judge put his hand over his microphone and said something to his bailiff. The bailiff brought a stack of paper over to Samantha Hargreaves. Samantha looked at the top sheet, then began reading in earnest.
“Mr. Norsen, given my relationship with a relative of the victim in your case, and the victim of the larger case, are you willing to allow me to try this case? That means you would give up any chance to appeal over judicial bias or judicial prejudice.”
“May I have a moment to speak with my attorney?”
“Go ahead,” the judge said. Pointing to the prosecution table, he added. “I need to talk to these guys anyway.”
Aden turned to Samantha. She was digging through the stack of papers.
“What is that?” Aden asked.
“It’s charges!” Samantha’s words came out in a panick induced rush. “And all the documentation about why they should or shouldn’t charge you with… everything. Aden, you’re in real trouble here. I don’t know if even I can defend you. We might want to get someone older, more experienced, and…”
“Samantha, you’re losing it. I’m supposed to lose it today, not you.”
“Oh, right.” Samantha let out a breath then gave him her most beautiful smile. “I’m back.”
“Can they charge me with all of this?”
“Yes,” Samantha said. “I doubt they could convict you on all of them. They can easily add them to this case. Or they can open a new case against you in Federal Court. We’d be held up in court for… years. If they grant our motion to dismiss, the entire case will shift to Federal Court. If we proceed…”
Samantha looked over Aden’s shoulder for a moment. Her eyes were vague and thinking. When she turned back to Aden, she was present.
“I think we should allow him to try this case,” Samantha said. “We lose our right to an appeal, but only over judicial prejudice due to family relationship. That’s okay. Your goal is to get this over with right?”
“Right,” Aden said. “I want to get on with my life.”
“Then let’s move forward,” Samantha said. She gave him a vague smile. “Sorry I lost my cool. I never imagined something like this might happen. But I can do this. And if I can’t, I know people who can help.”
“Let’s move forward,” Aden said.
They turned back to the court just as the prosecution was returning to their table.
“Your honor,” Samantha said. “The defense agrees to allow you preside over this assault case. Mr. Norsen waves his right to appeal on the grounds of judicial prejudice due to familiarity with the victim.”
“Thank you, Ms. Hargreaves. Please let the record show that I will preside over this hearing,” Judge Alberts said. “Is your client aware of the repercussions of this agreement?”
“Yes, your honor,” Samantha said. “My client understands the nature of his crime and is anxious to get this matter settled.”
“Good. That’s good news. You’ve changed quite a bit, Mr. Norsen.”
“Yes, your honor,” Aden said.
“You have received a written plea agreement?”
“Yes, your honor,” Samantha said.
“Your honor,” the Federal prosecutor said.
“And where do you stand with the plea bargain, Ms. Hargreaves?” the judge asked.
“The defense accepts the plea bargain. We signed the documents and have filed them with the District Attorney’s office yesterday.”
For the first time, the judge sat back in his chair. He even smiled at Samantha.
“Does the District Attorney’s office agree to terms of the plea bargain?”
“Yes, your honor.” The District Attorney stood with his body shifted so that his back faced the Federal prosecutors. “The City and County of Denver signed the plea bargain and entered it into court record first thing this morning.”
“Perfect,” the judge said. “This court hereby accepts the plea bargain including the stipulation that no further charges will be added to this case or this defendant.”
When the Federal prosecutor began screaming at the judge, Samantha leaned over to Aden to whisper:
“The DA added that to the plea last night. Did I tell you?”
Aden shook his head.
“Sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t think it was any big deal. He called. I was surprised he wanted to add it. I mean, at the time, I had no idea they wanted to add all these charges. Anyway, it seemed to suit our purposes. Is it all right with you?”
Aden nodded. And Samantha smiled.
“Now, we just have to get through sentencing.”
Aden looked up just as the District Attorney yelled at the Federal Prosecutor:
“You left this man on our streets! Your callous lack of regard for the citizens’ of Denver well being is unprecedented. You didn’t even bother to include the Denver Police Department until it was too late. YOU created the line Mr. Xavier. We are simply using your line to protect the citizens of Denver.”
Bang, bang, bang sounded the judge gavel.
“That is enough!” the judge yelled.
The courtroom became silent.
“Your honor, I would like to withdraw our request to dismiss the charges,” Samantha said. “We are ready to proceed to sentencing.”
“Usually, Mr. Norsen, there is an additional hearing for sentencing. But given the nature of this case, and at your attorney’s request, we will proceed.”
“Your honor, may I have a moment to consult with my client?” Samantha asked.
“Go ahead,” the judge said.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” Samantha whispered. “If he goes for the maximum, we can easily appeal. But I worry that an appeal will leave you open to all these other charges.”
She glanced over at the Federal Prosecutor.
“My guess is that they can’t afford the negative publicity generated by leaving Sandy’s father on the streets for so long. That’s why they wanted to add the charges to your case. It’s a gamble, but I bet the District Attorney is attempting to mitigate his own publicity nightmare by shifting the responsibility to the Feds.”
“Will they charge me with all this stuff?” Aden whispered.
“They can,” Samantha said. “If they were going to charge you in Federal Court, they wouldn’t try to piggy back on this hearing. My guess is they don’t want the publicity of a full blown trial. And we’d take it to a full blown trial.”
“If we move forward to sentencing, you’ll have to go today,” Samantha said. “I can delay it, but you run the risk of these other charges.”
“Let’s just get this over with,” Aden said.
“We’re ready for sentencing, your honor,” Samantha said.
“Thank you, Ms. Hargreaves,” Judge Alberts said. “I have reviewed the plea bargain. I have also spoken with corrections. I have also reviewed Mr. Norsen’s file as well as his extensive background check. Mr. Norsen, do you understand the charges against you?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Do you understand the nature of the sentencing? You have agreed to one year in jail and one year probation.”
“Yes, your honor.”
Aden bit his lip. This was the moment he’d waited for. Would the judge change the sentencing? Would he go in for life?
“I sentence you to ninety full days in jail with no possibility of good time reduction. After you’ve served ninety days in jail, you will be remanded to community corrections for the remainder of your two year sentence.”
The judge banged his gavel then stood up. He was out of the courtroom before anyone could say another word. In a heartbeat, Aden was cuffed. He watched Sandy hold Noelle back when she tried to run to him. Nash wouldn’t look at him. Without getting a chance to say goodbye, Aden was led from the courtroom.
Wednesday — 1:07 P.M.
She was sitting on the couch in the apartment at the Castle. Heather touched Sandy’s arm.
“Oh honey, that can’t be it,” Jill said. She was walking back and forth bouncing Heather’s newborn, Mack, in her arms.
“That’s what I said,” Tanesha said.
“According to his lawyer, he goes to some place called DRDC, reception and diagnostics, over off of Havana. He’ll be there a week or more for testing, then he gets placed. We won’t be able to see him until he’s placed,” Sandy said. “Samantha said she’s seen it take months for people to get in there. Then they can spend at least a month there. This isn’t a really busy time of year, so she thinks he’ll go through fast.”
“How are the kids?” Heather asked.
“Hysterical,” Sandy said. “Sam and Delphie helped me get them back here. Anjelika was able to get them to watch a movie downstairs. That’s where they are. They didn’t want to leave me, but Jill’s Mom knew how much I needed to see you guys. Aden’s gone and I’m…. I really needed to see you.”
”Social Services is coming in a couple hours,” Sandy said
“Do you think they’ll take the kids?” Jill asked.
“Sam says they’re doing a house visit to make sure the kids are going to be all right here. He and Delphie and I will be their guardians while Aden’s in jail. No one wants to add them to the system.”
“Wow, you’ve gone from a single gal to the mother of two,” Tanesha said. “And one on the way.”
“Will you deliver my baby too?” Sandy asked. Relieved to talk about something other then her mess up life, Sandy shifted her attention to Tanesha.
“You did great,” Heather said. “I couldn’t have done it without you. And look at me – no tearing, everything’s really good. I was in the hospital less than twenty-four hours. You and Blane make a good team.”
“Well, that’s what I was thinking about,” Tanesha said. “You remember when I went away to school?”
“Morehouse,” Jill said. “I was so jealous. I would have painted my skin black to get your scholarships!”
“You had Trevor,” Tanesha said.
“Don’t remind me.” Jill kissed little Mack’s face. “You wouldn’t have liked Trevor, Mack.”
“What about school, Tanesha?” Sandy asked.
“I missed you guys so much,” Tanesha said. “I counted the days until I was home again. I felt like your lives were really moving along and I was stuck. But I couldn’t stop. I was the only person in my family EVER to get a chance to go to college. I wasn’t going to fail all those generations of slaving and subsistence farming and struggling to get me here.
“But I missed you guys,” Tanesha said. “You know I’m supposed to go to medical school in the fall?”
“I know you’re going to medical school in the fall,” Heather said.
“Are you unsure about school?” Sandy asked.
“I was thinking that I would hurry through. You know, just get it done and become a GP or something fast so I wouldn’t miss too much,” Tanesha said. “But after yesterday? I want to deliver babies.”
Jill, Heather and Sandy gave a little cheer.
“But that means I’ll be in school forever,” Tanesha said. “I won’t be available for confabs like this one or to help out with kids or to go out for drinks or…. It will be like when I was exiled at Morehouse.”
“We’re right here,” Jill said.
She held Mack out to Tanesha. Tanesha picked him up to cuddle.
“We won’t let you drift too far,” Jill said.
“We don’t go out so much anymore,” Sandy added.
“You can’t get rid of us,” Heather said. “I can’t wait until you open your new office. Dr. Tanesha!”
“We’ll call you Dr. T,” Jill said.
“We wouldn’t be your true friends if we didn’t want you to be really happy,” Sandy said. “We want you to do what makes you happy. We’ll still be here.”
“There’s something else,” Tanesha said. She looked over at Heather. “That Tres asked me out.”
“I know how much you like him, Heather. I don’t need no man getting in between my besties. No man is worth that.”
Jill and Sandy watched Heather.
“What did you say?” Heather asked.
“I didn’t say anything,” Tanesha said. “He called about an hour ago. Listen, I’m serious. If you don’t want me to see that guy I won’t see him.”
“I want to get all hysterical, you know,” Heather said. “I want to say that I found him first. He’s really cute. I think he likes me. How can he like you? Stuff like that. But you know, I have really crappy taste in men. I can’t pick a guy who’s good for me to save my life.”
“You picked Blane,” Jill said.
“He kinda picked me,” Heather smiled. “My good taste was to pick the sperminator. Would you really not date Tres if I said so?”
“I would never accept another call from him,” Tanesha said. “You come first.”
“I feel that way about you too,” Heather said. “And Jill and Sandy.”
Jill and Sandy nodded in agreement.
“I have Blane and Mack,” Heather said. “I have to believe that, if it’s meant to be, the right person will come along for me when the time is right. I thought that was Tres, but if he’s asking you out, he’s not the right person for me. Anyway, right now, I need to focus on Mack.”
“He’s such a good baby,” Jill said. “So mellow.”
“Not like Katy!” Sandy laughed. “Remember how active she was when she was this age?”
“I do!” Heather and Tanesha said at the same time.
“She’s still that active,” Jill laughed.
“So you don’t mind if I go out with Tres?” Tanesha said.
“I don’t mind, Tanesha,” Heather said. “Have fun.”
Heather stood to hug Tanesha. With Mack in her arms, Tanesha walked into Heather’s hug. Jill put her arms around the two and Sandy stood to hug them. With the tiny newborn at the center, the four friends hugged each other.
“Family of choice,” Sandy whispered.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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