This is the story about how a lawyer, prosecutor, and judge worked together to teach a volatile woman respect for authority, and also, of an employer who saw great promise in an employee who very likely would have lost her job if she was working for anyone else.
Petite “Chen” came to the United States from Mainland China following the Cultural Revolution which lasted from 1966 to 1976. This hideous time cost millions of lives. It stands as a grim lesson how political hysteria can quickly turn deadly.
This period of Chinese history has clear parallels for what’s happening in America today where mere accusations are now accepted by many as solid proof.
Chen was selected to attend a graphic arts school in Beijing where her gifts as an artist blossomed. She escaped from China, came to America and was hired at a small design company in Southern California. She quickly learned English, but due to a strong accent was difficult to understand at times.
Also, the nightmare she’d lived through in China left her emotionally scarred with a deep contempt for authority.
The Fishing Episode
One day, Chen and a friend took a small boat out on a reservoir to go fishing, even though signs were posted everywhere that said, “No Boating – No Fishing.” A deputy sheriff spotted the pair, and cited them for trespassing. But Chen suddenly began screaming at the deputy as flashbacks of murderous Red Guard officers flooded her mind.
Fortunately, her friend was able to calm her down seconds before handcuffs.
The Speeding Ticket
After that incident, Chen’s life took a much better turn. She got happily married and they soon had a son.
Still, she harbored resentment against all uniformed authority which erupted again when a traffic officer pulled her over for speeding on California’s I-5 freeway in the Central Valley. The officer routinely asked her to sign the ticket, explaining that signing was not an admission of guilt, only a promise to appear in court. But once again she unleashed her fury on law enforcement.
Hands wildly flailing, she screamed, “I will shoo you!” She meant, “I will sue you,” but the officer thought she meant, “I will shoot you.”
He forcibly pulled her from the car, threw her onto the hood of his cruiser, clamped her in handcuffs, and took her directly to jail. Among the charges against her was “resisting arrest.” Given the circumstances, the officer’s actions were fully justified.
To Teach a Life-Long Lesson
I was retained to represent Chen. Both her husband and her employer asked for no favors. They both said she needed to learn a lesson from this incident.
By coincidence, I had interviewed the judge in this case weeks before on my weekly talk radio show, “You and the Law.” In the pre-trial conference, I told the judge and the D.A. about her nightmarish life in China that had left her emotionally traumatized about any encounter with uniformed authority, and had a suggestion.
She had to go to trial in front of the judge and the audience of spectators. She would have to suffer embarrassment, shame and the loss of “face” that is so unthinkable to the Chinese mentality. She would, hopefully, understand the fear she’d caused to the officer and the hassle she was causing to the court—all of which was completely avoidable.
Chen was seated at counsel table beside me. She leaned over and whispered, “You smart lawyer. We win, right?” I thought to myself, “No, we lose but that’s how you ultimately will win!”
Chen then heard the officer’s testimony about the trauma her behavior had caused him. She was found guilty, ordered to enroll in an anger management class, and required to write a letter of apology to the officer.
Her anger management instructor advised:
“Do you like living in this country? Either get rid of your bad attitude towards authority or, if your behavior worsens, face the possibility of being deported back to China without your son going with you. Do you understand?”
That blunt warning left her trembling. She wrote the officer the most contrite apology you can imagine.
It’s now been years since that trial and there’ve been no more explosive displays of anger in any encounter with uniformed officers.
But according to her husband, to this very day, who does she blame for the outcome of her trial? Me! In her mind, she still thinks she did nothing wrong. Even so, the court experience completely altered her subsequent behavior.
She is still a graphic artist for the same employer who was dedicated to helping save Chen from herself.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.