PARTY IN THE COURT ROOM
Christopher X. Brodeur's Sentencing
March 8th was a cold, sunny day. It was actually perfectly freezing at 32 degrees, the radio told me matter of factly. I got up before the alarm clock went off, showered and dressed as an angel of peace and justice in all white with the hopes of at the very least, snow blinding the judge into letting Christopher go free. My friend Mike had slept over the night before in our guest room so he could make it to court on time, as we had to be there at 9:30 am. My friend Rob was supposed to pick us up at 9 am, but he called to say his car had died that day. Much like the days of junior high when I half pretended/half insisted I had make-believe psychic powers, I took the dying car to be a bad sign. Rob and his friend Gerry met Mike and I at my place at 9:15, and we found a cab without too much of a ruckus. As we roared across Delancey at typical taxi speed, I looked up at the sky through the windshield and said, "Well, at least it's a beautiful day." My friend Mike nodded. "Yeah. Just like 9-11." We had a good laugh. The taxi driver, who was a tan man, refrained from laughing.
When we pulled up at the court house, I was delighted to see Bob Holman, Virginia and a few other friends waiting in a small group. Quickly, the group doubled in size, tripled, quadrupled and quintupled. People just kept coming from every direction, with hugs, kisses and well-wishes to offer. I passed out signs I'd made the day before that said, "Free CXB" with the intention in my mind of creating a scene if the judge gave Christopher an excessive jail sentence, though I felt deep down that any sentence would have been excessive, and was 100% positive that he would definitely get a jail sentence. So certain was I that he'd be sentenced to incarceration, I actually said to my friends the night before, "I'm so sure he'll get jail time that if he doesn't, I'll eat my own poop on stage." I later told a friend I'd said that and he said, "Um...why didn't you just bet money?"
I didn't explain to him that I was trying to tempt fate. And that I'd gladly eat a little poop in exchange for Christopher's freedom. Or that I'd rather eat poop than part with money.
One friend and I even considered writing "FREE" on one of our asses and "CXB" on the other's ass. We pondered if showing our asses in court would be considered protected free speech or just simply profanity? Is a bare ass profane? What if it's hot?
Once we'd gathered together, we started up towards the metal detectors. A paparazzi with a full spread of cameras stood poised along the walkway. We considered for a second that perhaps the cameras were for Christopher, but someone somehow knew that no, they were in fact for Boy George, who had had some kind of drug offense and was also scheduled to be in court that day. Bummer. You can't even do drugs as a rock star anymore without getting busted. Hasn't anyone ever heard of being famous? Maybe cops just don't like people who are men who looked like ladies in the 80s.
At the metal detectors, the bitchy cop guard stole one of our signs. "Keep a look out for signs," she whispered to her friend. "I don't want no bullshit today." My friend asked, "Is it illegal to have signs?" The cop explained, "It is in the court house." 'Well, what about the ones on the walls?' I wondered quietly.
We took the stairs up to the court room because the last time I'd taken the elevator, it had broken and just shot up and down the elevator shaft from the top floor to the bottom floor, back and forth, like some kind of crazy amusement park ride for about ten minutes while I screamed and pounded on the doors until finally it stopped, opening on the 8th floor to a big crowd of concerned latina ladies who were like, "Damn, girl! Are you okay?" We all had a good laugh, and then I took the stairs to my floor.
As I entered the tiny court room, room 546, the court room that Christopher had been tried and found guilty in, the court room that he had described as "the most depressing court room in the world," I got a nauseating wave of deja vu. We all filtered in and, to my complete thrill, filled every single seat in the court room. There were about 50 of us. It was truly a beautiful sight.
Jess, Chris's "legal advisor" (as he chose to be his own lawyer), finally showed up at about 10:30 am. But we waited in the court room and entertained ourselves. Mike quipped about "opening up for the sentencing" by doing five minutes of comedy material. Bob Holman made an announcement that we should all support Christopher and if things went south, there were enough of us to just sack him and split the joint. I momentarily considered this as a viable option.
So many people came out - The whole Trachtenburg Trio, replete with 12 year old Rachel, Reverend Jen, Mr. Michael Portnoy, at least two dozen or more art stars, a reporter from the METRO paper named Patrick Arden who seemed very interested in the case, even an ex-girlfriend of Christopher's drove six hours to get there from New Hampshire. It was like some kind of freak show family reunion. But there was no food or free booze.
FINALLY, Christopher came in (in cuffs) and he looked so tired and defeated, but mostly healthy. He wore a pink shirt and a grey pull-over and I got a wave of extreme sadness as he walked mere inches from me and I couldn't even touch or talk to him. It was like he was on TV. Everyone said "Hi" and "We love you" and other encouraging sentiments to him as he entered. A few of us girls got out our note pads and began to take notes, like the busy little secretaries we would have been if it were 1945.
The prosecutor ADA Duncan Levin went first. He spoke quite briefly and wasn't as mean as I expected him to be, though he of course, told a ton of exaggerated truths, as is his specialty. And he had the nerve to reprimand me on the telephone for "taking things he said out of context." What a piece of work! However, of course, he did ask for the maximum sentence, which was 2 years, as he told me he would.
Next, Jess Berkowitz spoke, rather eloquently, if I do say so myself. It was the best speech I've ever heard him give on Christopher's behalf, and I'd dare say that the huge audience behind him was, perhaps, an incentive to not slack off.
Finally, Christopher's turn came. He listed many, many very valid points and started off very strongly. At one point, he started to lose me, and I hoped he wasn't also losing the judge. Several friends behind me were tapping my shoulder, saying "Can't you make him shut up?" I kept tapping my foot onto the floor and making loud exhale noises to give him some kind of indication that he'd nailed it. But he just kept speaking. All his points were good and valid, but he kept saying some things that were certain to aggravate the judge. For example, he kept saying, "pain in the ass" and "pissed off" which made the judge who, hates bad words so much he wouldn't even repeat the name of Christopher's book, "Perverted Little Creep", wince. I was surprised he didn't yell at Christopher as he had all through the trial every time Christopher would say "pissed" or "ass".
Christopher also said on at least three occasions, "I'm not like some crazy ex-boyfriend who keeps calling his ex-girlfriend saying, 'I'm gonna cutcha, cutcha, cutcha!" which would inevitably send the audience into spattered chuckles. The judge made it very clear that he would not tolerate any laughter in the court room at the very beginning of the sentencing when Christopher said something funny and we all laughed. Judge Ross said, "This is not a laughing matter. Mr. Brodeur is facing a sizeable jail sentence here, and if you feel that you should laugh, you will take it out of this court room." Christopher is pretty funny just by nature in the way he speaks. So, it was hard not to laugh out loud during his diatribe. At one point, Judge Ross even questioned him about the comic he drew of ADA Duncan Levin which called Mr. Levin "A very good German". Judge Ross said something about it insulting Mr. Levin, and Christopher said, "I call him a very 'good' German. Is that not complimentary?" Of course, the court room was tickled by that.
At the end of Christopher's speech, which was, almost perfect in my opinion, with the exception of being too long (totaling 1 hour and 50 minutes), perhaps "too funny" and a bit "brash" in places, it was Judge Ross's turn. He read from a script that he had written. It was already prepared and typed out. I don't know what the policy is on writing out a report in advance of the sentencing for the sentencing, but it struck me as a bit premature. Perhaps he'd written it during the lunch break. In his report, he took what Christopher had said to his landlord (and Kathy O'Malley) very seriously. He didn't consider it to be colorful expression, or retaliatory harassment in response to Paul's original harassment, or protected free speech, or Christopher's way of responding to losing his home of 15 years or anything else. He said that Christopher was hardly a pacifist, or he wouldn't have made the calls. He said that Christopher had wanted to "get into their psyches" and had planned to make them feel fear, and had succeeded. He called Christopher a "terrorist" and said that he "terrorized" Mr. Stallings and Ms. O'Malley, and said that he didn't use 'that word' (terrorist) lightly in this day and age of terror. Then, he sentenced Christopher to 6 months in jail.
I didn't hold up my signs in protest, but I did say, "I'm going to be sure that this story gets as far and wide as it can. I'm going to tell everyone I can what happened here today. You will all be famous from this." I left the court room in tears and quickly regained composure.
Later, I decided that this will be like a um, mini vacation. A break for both of us. I'm getting a free trip to "your rent and bills just doubled" land, and it's straight to Malnourishment Point for Christopher.
The thing I keep going back to is, I wonder if Christopher feels anything was gained by doing this? Even if he truly believes it was his right to call his landlord, was anything really gained? I guess I'll ask next time I visit him in jail.
A friend during the sentencing turned to me and said, "Hey - you know what? Even the sun shines on a dog's ass." I laughed and thought about Christopher, and wondered if in this metaphor, he was supposed to be the sun shine or the dog's ass?