Rodney Costas' hearing was scheduled for 10 o'clock Friday morning so Collin stayed home from school and worked on some of his school work before it was time to leave for the Courthouse.
"Mr. Ken," asked Collin as they drove over to the hearing, "do you think that DA guy will give you and Bill, and even me, some problems if I get Judge Adam to give Rodney a chance to turn his life around?"
"No, Collin, I don't think John Greene would be the type of guy to do that," answered Mr. Thomas.
"No, not that guy, the other one who is the main DA," clarified Collin.
"Now there, Collin, is the $64,000.00 question. DA Morris is a man who is out to make a name for himself, and who has higher expectations for something like Governor or Senator, even. He wants as many convictions as he can possibly get, so he can get to show how tough he is and use that in his future campaigns. It wouldn't surprise me if he tried something to embarrass me or try to get me in front of one of his 'friendly' judges so he could have the last laugh. But, I am not afraid of him, since I have people like Bill Jackson and your Uncle Andy I can rely on to help me in case that man does try something."
The two arrived fifteen minutes before the hearing was to begin and joined up with Bill Jackson as they entered the Courtroom. Bill filled them both in on what to expect and how the hearing would proceed, telling them that it is very informal and would not be anything like what they saw on TV.
"All rise," the bailiff said, as Judge Adam Richards entered the courtroom.
"Mr. Bailiff, are all the principles present for today's hearing?" asked the judge.
"Yes, your honor, they are all present."
The judge went through the preliminary reading of the charges and said that the hearing was being held in order to find some common grounds to ensure justice, but to also help Rodney Costa.
"Mister Prosecutor, are you ready?"
"Yes, your honor," said John Greene.
"Your honor the State recommends a Plea Bargain in that Rodney Costa be given no less than two years and no more than five years in the state penitentiary with the chance of parole in eighteen months. The State feels this is a fair sentence for someone so young but who also caused such harsh bodily harm to one Collin Wilkerson."
As John Greene was talking, Collin was seething in his seat. He wasn't hearing anything like what he thought Mr. Greene agreed to in their meeting the previous day, and figured he changed his mind like many adults are prone to do when dealing with 'kids'. Collin didn't understand anything right now and as Mr. Greene finished speaking a loud exclamation was heard in the courtroom.
"NOooo! That is NOT what I agreed to yesterday," loudly came out of Collin's mouth as he stood up and shot darts out his eyes to the assistant DA.
The bailiffs hurried over to Collin and asked him to be seated as the judge was pounding his gavel.
"What do you mean that is NOT what you agreed to, young man? Come up here and state your case."
Collin was escorted by a bailiff to stand in front of the judge.
"Tell the court who you are, young man, and what you meant by your outburst."
"Your honor, I am Collin Wilkinson. I am the person Rodney attacked. Yesterday, I met with that man, John Greene, and I thought we agreed to something different for Rodney, but I guess he changed his mind."
"Mr. Green, did you and this young man meet yesterday and discuss today's hearing?" asked Judge Richards.
"Yes, I did your honor. I met with Collin Wilkinson yesterday as the DA's office often does with the victims to tell them what we proposed and to gauge their reactions. We didn't want young Collin here to come to this hearing and not know what we were going to offer the defendant. I told him we would offer Mr. Costa something fair for what he did and that would get him out of jail long before what he would get if we went to trial. I explained that the teenager would get a somewhat reduced sentence and that Mr. Wilkinson wouldn't have to testify."
"Mr. Wilkinson is that what the assistant DA says happened?"
"Yes, sir, your honor, but that is NOT what I wanted him to offer. I sort of told him I didn't think Rodney tried to kill me. Matter of fact, I told Mr. Green that I wasn't after revenge but wanted something like an apology for what he did to me that day. I told him I thought that there was something more to it that caused him to hit me the way he did. Your honor, shouldn't this hearing be about the whys behind his actions that caused him to do what he did to me that day? Doesn't he get the chance to tell his story and say he is sorry and ask me for forgiveness?" said Collin to the judge's question.
"Yes, in a way that is what this hearing is about. To give Mr. Costa the opportunity to tell his side of the story and the victim to be satisfied that the defendant received a reasonable sentence," stated Judge Richards.
"But, I don't think he should go to jail, too," Collin said flatly, "and eventually follow in his father's footsteps!"
"Hmmm, now I can see why there is some disagreement here between the State and the victim. Mr. Green, what is the State's position with Mr. Wilkinson's idea of justice?"
"Your honor," began John Greene, "the State contends the accused caused grievous bodily harm to the victim and the accused should receive an appropriate sentence that would provide the defendant an opportunity to be rehabilitated and then to get along with his life."
As John Green said that, he looked over at Collin and winked at the lad. It was then that Collin understood that Mr. Greene had the duty to do what he was doing but it was up to Collin to tell the judge what he wanted to see happen to Rodney. Collin then smiled back at the man and returned the wink. John returned the smile recognizing the two were now on the same track.
"Mr. Wilkinson, I take it you do not believe what the assistant DA is offering the accused is the appropriate sentence for what he did to you," asked the judge.
"No, your honor … I do not," replied Collin.
"Then sir, could you tell this Court what you would recommend. Keep in mind the sentence should fit the crime and also be rehabilitative in nature."
"Well, your honor, first, I would like to hear what Rodney has to say. I want to know why he did what he did, and what was behind the attack. I want to know if he is sorry for his actions and what he had planned to do upon graduation this spring," answered Collin.
"Fair enough, do you concur then Mr. Greene?"
"This is highly irregular, I must say, your honor. I do not believe justice will be any better served by listening to the answers the defendant has already been heard to say. Also, your honor, I thought that it was your responsibility to set the sentence not the victim's. I must go on record that I am not happy by what is happening here and I do not like what I am hearing in this case. I object to the way this entire hearing has been handled," was how the assistant DA answered the judge's question.
"Your concerns and objections are duly noted, counselor, and will be taken under advisement. But, I, too, want to hear how the defendant answers his victim's questions. Mr. Costa, would you agree to answer Mr. Wilkinson's questions and tell it in your own words?"
Rodney Costa talked for a few minutes with his appointed counsel. Finally, he stood up looked over at Collin and when he saw the smile on his victim's face he felt a calm come over him which told him that this was his one and only chance to tell everyone his story.
Almost twenty minutes later, after Rodney Costa began to tell his story, almost the same exact story he told the first time he was in front of Judge Richards, he quietly sat down with tears streaking down his face. He was not ashamed that he cried. He told them everything about his life and about the way his father treated and threatened him and pushed him to be more aggressive like him, and not be so studious. Rodney told of his dream to get away from what his family had, and to be better and to eventually take his mom away from all that. In the end, he whole heartedly apologized to Collin for hitting him the way he did and asked him to forgive him and to help him achieve his dream.
The entire room was eerily quiet when Rodney Costa finally sat down. A few of the courts people, who were present, even had tears in their own eyes after hearing what the lad had to endure, practically his entire life from his father.
Rodney had hung his head down as he sat down and his mother pulled him to her and let him cry into her shoulder. Collin now understood why Judge Richards wanted him to read the earlier transcript and he was glad he had. He looked over at Rodney and it was just then that Rodney decided to look over towards Collin. Their eyes met and a smile appeared on each of their faces. Collin realized he had work to do.
The judge gave Rodney Costa a few minutes to compose himself by shuffling papers and looking like he was reading something. The lawyers knew what he was doing, so they just sat back and waited for Rodney to get his composure back and could focus on the remaining portion of his hearing.
"Collin," said Bill, "you know you will have to tell the judge what you feel is appropriate for Rodney's sentence. If you make it too lenient, he will be forced to reject it and offer the 2 to 5 the State wants. I just hope you've thought this all the way through."
"Yes, I think I have. I had all night to think about this and after hearing what Rodney has to say, it only gave me more ammo. I know I'll be ready when the judge asks me," replied Collin.
The judge pounded his gavel to get everyone's attention. He looked again at the papers before him and then looked out over the small group of people who were allowed to observe today's proceedings.
"Mr. Wilkinson, please step forward. … You heard the young man's story first hand. I hope it has given you a good perspective of him as a teenager, such as yourself, and his demeanor and contriteness and hopefully his willingness to be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society. I'd like you to tell this court your feelings towards this young man and let me hear what you would like to see this court to do for him. Take your time. Think it through. Then speak when you are ready," judge Richards said to Collin.
Collin did take a few moments, figuring the judge said that so he wouldn't sound rushed and over eager to help Rodney out. He looked around the courtroom at everyone there and saw they all had their eyes on him. He took one last look at John Greene and saw a simple smile on his face and then took a look over to Rodney, who had a huge hope of trust on his face. Collin knew he had the teen's future in his hands.
"Your honor, I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak to the court. Listening to Rodney made me think of a recent telling of another lad's story that was similar to his in that the father was also the reason for his 'pain' as he called it. I do not think Rodney was actually striking at me, that day. Yes, he indeed did hit me and hurt me but … after hearing his story … I think all the years of frustrations and fear of his father came to a head at that time, and, in that moment, it wasn't me he hit. It was his father … he was striking out against.
"You will probably ask me how I know that. Well, to be honest, I don't, but from what he told the court and the ... and well the way I heard it, I think he was so angry at his dad that at that moment, he … well he struck out at his dad but it was me who actually got hit.
"Rodney has never been in any trouble, I take it, and otherwise he probably would have been treated as an adult in this matter, instead of as a minor. That also tells me the system wants to give this young man an opportunity to get back on track and straighten his life out and become a productive member of our town, city, county and state. The idea that your father wanted to kill you because you brought the police to his home is also a telling thing in that Rodney was always in fear … every day of his life. It is a wonder he was able to hold onto his dream for that long of time and maintain the good grades he received in school. To me, it shows the strength of character that young man has.
"Rodney Costa made his first big mistake, in his life, that fateful day, but I don't think he deserves to pay for it for the rest of his life; seeing he was a model citizen every other day except that one time. I truly believe he is heart fully sorry for hitting me that day and so I accept his apology, here and now.
"The State wants to 'throw the book at him' no matter what they say about their requested sentence being somewhat lenient. Rodney's punch was a 'lucky hit' that could be considered a once in a lifetime event that comes about as often as a Hundred Year Flood.
"I believe Rodney would agree with me when I say he has to do something to atone to society for his action that day. That he has to again gain the trust of that society and prove to them that he IS a worthwhile person that should be given a second chance. Since, the court asked me to tell them what … what I would like to have happen to Rodney as his sentence; I am ready to reveal my thoughts."
Judge Richards looked at the teenager in front of him for a few moments and then said, "It sounds to this court that you have given this matter some deep thought. I can tell you have gathered your facts and have put together your ideas and are willing to allow this young man to go free, IF he can meet your 'sentence' if I may be so bold as to call it that. Well, you have made some good arguments to this point and I am curious as to what you would recommend as Mr. Costa's sentence. Keep in mind, that if this Court does not like what it hears, it will issue its own sentence. Do you understand that, Mr. Wilkinson?"
"Yes, your honor, I do," responded Collin.
"Then proceed!" said the judge.
"You honor, I would like to see Rodney Costa given something that gives him probation, of some sort, and if he completes it successfully, his record is erased as though this never happened. I do believe that since Rodney has lived under the thumb of his overbearing father, he also needs to have some sort of counseling in order for him to be able to deal with it all in the future. Since, he did strike out at me; I do believe he saw me as his dad that day, so I'd recommend some anger management so he would know how to redirect it, towards a much better purpose.
"It also appears that Mr. Costa was also influenced by a number of class mates who, somehow knew, how to manipulate him into being their 'strong arm'. So, I'd say he should not be allowed to communicate nor congregate with or around them, other than what his present class schedule requires. Speaking of school, I think he should be made to maintain his current grade average and finish high school. Then, upon completion of high school, he has to get a job and then either plan on attending college at the local or state level or enter the U. S. military. I guess a couple of hours of community service could also be added to that, so he has time to think about what he did to me and the hurt I had to endure.
"Your honor, my sentence offers compassion and the opportunity for rehabilitation for Rodney Costa. It will give him the opportunity to finish school and also maintain a good healthy relationship with his mother who we can all see loves her son so very much.
"I hope the court will consider my proposal over the State's and allow Rodney to chance to fulfill his 'dream'.
With that said, Collin moved to sit down and then looked over to Rodney and gave him a big smile. Rodney, in turn, mouthed a "Thank You'.
The hearing only took an hour, although it may have seemed longer to those in attendance. Mr. Ken made Collin, over howls of protest, go back to school, but he did take him out for a good lunch before dropping him off at the main office to sign back in so he would get credit for attending that day.
As Collin walked out of the office, it was as if a special bell sounded telling everyone he was back, because all of his friends were waiting to welcome him back but most of all to get the full story on what happened to Rodney.
By the time school was over for the day, Collin was tired of telling the story about Rodney's hearing. He couldn't wait to get on the bus and get home and take a nap. Ryan had already said he wasn't going to spend the night, since his mom said she wanted him home every now and then so he would see Collin some time Saturday.
As soon as the high school sophomore stepped into the house, Chief was there to greet him and get her helping of ear scratches and the treat Collin usually gives her when he returns home from his grueling day at the 'coal mine' as he called it. He did get his nap in before dinner and then spent the night doing homework knowing when Ryan came over Saturday he would never get it done.
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