My probation violation hearing was set for June 10th. I wanted to complete all the Cal-Trans days by that time. My first day was May 1, 2019. It was slightly rough getting started, and then I found myself struggling to get through the work. I could only complete 4 days before the ongoing fatigue, coupled with lack of sleep, took too much of a toll. I just gave up and resigned myself to whatever outcome. I had gotten some of the other tasks assigned, as well.
Then came the health scare. First, the physical on May 30th, in which I learned that my blood pressure was exceedingly high. Then came the emergency room visit, in which I was trained on future warning signs. Then came the stroke and the transient ischemic attack on June 6th. Complications followed, and I had to resign myself to the fact that I could not go to court for my June 10th hearing. I was so worried at first. I feared the worst--a nasty habit which God's grace has freed me from at last--that the judge was going to issue a bench warrant for my arrest because I did not come to court as ordered for my probation violation hearing.
I look back on the extensive health complications I faced, and I believe that it really worked for my good. If I had gone to court that day with what little had been accomplished, she would have probably assigned some jail sentence! Romans 8:28!
After a few days of convalescing, I got busy finishing the rest of the Cal-Trans assignment. I finished early, two weeks before the next scheduled hearing of July 29th, 2019! It all worked out, that I could get the rest of the sentencing demands done with time to spare.
I had no idea what to expect when going to Downey Court house on July 29th. I refused to fear. I meditated on God's faithful promise in Philippians 4:
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
If the judge sent me to jail, I knew that God would favor me in a jail cell, just as He had favored me at the Cal-Trans yard. Besides, LA County jails are so crowded, that most people serve a fraction of their sentence if anything at all. I trusted that I would be OK. I praise Jesus even now that when I went into the court house that day, I was not fearful or trembling. I knew that He loved me and was taking care of me every step of the way.
I went to Department Four, and noticed like a few others that the court was not open at all. I had gotten there at 8:30am. Usually, staffers are moving around in the courtroom, even if the doors are not yet open. But no one was inside. The "Blue Suit" attorney was there, too. He greeted me, so happy that I was doing well. I told him that I had lost 30 pounds, just as he had lost weight three months prior. In fact, I was wearing a suit that day that I had not worn in over 30 years because I had been so overweight: one more example of God used bad things for my good!
Ten minutes later, one of the public defenders came to us outside of Department Four, and told us that the entire criminal calendar had been shifted to Department Two, one floor below us. The original judge assigned to my case had not even shown up! She was probably sick, but this was already working in my favor! Yes, FAVOR!
Department Two in Downey Court house has Commissioner Michael Pearce. He had heard my small claims case against the city of Huntington Park last year. Commissioner Pearce is one of the coolest cucumbers in the court house. He doesn't raise his voice, he's generally easy-going. And he was really calm in court on July 29th!
My assigned attorney had not shown up yet, and I was concerned that he would be a no-show, just like on April 30th. The Blue Suit attorney then comforted me, and said "I'll tell you what. I will stay here and wait until your attorney shows up."
That was so cool. I felt really encouraged by this.
Here's what happened in Department Two on July 29th. It was so cool, so weird, too!
The deputy DA's for Departments Two and Four were assigned to the same table. The prosecutor who had pursued me, Carl Marrone, was there. He could have been there to ensure I was held accountable for my probation violation. The new calendar deputy DA, an Asian guy, was assigned to replace Marrone in Department Four. I am going to call him "Asian DA" since I don't know his name. My attorney told me that the Asian DA saw my case and later told him: "I would have never prosecuted this guy." Amazing. This DA was already more of an advocate for me than my own attorney!
Commissioner Pearce was really something. He was probably upset that he had to run two criminal calendars in one day. He took care of business pretty quickly. One case was really surprising. This one defendant came to the podium, and he admitted in open court that he had not started doing anything toward his sentencing, just as I had been forced to admit on April 30th. The defendant told the court through an interpreter that he could not complete a series of classes because of the cost of the program. Commission Pearce told him to come back in two months and have everything completed.
Deputy DA Marrone rose up and protested this decision: "The defendant was driving under the influence with a high drug level. They found methamphetamine in his car. The people demand that your honor issue a probation violation."
"No," the judge responded. "I am going to give him two more months."
And just like that, the judge blew off the prosecutor who had gone after me for a crime--that I had not even committed. It was humiliating for Marrone! It was quite vindicating for me, sending a signal that things were going to go well for me. I really liked that the DA got shot down like that.
Another defendant appeared for a pre-trial hearing. He was really angry, and he walked up very slowly to the podium. His case had something to do with domestic violence. DA Marrone chimed in: "The people are waiting for a potential child abuse report, as well." This defendant got really angry, started at Marrone, and said "What the fuck are you talking about?!" Yes, he cursed in open court, in front of the judge. Then he stared menacingly at the DA, too.
The judge just laughed it off, but wanted to de-escalate the situation. He motioned to the assigned public defender to send his client out. Marrone then whined: "I would like the record to reflect that the defendant is staring down at me." The judge laughed it off and concluded the matter. That was the second time that the judge shut down DA Marrone. It was great to watch!
Then it was my turn at the podium. I produced a form to prove that because of my hospitalization, I could not come to court on June 10th. I also provided the other information which demonstrated that I had completed everything toward my sentencing order. The Asian DA said to Commissioner Pearce: "The people are satisfied with proof that the defendant could not appear in court on June 10th."
It was really interesting what happened while the deputy DA was giving his statement. The judge was looking through my file, then looked at me. "You were here for the small claims hearing last year, right?" I said, yes, and then I told him that I was 30 pounds lighter since then. He and the court clerk both laughed, and the judge said to me "Good for you!" It was nice to see a judicial officer smile, and especially at me.
Then he looked over my file, and looked at me again, almost as though to say, "Why are you even here?"
The Asian DA then said: "The defendant has completed all that he was ordered to do. We request that no further court hearings be scheduled, and that his probation be allowed to expire."
Just like that! And the judge just smiled at me and said. "OK. You're all done! Just stay out of trouble."
I was so relieved. SO RELIEVED! Nothing was mentioned about a supposed probation violation. NOTHING. I couldn't believe it. I went over to Blue Suit and hugged him--he had stayed in the court room ever after my attorney had shown up!
GOD'S FAVOR REIGNED SUPREME FOR ME THAT DAY!
I had prayed that this whole probation violation thing would disappear. It wasn't all my fault, anyway. And Lo and Behold--it disappeared!
Folks, I can assure you that this whole political and legal miasma is working in my favor. Jesus really came through for me that day. I really believe that He will come through for me regarding my appeal against this unjust conviction, too. I have asked Him to rule in my favor, and for the appellate court to reverse my conviction and have the charges dismissed against me with prejudice, which means that "The People" cannot try me a second time. I have also learned that even if this prayer is not answered, God will answer with something much better!
I am so happy I can share this with all of you. The probation order still stands, and technically it will last until October 30, 2021. I intend to request for this to be rescinded, too, in January 2020. Hopefully, if the appeal goes my way, it will be reversed along with everything else, and I won't have to do anything.
Here’s the part that I want to leave with all of you following this ongoing legal matter: There is nothing wrong with suffering when you have done nothing wrong.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)
And I both know and believe that God will accord to my double for all that I have lost in this ordeal:
"For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them." (Isaiah 61:7)
It's only going to get better, folks! With the improvement in my health, with the greater grace to believe that God is on the job, I can really say just as Hezekiah had said after he recovered from his near-fatal illness:
"Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." (Isaiah 38:17)
The New International Version brings out the fullness of this verse so much better:
"Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back."
It was for my greater peace that there was great bitterness, great affliction in my life. There is greater joy, greater victory in suffering a little for doing nothing wrong, only to get rewarded with much greater restoration, than to have never suffered at all. There is nothing better than to be vindicated slowly but surely in the presence of one's enemies. Best of all, throughout this entire ordeal, I learned to TRUST CHRIST more and worry less. I realize more to what great an extent he has been working behind the scenes for me. I thought that all things were against me, but they really are working in my favor, folks. I can assure all of you that I did not have one sleepless night throughout all of this.