"I've decided I'm going to drop the charge, enter a nolle. That case you gave me at the magistrate hearing was really helpful. Will you accept a nolle?" So said Prosecutor Joseph Danielowski this afternoon at New Haven Superior Court on Elm Street. We were sitting in Courtroom F on the third floor. It was just after 2 p.m.
"Of course," I told him, "I'll accept the nolle." I could have objected and the judge would have refused to let the prosecutor drop his case without also agreeing to a dismissal of the charge. If I'd wanted to sue the KKK (Koji Komedy Klub) for money damages, I would have insisted on a dismissal, but I have no such intention. I said that to Joe and he said he didn't care, it was a dead issue as far as he's concerned. I asked him to tell that to the owner of Koji but it didn't seem like Joe had any reason to contact the owner.
Judge Bruce Thompson then came out from chambers onto the bench, asked Joe what business they had for the afternoon, and told Joe to proceed on my case. "Your Honor, the State will enter a nolle on the charge." I thanked the court and Joe. Joe and I walked out together.
Here's a better frontal view of the lawyer's costume I wore for this little courtroom drama this afternoon------
In the hallway outside the courtroom, Joe and I had a little friendly discussion about what had taken place at the KKK the night I got arrested. I told him about the other comics use of truly foul language, gross sexual humor, and much use of the "n" word in a way which I think would be offensive to most black people. I explained how the emece, Beecher Taylor, then told me to take a week off before coming back to the comedy club if I by then I still wanted to perform. Two weeks later, I did return, and promptly got myself arrested.
Joe and I then shared about our families, our wives, and how much I love being retired. A female staffer came over to us at one point and told me how great a guy Joe is. Once the tension of the case, and our having to feel like adversaries, was gone, we talked as if we had been friends for years. Joe agreed that the kind of stuff which passes for humor these days is pretty gross. He told me his wife doesn't like the show "Family Guy" on TBS because of the language. By the end of our discussion, he understood that my criticizing the other comics for their foul and racist humor was the reason the owner wanted me thrown out when I returned after my two-week "sabbatical."
We also talked about his experience hearing people ask him how Jerry Donovan and Walter Bansley were able to defend Joshua Komisarjevsky in the Chesire Home Invasion murder case. He explains to them that defense lawyers are not defending the defendant's behavior as such, but standing up for the constitutional legal system we have in the country. Without defense lawyers who are willing to hold the State's feet to the fire, through its prosecutors, we'd have a parchment with words on it, but not a living constitution.
A corrolary of that idea is the ethical principle that prosecutors are not supposed to be motivated by "winning" but by "doing justice." That means if a case turns out to be a bad one, unsupported by the facts and the law, the prosecutor is required to drop the charge and not risk taking an unfounded case to trial and risking the jury or the court finding a probably innocent person guilty.
My case demonstrates the well-known principle that just because a person has been arrested, that's not evidence that he is guilty. The owner of the Koji Komedy Klub does not have a law degree; nor do the cops who arrested me. It took a prosecutor with a legal education, like the education I received, to come to an understanding that the charge against me was unwarranted. Although I was not impressed with the Klearly Kangeroo Kourt trial I had before the magistrate, which I wrote about in an earlier "Bobs blog" post, Prosecutor Danielowski truly became educated about the facts of the case from hearing the witnesses he called, and from my testimony. And the legal research I did which uncovered the State vs. Mansion decision by the Connecticut Appellate Court was decidedly helpful to the prosecutor in understanding what the law requires to prove guilt of the charge against me, simple trespass. Obviously, once the prosecutor had some significant time to truly understand the facts of the case against me, and the law. he decided he couldn't win the case, and then dropped it.
Here are some photos I took today down in New Haven in documentation of the feeling of the place of my original arrest on October 17, 2010 and now of my victory.
The New Haven "minor offenses" courthouse at 121 Elm Street---
The frieze above the columns of the courthouse, with Lady Justice in the center of the figures, holding her upright, drawn sword, ready, I suppose, to strike down any recalcitrant litigant unwilling to accept the wisdom of her pronouncements concerning the just resolution of cases and controversies----
The head librarian's (I assume it's his or hers) Land Rover parked outside the New Haven Public Library, which is right next to the courthouse on Elm Street. Note the vanity plate----
The Federal District courthouse on Orange Street, where my Wesleyan and Georgetown Law fellow graduate, The Hon. Mark Kravitz, labors as a federal district judge. I wrote about Mark's diagnosis of ALS, a progressive, deadly, disease in an earlier blog post. The federal court is on Orange Street, a half-block south of the Elm Street State courthouse----
The scene of the once "alleged" crime: the Koji Komedy Klub at 182 Temple Street, just south of the New Haven Green----