Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Giving Up My Passport

     Last week my lawyer told me to hand over my passport.
    "I'll keep it in my safe, he said.  "It'll be fine."
     "But, why?"
     "I need to prove you're not about to flee the country."
     "What makes you think I would I flee?" I asked.
     "I don't, but the government will say you should be in jail because you'll try to evade the lawsuit."
      "This isn't the first time you've said this," I said.  My lawyer asked for my passport last year, then gave it back a few months later when nothing had happened.
     "We need to show the judge that you shouldn't have to stay in jail, once you're indicted."
     "If I'm indicted," I corrected him.
     "I think we should be realistic," he said with sternness.  "You need to put things in order."
     "How could a judge be persuaded that I'm a flight risk?  I've been out of the country three times since my clinic was raided, and I always came back."  I tapped my collarbone.  "Here I am."
     "We'll tell him that, too."
     "Maybe we should assume I won't be going to jail at all."
     "I'm telling you," he said, "it's how the system works.  The prosecutor will do everything in his power to convince the judge you're a danger to society."
     "Am I dangerous?"
     "Not in my opinion," he said.  He glanced over his shoulder, as though he thought someone was behind him.  "You're not a risk of any kind, but we have to convince the judge of that."
     "What a waste," I mumbled.
     "You also need to line up four or five people who can show up within five minutes for your arraignment."
     "If I'm arraigned," I corrected him.
     "They should be people who have known you a long time."
     Here's a good thing about our legal system.  One of my rights hasn't yet been usurped:  the right to an immediate hearing in front of a judge, if I happen to get indicted.  The procedure is called an arraignment.  The judge decides whether I, the accused, should remain in jail until the trial, or be set free, and whether bail should be set.
     "What good will four or five people do me at an arraignment?"
     "They'll tell the judge you're not a flight risk.  They'll confirm that you have too much keeping you here.  Your sons, your medical license, your house--"
     "My chickens," I added.  "Don't forget my chickens."
     "And it's a good thing you're not practicing medicine any more," he went on.
     "The prosecutor would tell the judge you're harming society.  He'll say you have to be locked up, so you don't continue to cause harm."
     "Does this seem crazy to you?" I asked him.
     "It would seem crazy," he said, "except that I work with this kind of thing all the time."
     "So you think it's okay?"
     "It's the world we live in,"  he said.
     "The world we live in," I echoed, getting up to go.
     This is America, I reminded myself.  America the Great.
     I called five friends and asked them to stand by.  I handed over my passport the next day, and my lawyer locked it up in his safe.
     Too bad for me, I guess.  I'm not going to Ireland, or Brazil, or Dubai or Croatia--countries with no extradition.  I missed the boat.

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