My mother is in a real pickle, sorry for the long post but there are lots of details I'd like to put out there. My mother is a 53yo, longstanding good resident of the community. Both her and my father stick to themselves, are good neighbors (background on my parents is that they're immigrants who do not understand our legal system nor are they very "strong" when it comes to standing up for themselves). I need some help/guidance on what is the best course of action (I feel the entire legal system has failed my parents)
~1yr ago, the police called my mother in for questioning, she had no idea who/what/when/where/why or how. Nevertheless saw no harm in going in to talk to a detective. Turns out she was being questioned because two "neighbors" a few blocks down had accused my mother of dumping trash (ordinary household trash no less) in the middle of their street. An activity they claim took place over the course of a couple of months, at a rate of 4 or 5 times per week. Naturally she was at a loss, and rather than try to analyze the situation, my mother simply stated the truth which was she knew absolutely nothing about this. Figuring the truth would be good enough for the police (flags should've gone off when the detective insisted on asking why would anyone lie about such a thing...duh), she went home; well of course, the prosecutor sees an easy win (my theory anyhow; 2 corroborating witnesses; no good "story" on the accused's part) and prosecuted. This is what I see as failure #1;
Failure #1- Detective - I don't feel the detective did his part in asking the right questions; for example, if the behavior was that consistent, why not video tape it? (FYI...the police staked out the place, they even pulled my mother over one morning on her way to work, presumptively so they could peek in her car; NOT ONCE was anything found or did they witness any dumping on her part. the police report states the activity "ceased" after the police pulled her over; never mentioning that the police were never able to witness anything despite the fact that according to the witnesses, it was happening 4-5 times per week, for months). Also, one witness stated he could see the shape of my mother's eyes (at 4am in standard low street lighting conditions??? Gimme a break). Photographs of the trash with my mother’s name/address were in the police report , couldn’t this happen to anyone if someone goes by and steals your trash?
After the police report is sent to the DA, mom receives notice that the DA is prosecuting . I’m still in disbelief that such basic statements can trigger a DA to prosecute so I start calling the DA for answers. Nice guy, but of course, focused on 2 things: 1) winning the case & 2) billable hours – our city outsources the DA to a private law firm; which is another reason why I think he took it on (justice has nothing to do with this does it?) My first conversation with him, was about understanding what was going on; all my mother had were court appointments with no other information, so I tried to get information on how these things work. He was nice enough to answer my questions, and the key one I asked was whether he was going to weigh the arguments in favor of my mother when determining what to ask for as “punishment” or if his mind was already made up (because he mentioned to me that usually its community service for a first time offender, blah, blah, blah). He said he would be open and would listen. So I did my research; what I had to piece together by interrogating my mother and father was what you're probably wondering already - WHY in the world would anyone want to set somebody else up that way? That was the simple question that my father, God Bless his ineptness, never bothered to anticipate. After I picked their brains a while, it turns out my father had exchanged words with one of the accusers (about 6 months earlier) because my father didn't pick up after his dog one day while walking around their neighborhood (no it wasn't the guy's lawn, but thats irrelevant; and YES i fully agree my father should've been cited for this. I would've had no problem had the police shown up and written him a ticket, or two for this, it would've taught him a good lesson). Once I piece this together, then I start looking at the holes in the report; (i.e., why no pictures/video? How could they see her eyes at that hour of the morning? Why didn’t the police ever witness this behavior if it was so consistent? Once I put it all together, I call the prosecutor back (a few weeks later). He listens, says they’re all very good points but his mind hasn’t changed. At this point I’m at a loss; if nothing else, I had proven that all the evidence was circumstantial. There WAS more to this than anyone is investigating (i.e., prior history), and there are still questions that need to be asked of the witnesses – yet knowing all this, it doesn’t even sway his mind a little bit? I don’t get it. I see this as legal system failure #2:
Failure #2 – The prosecutor – I think that the job of the prosecutor (as an employee of the people of the state); is to find the truth. NOT to prosecute, prosecute, prosecute. Why is it that if I raised such good points/questions, he didn’t feel obligated to say maybe there is more here than meets the eye, and I should ask a few more questions to make sure I’m not going after an innocent person here?
So, mom goes to trial, not having enough money, I argue her way to getting a public defender (I don't live nearby otherwise I would defended her myself, I truly believe that other than my lack of knowledge of legal procedure, I understood the facts better than anyone outside our family). The public defender, bogged down with work, never has any time for anything other than to pressure mom into guilty/not guilty; recommending that she settle with the prosecutor as she doesn't have a winable case he says. He did very little interrogating of the witnesses (I'd still like to know exactly what questions he asked of them), and didn't think it was odd that once he approached the witnesses; one of them refused to be interviewed and said he didn't want to be involved any further (yet this didn't seem odd to anyone). I discussed my thoughts on the case and the questions I would ask and why; to which he said they were good points, but continued to insist that his 15yrs of law experience told him that mom would most likely lose (I'm sitting there thinking, well yes, she has a Custard attorney). SIDENOTE (I do realize attorney's have a very complicated job; but my assumption is that they've chosen this career knowing this and because of the ramifications of their performance can condemn a person, they are to be held accountable to the same standards that we would hold a Doctor; or someone else in such a delicate position of influence/power);
So, to continue; obviously money was an issue. the public defender stated that if it went to a jury trial (which it likely would), mom would have to pay $1,500.00 whether she won or lost. at that point, between not having an attorney who wanted to defend the case (he as well made it clear he didn't believe 2 people would collude to file such claims), and the risk of losing $1,500.00 (at a minimum), my mother settled for 80hrs of community service and 1 yr probation (no action necessary, just avoid committing any crimes). This in my view is Failure #3
Failure #3 – The Public Defender’s Office; I practically handed the case to the public defender, who’s only job would’ve been to follow up on my questions/leads; and he did NOTHING! I spoke over the phone with him several times, he too gave me the “good points/good questions” line but never followed up on any of them. He never questioned my mother in detail (nor the other witnesses); had he spent time with her, he would’ve realized that during the weeks these guys pressed the issue, mom was driving what was normally dad’s car (a stick shift, hers is an automatic). While she can drive a stick, she’s not very good at it. Plus, she had wrist surgery less than a year before; and somehow, this 53 yo woman (very un-athletic woman) is supposed to have the motor skills to drive a stick shift, dump trash on the road, in a very limited lighting area; my mother would’ve crashed 500 times trying to do this.
Please keep reading, because mom finally settles, we figure its over right? Wrong, this guy files a restraining order against my mother, claiming she is a sociopath and that he doesn’t know what she’ll do next. Meanwhile, my parents are reluctant to walk their dog because they just don’t want any trouble (another thing that just irritates me because that isn’t a solution to the problem but that’s for me and them to argue). On the contrary, it’s the main driver of the accusations (the other “witness” keeps to himself and has never bothered my parents) that comes by parents house, and yells racial slurs/obscenities at them. Get this, he served my mother the restraining order notice (which I thought he legally couldn’t do) while yelling at her, and pushing the papers against her chest (my mother is 5’3”, 125lbs, he is ~6’0”, 220lbs); all while she was home alone watering the lawn. So she’s hysterical, my brother is nearby, he rushses to the house when she calls him, the cops come out and say; well, technically he “CAN” touch you, he can’t push you down, or hit you, etc. etc., and “…you’ve now been served…”. I mean this is unbelievable; meanwhile everytime we call the police when this guy walks by yelling his obscenities, we get the it’s a public street line and they don’t even note it down or file it somewhere just in case something blows up. Bottom line, the fact that he filed a restraining order has us all VERY worried that he’s going to try to somehow use this to set her up; I mean why else would he file a restraining order when she NEVER GOES BY HIS HOME ANYWAY!?
I’m sorry for the novel, but I am at a complete loss. And yes, I have been VERY ANGRY WITH MY PARENTS because I think their ineptness has contributed to all of this; but at the end of the day, the law and our system should have ways to protect people like my parents; who aren’t able/willing to stand up for themselves and yet I don’t know who that would be. I just want some answers on why there were so many lapses in all areas of the system, and who is held accountable for that? This seems straight out of a movie and I’d really like to hear some feedback from you (please no berating of my parents, yes I would’ve loved it if this had been thrown at me because I could’ve/would’ve defended myself much better/differently – at the end though, its just a scary thought I think; that there is such a cavalier attitude about this on the part of all the players.
PS, one thing I’ve thought of doing is going to talk to some of these accuser’s other neighbors to see if they witnessed anything or can also attest to the trash 4 or 5 times a week, for months, I just don’t know what to do at this point – its been draining and frustrating. Thanks everyone!