tagNovels and NovellasThe Freshman Ch. 32

The Freshman Ch. 32

bycaligula97236©

Chapter 32 - The witness

The following Monday, over the furious objections of their defense attorneys, the trial of Mega-Town Associates Executives Richard Moore, Joe Guerra, and Jeff "Cutter" Stern got underway. The Chief Justice of the Danubian Supreme Court announced that, no matter what the defense attorneys wanted, the trial would begin, because keeping the lower-level mercenaries confined much longer in their current condition was not acceptable.

Before the trial, the judge issued a stern warning to the defense attorneys that, in Upper Danubia, a defense counsel was not permitted to commit any act in court with the intention of deceiving the judge. Evidence could be challenged only if its veracity could be called into question, and the same went for witnesses. There was no such thing as a motion to delay due to technicalities. Also, the sole purpose of a trial was to determine guilt or innocence of the defendants. The judge had a final statement to the lawyers:

"I want you to understand we are conducting this proceeding to find out the truth about your clients. You will make no attempt to conceal that truth or construe the facts to allege untrue events or motives. Perhaps such things are acceptable in the courts of your country, but they are not acceptable to the government of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia. If I catch you making any effort to deceive me, I will prosecute you for perjury, which in the Duchy carries a 20-year sentence as a convicted criminal. We have 549 cases to resolve, and no one in this country has time to listen to any deception."

Of course, the judge's instructions to the trial lawyers neutralized many tactics they would have used in other countries. There would be no trial delays, no omitting of evidence unless it was proven to be false, and above all, no efforts to deceive the people running the proceedings. A trial that in other countries might have lasted for months would be resolved in Danube City within a few days.

The government's plan was to prosecute the Mega-Town Executives first and make and example out of them. To legal experts following the trial, the strategy seemed rather odd, given that the normal strategy was to prosecute lower-level members of the conspiracy first, get them to testify, and then work up to collecting evidence against the organizers. However, the participation of Jason Schmidt removed the need to conduct the trial in the normal manner. The documents Jason provided the Danubian government, plus his father's recorded conversations to someone he called "Cutter" on the phone, provided the evidence of both their actions and their motives needed to convict the Mega-Town executives of several serious charges. These included attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to wage war against the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia, insurrection (because they were planning to be in Upper Danubia during the coup), and the illegal importing of weapons and explosives into the Duchy.

The conversations and documents from Jason's three CD's and six cassette tapes would be the main part of the case the prosecutor was presenting against the CEO's. Jason's role in the trial would be to verify that he was the source of the evidence and explain how and when the CD's and cassette tapes were created. Cecilia would verify that she placed Jason on contact with Cynthia Lee, who in turn would verify that she was the person who transported the evidence to Upper Danubia and helped translate the contents. Vladim Dukov and several officers from the Danubian Secret Police would describe how they reviewed the information and used it to intercept the coup's participants. Finally, the officers arresting the CEO's would present additional evidence seized from them that matched the information Jason had provided.

Under Danubian law, the evidence was enough to convict "Cutter" Stern and Richard Moore of capital offenses. Guerra's chances in court were much better, because the direct evidence against him was not nearly as strong. However, upon being convicted "Cutter" and Moore would be offered a choice, either face the firing squad or testify against Guerra and get life terms. Assuming that Stern and Moore were not particularly courageous men (which they weren't), the hope was they would provide information about the coup not included in Jason's documents to convict Guerra, and in doing so save themselves.

The next phase would be to resolve the bulk of the cases of the lower-level participants in the coup. Dukov already had promised to extradite the nearly 300 foreign participants to their home countries, but they had not been told about that arrangement and were terrified. Many of them were providing valuable information that would be used to prosecute the field commanders and coup organizers, whose trials would take place immediately after the Mega-Town convictions.

The Danubian government hoped that the easy conviction of the top-level conspirators in the case would scare everyone else involved into cooperating. The message would be very clear: we don't need to make any deals with you, because, as you can see, we even had the evidence we needed to convict your bosses. We got them, and now we'll get you. Tell us what you know about the coup, and maybe we'll be lenient.

----------

Jason Schmidt, Cecilia Sanchez, and Cynthia Lee, accompanied by their police escort, left the hotel and walked past the Old City Wall to get to the Central Courthouse. It was a beautiful May morning, a harbinger of plenty of nice hot summer days the three college students could expect to enjoy in that peaceful city. At that moment the world seemed to open up to them, as each step towards the courthouse was a step closer to fulfilling a very important part of their Path in Life.

For the first time in several years, Jason felt completely at peace with himself. Today was the day he would make the final break with his corrupted past. The wall in his soul, the barrier that separated the person who he had been from the one he would become, already was in place. Once he left the courtroom in the afternoon, that wall would be complete. He could never go back to who he had been just a few weeks before.

The three college students and their police escort made their way past the security cordons and tanks guarding the Central Courthouse. The two cops seemed relieved once they actually made it into the building, because their duty to safely deliver their witnesses was completed. Kimberly Lee and Vladik Dukov approached the three Americans and led them into the main trial chamber. Kim took them directly to the witness box, because she expected that at the very least Jason would be giving his testimony later in the day. Knowing how important his evidence was to the entire case, the trial judge had no intention of letting Jason out of his sight until he had given his crucial statement about the CD's and cassette tapes.

Jason felt a tug at his arm. Cecilia, with her usual sarcastic smile, grabbed his tie and straightened it. She brushed off his jacket and then squeezed his hand as they sat down. As always, she wanted her man properly dressed and looking presentable, not looking like some MTV groupie.

"DOC-DOC DANUBE!"

The judge entered the courtroom and stood at his desk. The entire room, including the witnesses, saluted.

Three arrogant looking middle-aged U.S. citizens, dressed in black robes and restrained by chains, entered the courtroom with their police escorts. They were visibly infuriated. Mega-Town Associates' CEO's simply are not treated this way by a country as pathetic as Upper Danubia. They made that quite clear even before their lawyers had a chance to greet the judges. It was obvious they were not off to a good start, and equally obvious they did not realize the seriousness of their situation. Of course they were going to get out of these ridiculous charges...

The judge began with reciting the facts of the case. All three men, along with their personal bodyguards, were picked up in their hotel suites by uniformed officers of the National Police Force of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia early in the morning on April 21. From the rooms of Moore and Stern, the police officers recovered multiple documents indicating the two men's prior knowledge and participation in a planned armed insurrection against the government of the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia, to be followed by a similar such insurrection against the government of the country's southern neighbor.

The Prosecutor presented the documents into evidence, following the statements of the police officers making the arrests.

The chief of the Danube City precinct testified next, relating that, on April 16th, he had received direct orders from the nation's Prime Minister to locate the defendants and detain them on the morning of the 21st. The defendants entered the country on April 17th via the King Vladik International Airport, and were placed under surveillance pending their arrests four days later.

Vladim Dukov spoke next. Even though he was the Prime Minister, he had to salute the judge as a subordinate, because the judge was the boss of the courtroom. In this trial Dukov was a witness, just like any other, and had to address the judge as such. He described drafting the arrest warrant as part of a major security operation aimed at disrupting an armed insurrection against the Duchy. He described what he knew of the plot at the time, but with emphasis on explaining why he decided the three defendants needed to be detained.

For the record, the judge had a question:

"Prime Minister Dukov, you are stating that your actions against the defendants were based on prior knowledge of their intentions?"

"Yes, your honor. My decision to detain the defendants was based on information I obtained on April 7th of this year."

"Would you please describe this information to the court?"

Dukov cited numerous scanned documents, calling out the items by their assigned document number. As Dukov cited the documents, the Prosecutor displayed them on a screen from a projector attached to a laptop. The laptop contained copies of all the files scanned by Jason.

Rage and horror swept through the faces of the three defendants. So the Danubians did have someone working for them on the inside! Then, "Cutter" Stern, the man who had talked to Jason's father, glanced over and recognized Jason. Holy shit! That's Schmidt's kid! What the fuck is he doing sitting in the witness box of this courtroom?!

Dukov continued testifying, citing enough documents to convince everyone that the arrests certainly were justified given the circumstances. Then came the question: where did you obtain these documents? To answer that, Dukov to ceded the witness stand to the American Cynthia Lee. Cindy described how she found out about the CD's and cassettes from the Cecilia Sanchez, how she drove to Wisconsin to retrieve them from Jason Schmidt, and finally her trip from Milwaukee to Danube City. She handed her plane ticket stubs to a court assistant to enter into evidence.

Jason's "little crack whore girlfriend", as Mr. Schmidt described her, testified next. She did a very good job toning down her accent as she described getting a call from her boyfriend Jason Schmidt during Spring Break. Jason had informed her that he had obtained information about a possible assassination plot against Vladim Dukov and coup attempt against the country's southern neighbor. She relayed how she contacted Cynthia Lee and how she convinced Cynthia that she needed to drive to Wisconsin to retrieve the CD's and tapes to give to Dukov.

Jason was up next. Given that he was the Prosecutor's star witness, on other countries the Mega-Town defense attorneys would have attacked him statement by statement, but in this trial, no such interruptions were permitted. Jason would tell his story uninterrupted, with a translation provided by Kimberly Lee from English to Danubian.

Jason identified himself in court and began by explaining what he knew about his father's relationship with Mega-Town Associates. He admitted that he was not very familiar with what his father did, but then went on to quote various comments his father had made throughout the previous year indicating his opposition to the Dukov government. Finally discussed his father's strange behavior during Spring Break that alerted him that something was not right.

He moved on to describing the events that first night in the basement, the night he made his first recording. He quoted what he remembered his father saying that sparked his interest, and then what led him to record his first cassette. The prosecutor held up a plastic bag with a cassette tape.

"Mr. Jason Schmidt. Is this exhibit the tape you recorded?"

After Kimberly Lee translated the question, Jason examined the cassette.

"Yes sir. This is the first tape out of the six I made. This date and time is my handwriting, what I put on it so I wouldn't mix it up with any others."

"Why did you make this recording?"

"I made it, at first I mean...because I wanted to know what was going on. I mean...my dad was talking about shooting, and pumping rounds himself, and killing kids, and the airplane crash...I mean, I was curious to know what he was doing."

"Do you remember the moment your thoughts moved beyond curiosity and you decided to take action to undermine your father's intentions?"

"Yes sir. I remember the exact moment. It was the moment my father attacked my girlfriend's honor on the phone. When he did that, my thoughts about him changed and I decided to see what I could do to stop whatever it was he and his group were planning against your country."

"Is that comment recorded?"

"Yes sir. I asked the Court to key the first tape to that part of the conversation, because that's what got me pissed off...I'm sorry...I mean offended, and it's kinda important for understanding why I did what I did."

That was the signal for the court assistant to play the following comment. There were a lot of cracks, background noise, and static, but the words were quite recognizable:

"...you know, my idiot son's little crack-whore girlfriend actually likes that fucking commie bastard. You should've heard her last Thanksgiving...it was kind of funny to listen to her, when you think about it. ''Isn't that up to the Danubians? It's their country. Don't they get to choose who's gonna lead 'em? Isn't that what democracy's supposed to be all about?' Well, at any rate, it's gonna be a hoot looking at that little cunt's expression when you guys have things wrapped up. I'm gonna have to get my moron son to bring her back just so I can see that little bitch's face...."

The Danubians were quite shocked when they heard Kim's translation. Under no circumstances would parents in the Duchy ever refer to their son's girlfriend in such terms, even if they did not like her. Jason continued:

"My dad's like that. His soul is damaged because he hates everyone. It's not just me and Cecilia that he talks like that about, it's everyone, my mom, my sister, my cousin, everyone. I guess...that night, I just got tired of it. I got tired of him and his stupid scams and his idea that money is more important than people. I just got sick of it."

One by one Jason identified the other cassette tapes as the court played excerpts to demonstrate their relevance to the case. Finally Jason described how he made the three CD's. He discussed his reasoning for scanning what he scanned, how long it took him to load the contents to each CD, and the steps he took to clean up his sister's computer after he finished. He emphasized that even though he had used her computer, Cassie had absolutely no knowledge about what he had done, nor did anyone else in the household.

The Prosecutor continued:

"So when you finished recording the CD's, what did you do next?"

"For a few minutes I didn't do anything. I mean, when you discover something like that, it kinda takes a while for it to sink in. I felt totally sick...I mean to know my dad's capable of doing something like that...it kinda blew me away. Then, I went over to my grandma's place and called Cecilia. I told her what I had found out, and she told me she'd call Cynthia Lee and ask her what to do. Cynthia came up to Wisconsin the next morning and picked up the CD's, and that was it as far as what I did. A couple of weeks later Cecilia and me spent the night watching the news when the cable channels were showing the press conference about the bomb."

"But, Mr. Jason Schmidt, your participation did not end when you gave the American Cynthia Lee the recordings. You decided to come here to the Duchy and appear in front of us to explain this evidence. We, in the Duchy, were very concerned about trying to process this case in a way to protect your identity, but you ignored our concerns and chose to come anyway. We believe that you have placed your life in danger by standing up like this and presenting yourself to this court and the world. I commend your courage, but I think our people are curious to know why you came here. What was it that motivated you to come here and help us?"

"I came here because Cynthia Lee told me that she wasn't sure you'd get convictions against some of the defendants, unless you could present the evidence that allowed Prime Minister Dukov to stop the coup in court. In other words the stuff I got for you. You were in a dilemma about how to prosecute without making your cops commit perjury. So, I felt I needed to finish what I started. I want to make sure the truth about all this comes out. I want to make sure that the people of Mega-Town lose a round or two and maybe get forced to take their hands off your country for a while."

Jason waited for Kim to translate, and then continued.

"The other reason I came here is because of, as you guys would put it, honor. My honor, my family's honor, and my country's honor. My father has dishonored himself all of his life with his greed, and I have dishonored myself by living off his money. I came here to redeem my honor, and to redeem my family's honor. What my father and his partners wanted to do to your country was dishonorable, and I didn't want to be a part of that. What I ask, on behalf of the other members of my family, is that you can forgive us, because my dad doesn't speak for the rest of us. None of the rest of us knew what he was doing."

There was another pause while Kim translated, and then Jason repeated what he had told the Prime Minister the week before.

"There's a lot more to this than just the honor of my family, because I'm also talking about the honor of the United States. I don't want the people of Upper Danubia to think that everybody in my country likes what's happening. I think that most people in the U.S. don't like it at all, what these corporations are doing to the world, but we don't know what to do about it. What I did was to try, as an American, to prevent something that would have made my whole country look bad, or, as you say it dishonor us; dishonor America. I'm doing this, I'm testifying for all of us Americans who just are sick of the big guys always getting their way, and making the rest of the world think we like what they're doing. I don't support what Mega-Town has done to the world. I don't like the corporation and I'm opposed to the values people like these three defendants have promoted."

With that Jason returned to the witness box and squeezed Cecilia's hand. Then he exchanged glances with "Cutter", who was staring at him with pure hatred. Jason sat back and looked at the prisoner with complete calm. It doesn't matter anymore, "Cutter", 'cause I'm done. I've told my story, and now you're gonna get convicted. Hah! So you were wondering who turned you guys in. Had a bunch of private investigators running around all over the US trying to find out who it was. Well, now you know. Surprising, huh? The Schmidt kid...who would have thought that? The idiot Schmidt wimp and his "crack whore" girlfriend. We were the ones who fucked up your plans, and now you're goin' down.

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