Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Prison Break - Part I

I read recently that bad decisions make good stories...The Prison Break was definitely one of many bad decisions I have made over the years. I'll let you decide if it makes a good story.

A few years ago a young woman came into my office for advice about a divorce. She was very young and had two small children and a newborn baby with her the first time she came to see me. She was scared and cried through most of our first meeting. She had been with her husband for 9 years, married the last 2. He has beaten her daily for 9 years. At times, he had taken her cell phone away from her, removed the battery from their cordless home phone and taken the car keys to their second car with him to work so she would have no way to leave while he was gone. He raped her repeatedly during their 9 years together. I love it when a man thinks because he is married to a woman that she is his property to do with as he pleases. He had broken her jaw and eye socket during their tenure together. He had beaten her with a belt on her naked bottom in front their two small children. He had burned her with cigarette butts. He would throw away her clothes and shoes when he got mad at her. It was a terrible, terrible situation.

She was scared to death to even be in my office. She was worried that he would check the odometer on the car when he got home from work and discover she had driven outside her allowed perimeter. I met with her several times over a six month period. Finally, she got up the courage to seek refuge at a women's shelter and file a restraining order against him. They helped her secure an apartment in a gated community. She came back to see me shortly after the Order of Protection was entered to file for divorce. As you can imagine, her husband was infuriated by the Order of Protection. Unbeknownst to my client, her husband filed a Petition for Involuntary Commitment. In his Petition, he alleged my client was crazy, threatening to kill herself and their children. His "aunt" signed an affidavit stating the same in support of his Petition. At the time, the Court in St. Charles County did not have a policy of checking to see if any other action was pending or had been previously litigated before issuing an Order. So, the Probate Judge issued a 96 hour hold order based upon the "aunt" and husband's affidavits.

About two o'clock on the Friday after New Year's, I was sitting at my desk reading my mail and returning calls when my client calls me. She tells me she is being held at a local hospital emergency room against her will. She says that she was at home with her three children, taking down the Christmas tree when two cops showed up at her front door, placed her in custody and told her she was a danger to herself and others and that an order had been issued for her immediate commitment to a mental health facility. According to her, they never showed her any Order or any other papers for that matter. The cops dropped her off at the emergency room. I spoke with the nurse in charge and was told my client was a danger to herself and others was going to be held for 96 hours. However, she had no paperwork she could fax me or show my client. I tried to call the Probate Division to see if one of the clerks could help me, but there was no answer.

That's when my partner (law partner -thank you ) says "Fuck that. I'd go pick her up. That's bullshit." Or something like that. So, I decided to get into my mini-van with my husband and drive out to the hospital. I flashed my Missouri Bar card (lawyer identification card) at the nurse attending the front desk of the emergency room, and she led me back to my client who was sitting in typical emergency room room. She wasn't in one of the "special" emergency room rooms with the camera and no cords, padlocked medicine cabinet, etc. She was in a regular room, texting on her cell phone. The nurse told me that my client was cooperating and doing quite well given the situation. But, again she told me she didn't have any court order or paperwork for me or my client to review. My client was afraid that her husband had "faked" a court order or hired some thugs to act like police officers to try to scare her. He had done similar crap in the past.

I left the room to see if I could speak with a supervisor or someone in charge who could show me a valid court order, but found no one. I did notice that the officer standing outside the door to my client's room had left. So, I went back into my client's room, told her to get her things, that we were leaving. I also told her no matter what happened when we walked out of that room that she was to keep walking and get into the van with my husband. We had almost made it to the exit when the nurse came around the corner and saw us leaving. She started yelling at us to stop. I turned around so I could talk to her, but continued walking backwards toward the parking lot. I explained to her that we were leaving unless she could show me a court order. My husband and client were already in the mini-van when I reached the parking lot, the nurse was running behind me at that time. My husband had the van in reverse as I approached and I opened the passenger door, stood up on the inside ledge door frame and yelled at the nurse to move that we were backing up. I then slipped into my seat, slammed my door and told my husband to drive. The nurse moved.

At this point, I was about to shit myself, but was never going to admit that to my client. We had to move quickly before the police arrived. I had my husband take the nearest highway a short distance and then had him switch highways and then cut over to a back road to another highway. I kept thinking that I had to get her as far away from St. Charles County as possible. When we had made it a safe distance, I looked back at my client and asked her if she had anywhere she could stay for a few days. I could see my husband's face out of the corner of my eye, and knew if I even mentioned letting her stay with us for the night that he would put us (my client and I) out on the side of the road right then and there. My client had a sister that lived in the city so we dropped her off downtown and headed home, but not before I told my client that I would go back to her apartment the next day to get her mini-van and then go get her children. What the hell was I thinking?!?!?!?!

The next morning my husband and I woke up and headed out to my client's apartment to pick up her mini-van. I should have known better. When we arrived at the apartment complex, I had to show my ID to get into the main gate of the complex. Once inside the apartment, I quickly packed a bag for my client and her children. I then headed outside to her mini-van. As I was driving toward the front gate, two police cruisers came flying into the complex with their lights on. And that's when I knew I was in trouble....One of the cruisers turned sideways in the roadway blocking my path and the other pulled up next to me. The officer got out of his car and asked me to roll down my window. I tried to put on my best "I didn't do it" face and sweetly asked the officer if anything was wrong. He asked for my ID and told me they had been looking for me. And I replied that I had been looking for him too. Honestly, I was going to go find a police officer to help me get her kids back from her husband. He put his hand on his hand cuffs and asked me if I would voluntarily follow him back to the station. I agreed not wanting to be cuffed and stuffed into the back of his cruiser. He returned to his car and pulled up behind me. The police car parked in the middle of the road pulled in front of me and we caravan-ed to the police station. My husband called me on my cell phone immediately to find out what the hell was going on and I told him that I had to go to the police station......

To be continued........

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