Many years ago, I was down in the Cabell County Courthouse basement appearing before the late Magistrate Judge Johnny Ray Rice, and flatulence won a case for me.
I was representing someone “pro bono,” free that is, because he worked at a nonprofit I support. He had sold a truck to someone who gave my client part of the money and promised to pay the rest later. When later came, there was no payment. My client told me he “tracked the guy down, beat the s--- out of him and got payment.” A little frontier justice.
Unfortunately, bystanders called the police. The officer took a dislike to my client and brought charges.
The adventure started at about 9 a.m. in a crowded basement full of criminal defendants, family members, one or two policemen, two or three lawyers and an assistant prosecutor handling the docket, all waiting for the bailiff to announce their cases.
My case wasn’t something the prosecutor wanted to push. I don’t recall the victim showing up. Perhaps he thought the whipping he received was a fair under the circumstances. However, the officer appeared with surly glances at my client.
We milled around the hallway and huddled occasionally with the prosecutor to see if the case could be settled. The prosecutor offered to drop charges if my client pleaded guilty to assault and pay a fine. My client wanted no part of this.
We stayed there all morning, and sometime about 11 o’clock a nauseating stench from the bowels of the courthouse sewer system began arriving in waves, somewhat similar but many times more powerful than the smell after lunch when people have been stuffing themselves with hotdogs from the court’s snack shop.
Within 10 minutes, the level of stink reached upper limits, but there were still three cases to go, and we were third. The prosecutor tried to persuade the policeman to drop the charge. The officer was having none of it; he hated my client. It must’ve been something said between them at the scene or just bad chemistry, or both.
Anyway, the prosecutor said he’d let my client go on a minor charge with sentence probated for a year on the condition that he keep out of trouble, but only if the policeman agreed. Again, the patrolman refused the deal offered by the prosecutor who by that time was showing that she didn’t appreciate having her recommendations turned down by the guy in the blue uniform.
The situation developed to where the people in the cases in front of us were holding their noses and choking to make it through. Finally, the rankness drove everyone out except the magistrate and the four of us involved in my case.
My client and I were determined to stick it out. Nothing the prosecutor could say to the policeman could move him, but he wasn’t holding up well when we were called into court at 11:20. The officer, who was already tearing up, started choking. He agreed to the deal and darted out the courtroom door for air.
We put our plea agreement on the record and also fled. There’s no moral to the story; just thought you’d like to know.