Plea Bargaining With the Devil?

“Fen Sloughheart is charged with Fifth Degree Felony for Domestic Violence,” Case explained calmly late the next afternoon. “This can mean time in prison, any where from one to ten years, or at the discretion of the court or jury, confinement in the county jail for no more than twelve months is also possible with a fine of up to $25, 000 dollars. In this case, the individual can be sentenced to one or both of these punishments – that is, time in jail and the fine of whatever amount.”

Justin Case was right, of course. Ripper had called him that morning to plea bargain, an exception to his normal practice, to be sure. Ripper had carefully built his reputation of being an aggressive, very shrewd, cut-throat attorney and so, of course, he hated to call an opposing lawyer and plea. If the other called him, he rather enjoyed it and, in fact, if they were desperate made rather a fun game of it. This time, however, Ripper had his “tit caught in the wringer,” and he knew it … and he hated it.

“Ripper has asked to have the charge lowered to First Degree Misdemeanor for Domestic Violence, with the understanding and legal agreement that his client will, aside from and without any consideration of alimony and child support, pay for all medical and health costs, including professional counseling and therapy, incurred by Effete and the two children for no less than three years following the closure of this case. Of course, I should add, First Degree Misdemeanors are punishable by fines of up to twenty thousand $20,000 dollars, a maximum jail time of twelve months, or both the fine and jail time.”

Effete looked around the rather plain and humble office. Case had a picture of his family appropriately poised on his desk. On the wall just behind him there hung an 8 x 12 of the Rough Rider, Teddy Roosevelt, obviously one of his heroes. Of course, he had three nice-sized book cases, all packed full of legal-type books … except for three that caught her eye:  Hard Times and Oliver Twist, both by Charles Dickens, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Interesting, she pondered the choices. Maybe I’ll have time some day to ask him why those three in particular, but for now…

“So this is plea bargaining?” Effete asked modestly.

“At its best,” Case answered with a smile as he leaned back in his leather chair. “And I think we’ve got a ring in Ripper’s nose.”

“If this is best, I don’t like it,” Joy shot in. “And methinks you’re being just a bit too self-assured about that ring in the nose, Mr. Case. You’re an excellent lawyer, but Ripper’s earned his own reputation over the years and, bad as it may be, it’s real and it’s solid. He’s not to be toyed with.” Joy was growing somewhat leery in her recommendation of Case; was he in this just for himself, to put another notch in his belt, or was he the man of upstanding character and integrity she had thought he was? “And what about the pending divorce? I’m sure that was mentioned.”

“Yes, it was, but first, Reverend, don’t get me wrong here,” Case leaned forward, placing his folded arms on his desk while looking straight at Joy. “I’m no dim-wit when it comes to Ripper, or really anything in the courtroom, or for that matter anything in plea bargaining. I know full well Ripper’s reputation, and you can’t trust him as far as you can throw him, but… what we get signed, documented and approved by the court is good to go, Ripper or no Ripper. Excuse me, then, if I seem somewhat happy – much to your dismay, apparently – but we’re in a good position … better than I expected at this point. I’d like to take full advantage of this situation.”

“So far as the divorce is concerned,” Case didn’t give Joy time to respond, but she knew she’d just irritated the hell out of him, “in plea bargaining, Ripper wants to tie the divorce in with domestic violence charges. Of course, they’re being tried separately, but so far as these negotiations are concerned, well… he’s offering $800 per week – approximately $3,200 each month – in alimony for five years, as well as $400 per week – approximately $1,600 each month – in child support, for an initial total of approximately $57,600 per year in total family support. This would amount to approximately 38.5% of Fen Sloughheart’s gross income.”

“Ripper has also offered 100% health and medical, psychological and psychiatric, and dental coverage for three years for you, Effete, and both of the boys. After this, his client will assume responsibility for 65% of the above-mentioned coverage for each child until each child reaches the age of 18. Very, very importantly, his client will concede to giving sole custody of the two children to you, while retaining only the right to one monthly supervised visitation for not less than one hour, but not more than one and one-half hours. Additionally, he proposes his client be allowed one fifteen minute phone conversation per week with each child, at a minimum.”

Effete glanced at the wall to her right. There her attorney had hung some kind of nouveau, avant-garde type of painting, which she really didn’t care for much, and it seemed so incongruous with the large photo of Teddy, the Rough Rider. Maybe his legal secretary suggested it, or his wife? If his wife suggested, or especially if she painted it … well, that would explain it hanging on his wall, unless he really has so little taste. I don’t think I’ll ask him about that one!

“And did you accept,” Effete asked, turning her attention back to her legal representative, “or turn him down, or what?”

“Or what,” Case answered with a slight chuckle. Joy might be getting irritated with the man, but Effete found him quite comfortable and affable. Point in fact, she liked him. “Actually, you will have to do the agreeing or disagreeing; I’m only representing you. However, I have a counter-proposal ready.”

“Well, by all means, let’s hear it,” Joy did sound irritated. She didn’t exactly know why, but she was afraid Case would buckle under and sell Effete short.

“O.k. then,” there was just a hint of irritation in Case’s voice, too. “I would like to offer having the charge lowered to First Degree Misdemeanor for Domestic Violence, with the understanding and legal agreement that your soon-to-be ex-husband will pay for all medical and health costs, including professional counseling and therapy, incurred by you and your two children for no less than three years following the closure of this case. Additionally, though, I would add an agreement to weekly anger management counseling with an agreed-to licensed professional counselor and/or psychologist for no less than eighteen (18) months, who would issue monthly evaluations to the court regarding his client’s – your ex-husband’s –progress.”

“Also, significantly, I would like to up the monthly child support to around $1,950 per month and alimony to about $3,450 per month for the next seven years, which is when your oldest son, Rue, would be 18. And all this would amount to approximately $41,400 per annum in total family support, which would constitute approximately 43% of his gross annual income. Additionally, of course, your husband, or ex-husband, will provide 100% of health and medical, dental, psychological and psychiatric coverage for three years, after which he will assume responsibility for 75% of the above-mentioned coverage for each child until each child reaches the age of 21. So what do you think?”

“What about visitation … in your counter-proposal?” Effete responded. “Are you just leaving that as Ripper has suggested?”

“Well…” Case faltered just a bit. “Once a month supervised visitation and a fifteen minute phone call each week really… well, the court is not going to see this as an outrageous request … at all, especially given the fact that you will have sole custody… Really, this is not something we can effectively contest.” He could almost feel Joy’s eyes penetrating him. “In the grand scheme of things, this is an astonishingly modest request, really … especially coming from Ripper,” Case added with another chuckle meant to lighten the overall mood. It didn’t work. “Look, I know you don’t want your boys to have to ever see this man again, or even hear his voice on the phone … but one hour a month and fifteen minutes a week is workable. You can adjust.”

“Ha!” Effete blurted out. “Please,” she waved her hand back and forth, in a “stop where you are” gesture. “Please, don’t talk to me about being able to ‘adjust’ or not… You’re a good attorney; that’s apparent enough, and thank you again for taking my case, but…” she couldn’t help a short, sarcastic laugh. “I’ve done plenty of adjusting for over 12 years, and I’m having a hell of a time adjusting now… No, don’t say anything again like, ‘You can adjust.’ Please, Mr. Case,” she shook her head, “you really just don’t know, so if we have to swallow this bitter pill because we have no choice, then o.k. We’ll swallow, so … go ahead and make your counter-offer. You have the green light from your client, o.k.?”

Down to a First Degree Misdemeanor? Joy thought incredulously. What the hell is that all about? Case could counter with lowering it from a Fifth Degree Felony to a Sixth, which is as low as felonies go in our state … but jumping to a Misdemeanor? Joy was actually incensed. What then? The bastard might actually come out of this with … with … oh hell, with three months in the county hotel, maybe $1,000 in fines, slap on the wrist and then he’s free … free as a fat bird to fly wherever his wings can manage to carry his obese carcass! And Effete’s good with this??? She’s actually given Case the ‘green light?’ Joy looked over at Effete, who was already looking at her. Yep, Effete knew she was mad as hell, but she managed to smile gently at Joy and slip her hand to the back of Joy’s neck, where she tenderly started massaging.

Oh great! Now we’re actually trading places! Joy was astonished at the idea. She’s comforting me??? Oh well … God knows I need it right now! Hell! Only God knows how all this is gonna turn out!

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