ANOTHER COURTROOM “WAR STORY”

courage

[As a change of pace, the following is a true story from my unpublished memoir about my early days as a prosecutor.  Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.]

I will never forget one night in particular.  It was 3 a.m.  I was alone.  And I was scared. No one is brave, in the middle of the night, especially after receiving a death threat.  I was a scared, inexperienced assistant district attorney, fighting against a crooked cop. And the crooked cop was out to get me, before I got him!

More specifically, I was investigating a crooked sheriff in one of the counties in which I had recently been hired by D.A. Loren Hatcher to handle the criminal cases. I had been on the job for only a few months.  I was still learning my way around the courtroom when another Asst. D.A. and I had stumbled across evidence which suggested the Sheriff was helping a local drug ring by providing firearms for their protection. The Sheriff was also being paid to “look the other way” by drug dealers, loosely organized in a “Dixie mafia.” My fellow Asst. D.A. was Doug Marsh. Jim Bob Thornton was the alleged crooked Sheriff. As I would learn, I had the impossible task of learning how to prosecute a caseload of cases, while simultaneously investigating the Sheriff whose department was providing me with the caseload of burglaries, robberies, and thefts!  Jim Bob knew about my investigation of him, too, and didn’t like it one bit!  Trying to intimidate me, the Sheriff had begun a pattern of bullying, harassment, and, now, death threats. He was clearly determined to get rid of me, one way or another.

The latest telephone death threat had been received earlier that day at the D.A.’s Office. An anonymous caller had told Ms. Jones, the D.A.’s secretary, to “tell Mr. ______ I am coming to his house tonight and will blow his f_ _king head off!” That was all he had said.  It was enough!  Poor Ms. Jones was so shaken by the call that you’d think he had threatened her, instead of me!  But it was me, not her, who now sat at home, alone, and afraid for my life.  And it wasn’t just my life I feared for.

My precious wife, who was eight months pregnant with our first child, was asleep in our bedroom down the hall. I sat on guard in our den recliner with my .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, still in its holster, on the t.v. table in front of me.

No one ever showed up that night. I finally drifted off to sleep around four in the morning. I knew who was behind the threat and that it was mainly designed to intimidate me. But it still scared me. I wondered what I should do. Should I look for a new job? Should I drop the investigation? Or should I continue to target this crooked cop?