Frankly, I was “as guilty as hell” of doing exactly that which the people of the State of California and the Solano County prosecutor alleged. I had driven an automobile under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor. I, alone, had made the decision to patronize “1515”, a very fashionable restaurant in Walnut Creek, California, and I alone then made the decision- though clearly not as conscious a decision as the Vallejo, California, city prosecutor would have a jury believe- to drive, or perhaps I should say attempt to drive, back to my mother’s house in the Oakland Hills.The prosecutor- at least as it seems to me now- was, in actuality, quite short-sighted. He did not grasp the magnitude of my
My crime was infinitely worse than that for which I was accused. I had done the worst thing a person could possibly do; much worse than any felony on the books:
I had engaged in self-pity. Prior to entering “1515”, I was feeling sorry for myself. That was my crime. After all that I had accomplished, me, looking for a job, was absurd. In
reality, I should not have even been in Northern California anyway. I should
have been in Los Angeles doing my job: surgery. But for the first time in my
life, I was unsure of what to do next.
People.com was now reporting that I had been cleared of any wrongdoing after months of “intense media scrutiny” (their words), but that backhanded “compliment”, masquerading as an apology (and the notion that the electronic media lynching that I was forced to
tolerate, was “intense media scrutiny”, and not the mean spirited, unsubstantiated character assassination that it was) was ludicrous. And while much of the wrong and unsubstantiated misinformation passed on by the press had been “page one” news, the real facts of the case had been ignored, or much like the people.com article, buried in “no mans land” at the back near the obituaries. No one saw it, so in reality, it didn’t exist.
The court had provided for one, of three penalties, as retribution for my crime: there was the option of entering a residential alcohol rehab program for six months followed by five
years of supervised probation; another option included 120 days in the county jail with five years of supervised probation; and, finally, there was the maximum penalty of up to one year in jail with no probation. I chose the latter, the maximum penalty, and frankly it was an easy decision. (And if you doubt the wisdom of my decision, ask Lindsay Lohan how it feels to continually have the court system in your life, making it impossible to simply own a mistake, correct it, pay for it, and move on.) I required no special consideration from the State of California.
To the dismay of the authorities and my attorney, I had also documented that fact. Prior to my trial, and on my own volition, I had presented to the Hazelden Clinic in Newberg, Oregon, the authorities in the field of addiction diseases, particularly as it relates to
physicians. After three days of evaluation by the “experts”-the title given the
people at Hazelden by the Medical Board of California, not me- including
psychological evaluation, psychiatric evaluation, evaluations by social workers
and recovering alcoholics, along with psychological and mental health tests,
extensive blood and hair analysis, and interviews with family, friends, and
colleagues, the conclusion was that I did not fit the criteria for alcohol
dependency or alcoholism. I knew that from the start. Why they needed $5000 to
tell me that was absurd.
I was unceremoniously discharged from Hazelden which demonstrated, at least to me, that a six month residential alcohol facility really made no sense going forward. The California authorities however ignored their own experts. And make no doubt about it, I am talking about the Medical Board of California. They were more interested in breaking me than justice. I had already presented to a facility and they had set me free. My attorney, as does pretty much everyone familiar with the criminal justice system, however, saw “a program” as an easy out. I was not looking for an easy way out. I was looking for the truth. I take responsibility for me and the results I get. (I include my attorney in that group because despite the fact that he represented me, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that somewhere, deep inside of him, was a cynicism that interfered with his acceptance of any of the facts-at least as they related to my point of view.)
The real deal killer for me though was the notion of five years of supervised probation. I was not about to surrender my moral authority to anyone, and I was not about to allow the state of California to impose itself on my life with a set of arbitrary rules
administered by a group of mean-spirited idiots masquerading as administrators.
I did however, as a matter of procedure, interview with a probation officer, and she was exactly the type of person I have tried to avoid my entire life. To call her a human being is to insult all other human beings because she lacked the one trait required to classify as human: volitional consciousness, the ability to think and choose, our basic tool of survival.
The woman with whom I interviewed had none of those traits; nor did she demonstrate any intention whatsoever of ever of having an independent thought.
She began our conversation by being condescending- a trait I’m sure she
acquired by bullying people not in a position to defend themselves. She also
wasn’t engaged in a conversation, because a conversation is reciprocal and she
made no effort to hear me. Her responses made no reference to what I had just
said to her. It’s as if she could have conducted the interview without my
having been there. She also insisted that probation, and the requirement to
show up three times a week, “had to take precedence over family, job, or career”. I assured her that I understood the importance of the commitment, but my question was why? Why must probation take precedence over participating in my career, getting to work, or feeding my family? Those are the things that give a man purpose.
Her answer was simply “because that’s how we do it.” I interpreted that to mean that she did not have an answer, and only an idiot would subject themselves willingly to a
system based solely on the whim of a stranger.
She also advised me that the privilege of probation meant agreeing to pay the monthly fees that the system accrued in administering the privilege, in other words, contributing to her salary. I assured her that I also understood that requirement-I actually had no objection
to it-but I was also a bit confused as to how a parolee, or someone on probation, was to come up with that fee, if his or her commitment to probation, precluded his or her ability to maintain a job. Exactly where and more importantly how, was one supposed to meet that financial commitment if they weren’t working because they “had to meet with her two or three times a week, or worse yet, whenever she deemed it necessary”?
Her answer again, was no answer at all. It was not her problem. It seemed to me that she was suggesting that the way to make probation work was to resort to a life of crime. I was amazed listening to her make idiotic, conflicting suggestions under the guise of
authority. Where was the rationality in that?
My time with her did however shine a tremendous light on the notion of recidivism and served partly to explain why the same people keep returning to jail. The system, it seemed to me, wanted to keep people in the system to justify their, or rather its, existence. Their requirements weren’t designed solely as punishment or rehabilitation; they were designed to keep you in the system. It was job security. I could see no logic, no reasoning, and no choice in anything she had to offer and so the decision was obvious. The maximum penalty was the only logical decision. It was the only way to bring finality to a situation which was designed to enslave the individual forever. The justice system is big business
at its finest.