The last update posted about my mother’s lawsuit was a little while ago. The reason is it is a slow process, potentially taking over half a year from accusation to verdict. That is a seriously long time to have the associated financial insecurity and uncertain future to hang over you. Jail time for a crime I did not commit? Just the thought of that possibility, however minute, would keep me up at night. I do not know how she does it. She is a real life Wonder Woman.
About few weeks ago Mom was presented with three options. I chose not to immediately post them because I wanted her to be make a decision with my only input being private counsel (rather than the blog and any responses). However, the decision is over and it is time to update everyone. Here are the three options:
Option 1: The Dubious Deal
The first option is an offer (meaning it could be revoked) by the prosecuting attorney that settles the case quickly. Mom officially admits no guilt but must pay restitution of the amount she was accused of stealing. She also pays fees of presently unknown magnitude but no major lawyer fees are added, except perhaps something for processing/paperwork (not sure about this). Half the restitution and fees would be due within a very short time frame with the rest spread out over a longer period. Finally, the judge decides a probation sentence. Once all obligations are fulfilled my mother’s record will be expunged.
Option 2: Yes Your Honor
The second option is to file for another preliminary hearing with a new judge. Rather than the small room and informal setting, this hearing would be at the county courthouse. If you remember, at the last hearing only the woman testified – this time Mom would testify as would any witnesses. The judge would either dismiss the case or refer it to trial by jury. The hearing would cost about $1,200 in lawyer’s fees.
Option 3: Trial by Jury
The final option skips the judge and moves directly to trial by jury. Trials typically last anywhere from two days to a week. At the conclusion the jury gives a verdict and the judge deals a final sentence. There is a considerable range in potential sentences, from a minimum of 2-5 years probation to a maximum of 8 years in jail. A trial by jury starts at $2,5000 and increases with the length of the trial. If found guilty Mom would also be responsible court costs and restitution.
This is a difficult decision, made easier by looking at it in two parts. First, take the deal or continue to fight. Then, if the decision is to fight, which is better: judge or jury?. Mom and I both weigh the risks and rewards of each option and come to our separate conclusions considering cost, risk, and justice.
From my somewhat distanced moral perspective, the decision is simple.
I strongly feel that Mom should keep fighting. Logically, I doubt that the prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my mother is guilty. The stenographer recorded the woman’s contradictory and suspect testimony at the first hearing, providing additional leverage for the defense lawyer to use in a second trial. Moreover, from Mom’s description of the first hearing and the fact that Mom never even testified I am confident the first judge simply passed the case upwards so as not to dismiss it too hastily with an at-risk population in the courtroom (the woman is a senior in her 80’s, making her a traditional example of at-risk).
Morally, I perceive accepting the offer to be submitting to and reinforcing the oppression of working people everywhere. Just like flood, snow, injury, personal health, family health, home robbery, recession, automotive failure, and many more have knocked my mom down, this lawsuit is trampling her in a way it would not affect someone with more time, money, resources, and connections. Mom could be a poster-child for the ‘working poor,’ always struggling to find stability in an oppressive world where the odds are set against her. Whereas folks of higher socio-economic status could more easily weather this lawsuit, my mother is being dashed against the rocks. It is not fair. She should fight back because she deserves to prove her innocence. She deserves justice.
Once choosing to fight the decision between judge and jury is simple. On one hand a failed hearing with the judge adds about $1,200 in lawyer’s fees but simply pushes the trial to the jury. On the other hand choosing the jury outright definitely costs $2,500+ and eliminates the possibility of a quick dismissal. The expected value of the judge is clearly higher than that of the jury, so the choice is a no-brainer:
Mom, keep fighting. Go to the judge, tell your story, and let the truth save you.
From Mom’s front-line perspective, the decision was difficult.
Mom knew my firm decision even before we spoke about it, but knowing what was best for her was not easy. Everything came back to what if? Jail is only a risk, but it is serious. Sure, the offer’s borderline admission of guilt (at least how we see it) feels like a betrayal of everything she believes in. But whether she chooses the offer or is found guilty by the jury she would ask the same question: what if? And when looking at it like that she knew what she had to do.
“What if I fought back, was declared innocent, and avoided all that money and probation?” is a whole lot better of a question to ask in retrospect than “What if I took the offer and was not in jail right now?”
Hard as it was for me to watch as the system beat my mom into submission, I support her decision to take the offer. It makes sense for her, and at least now she can stop worrying and rest. Well, that is as soon as she figures out how to pay her restitution and fees. Oh, and that $800 bill she just got to fix her vehicle so she can continue to get to work.
It is the sad fact of life that for people like her, this is really the only option. It makes me mad…
Why should Mom roll over and accept probation and deal with a huge financial burden for a crime she did not commit? Well, that’s just the way it is for people like us. The truth is not always enough.
*I should note my anger is at the system, not my mom. I am happy she made the decision that was best for her and she has my full support in all things.
At this point the combination of lawyer’s fees, restitution, and court-imposed fees (once they are levied) will sum to over $10,000. As you all know, this is money we do not have – we already emptied our savings to pay the lawyer. Without your help it is going to be a difficult road ahead. Donate online via Fundly or contact me using the box below to donate by check (and avoid Fundly’s cut of the donation).
Thank you everyone for all your support.