Saturday, February 12, 2011

Surviving A Stalker Part III: My Day In Court

My stalker had a name: Dan Smith. *

And in my attempt to put a name with that face, a friend introduced me to a person who would prove most valuable in my day in court. I will call her Amy Doe.*

Amy was the young wife of one of my brother's friends,whom I will call Doug* so we both already knew of one another, and making contact was very easy. Amy, it turns out, was one of Dan Smith's earlier victims.

I sat in her living room and gave her a brief history of what I had just been through, right up to trying to find a photo of this guy, and being told that I needed to speak with her. Her toddler crawled around between us, frequently stopping to offer us a toy from the collection in the floor.

Amy's story was equally as harrowing, but more malicious: Dan was a good friend of Doug's, and a frequent visitor to their home. She had begun receiving strange phone calls during her pregnancy, that escalated in frequency when Doug was switched to night shift. She also noticed that the calls would only come when Doug was not at home, sometimes within minutes of his leaving for work.

She was more successful in getting cooperation from local authorities, possibly due to her delicate condition, and was soon shocked to find that her tormentor was none other than her husband's friend. "He was welcomed in our home! I had made him dinner!" she had said to me, "We felt so betrayed!"

Dan had been picked late one afternoon, and spent the night in jail. The next phone call Amy recieved was a guilt-ridden call from Dan's parents. Unbelievably, Dan is a pastor's son, raised in a local church where his father was the pastor for many years. The scandal would embarass the family in their church, and embarass the church in our community. Dan's mother begged Amy to drop the charges, promising to seek counseling for Dan. Amy agreed to drop the charges, and Doug dropped the friendship.

Around the same time Amy was recieving her calls, her best friend, a pretty, former cheerleader from a neighboring town, was getting them as well. When she found out that Dan was the culprit behind Amy's calls, she confronted him outright, he confessed and the calls stopped. Ironically, the tie that binds these stories together was the cheerleader's cousin, Barbie: Dan Smith's girlfriend.

I was shocked! Not only had Dan been caught twice before, he had gotten away scott free! No record, no punishment, nothing.
"Not this time!" I vowed. Because it was obvious that the Smiths had not sought help for Dan's "problem," Amy agreed to testify should she be needed.

The month between the arrest and the first of two trial dates were peaceful and quiet. I met with the D.A. and turned over my journal. He was impressed by the detail and told me that I had made his job much easier.

The day of the pretrial, my boyfriend and I sat on the back row of the large courtroom in the county courthouse, when I first saw Dan Smith in person. Looking back at pictures of past parties and events, his face jumps out from my photos with chilling clarity. But at that moment, he was a stranger to me, despite the preverse "relationship" we now had.  He came in with his parents, watching the floor as he walked. Because we were on the last row, no one could sit behind us and I studied Dan Smith as we waited. He sat with his elbows on his knees, hanging his head while he sat. His mother rubbed his back and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. His father sat stone still, no expression, arms crossed. The judge came in and called the docket, deciding which cases to hear that day, which to reassign.

After about an hour, the D.A. called me into a room just off the main courtroom. There a woman waited at a table. The D.A. introduced me to what turned out to be the court's violence counselor. I really could have used her a month earlier, but today I was fine. "So tell me, what is the nature of your relationship with Dan Smith?" I wasn't certain why I was having this conversation. I pointed to myself "Um, victim," then pointed back toward the courtroom, "pervert." The counselor blinked and shook her head. "What?" I repeated, pointing with both hands for emphasis "Victim! Pervert!" She looked down at a file on the table and looked back up at me, "So you mean you are not engaged in a relationship?" I laughed hysterically, "Good Lord no! Today is the first day I've even laid eyes on him! My boyfriend is sitting out in the hall." I immediately flushed and felt faint. What Dan Smith had told these people? The D.A. apologized for upsetting me and invited me and my boyfriend back into the courtroom. He told me that when the judge called our case, I could stay seated until it was decided whether we would proceed that day or set a new date.

As my boyfriend and I walked back to the back row, we passed the Smiths, seated on the third or fourth row. Dan never looked up, but his parents did. My boyfriend protectively put his arm around me and ushered me to our seat.

When our case was finally called, we stayed seated while Dan and his attorney went before the judge with the D.A. After a few minutes, the attorney took Dan into the side room and the D.A. motioned for us to come to the front. As I stood there, I could feel the Smith's eyes burning a hole in my back. I wondered what he had told them, what explanation he had come up with for being caught yet again. The judge could not fit us in that day and we were to come back the following week.

The following week, we returned to the courthouse. I spoke with the D.A. who asked questions about the various entries in the journal. He said that I was to spare no detail when asked to describe the content of the calls, including curse words. My confidence was soon shaken as I stepped out into the hall to go to the courtroom. I was mortified to find my grandparents waiting in the hallway to go into court. Despite telling them repeatedly that I didn't need them, they had come as a show of support. Great, not only was I about to curse and describe explicit sexual comments in open court, I was going to have to do it in front of my grandparents.

The D.A. asked questions such as how did I know the defendant (I didn't, though I was told he went to my high school at the same time I did) and if I'd ever met him before (No, I hadn't) and if I'd ever given him my telephone number for any reason (No, of course). He held up my journal and asked what it was, what prompted me to keep it. He read specific dates and times listed. He asked me to read the comments listed for those dates.

The cross was short. His attorney asked about the first dates listed in the journal, the calls made before Christmas. He asked me to read those dates, times and comments into the record and then asked me to read the dates again. Then I was excused, and the prosecution rested.

The defense's star witness was Barbie, surprisingly introduced to the court as Dan Smith's fiance. I could not believe that this young lady would still even be his girlfriend after catching him making graphicly explicit calls to not one, but three other women, much less agree to marry him.

The main reason that Barbie was called as a witness was not only because she bought him the cell phone as a Christmas gift, she did not give it to him until Christmas Eve. (Like he couldn't have made the calls from another phone before that?) She testified that because she worked for the cell phone company, she had gotten a special deal for the first contract year of unlimited minutes. Dan was letting all of his friends use his new toy and she was with him all the time to witness it. So that was his defense: even though it was his phone, he couldn't have made the calls before Christmas because he didn't have it yet or the ones afterward because all his friends were using it.

Her cross examination was not as easy. The D.A. went over her testimony and she repeated her answers. "You've witnessed him loaning his phone to his friends? "Yes" she responded, defiantly, glaring at me. "You are with him all the time, huh?" he quipped. "Most of the time, yes" she responded. "Do you live with Mr. Smith?" the D.A. asked. "No," she shot a glance at his parents, "we aren't married yet." Then he picked up my journal and read off a series of dates and times, asking in between if she was with Mr. Smith at 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. on these dates. I could tell she was about to cry and her voice cracked as she responded "no" to each date. I felt really sorry for her in that moment, as you could see her realize that there was more to my story than she had obviously been told.

Then the D.A. asked the million dollar question: Had she ever heard of Amy Doe? I do not recall her answer because I distracted by the sudden flurry of movement to my left. Dan Smith, who had been sitting with his arms crossed, staring at the floor, suddenly sat bolt upright and both of his parents practically lept forward. The muffled whispering between them and the attorney, hissed like helium from a balloon and the D.A. announced he had no more questions.

The defense rested without Dan Smith taking the stand. The D.A. said it was probably so I wouldn't be able to positively identify his voice.

The judge did not even have to excuse himself to go over the testimony and make a decision. "Mr. Smith, I find you guilty" he announced immediately. He told him that though cell phones were relatively new, it was still implied that the owner was the user. The judge said that he found Dan's actions "reprehensible" and the fact that there may be other victims made it worse. He sentenced Dan to two years probation, with the added promise that if Dan was ever even rumored to be involved in another harrassment suit, he'd see to it that Dan would spend every single day of a two year sentence in jail. The judge also added that Dan was stay a minimum of 500 feet from me and violation of that would result in jail time as well.

As my family left the courtroom, we passed his group in the hallway. I heard his attorney say he wouldn't advise seeking an appeal, I heard his mother ask about the stalking charge that wasn't addressed.

I turned back to the D.A. when we were further down the hall. "What did happen to the stalking charge?" He just smiled and replied, "We will worry with that if they decide to appeal."

Coming soon: Surviving A Stalker Part IV: The Aftermath

*names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.

1 comment:

Randi said...


I am just so thankful that you are ok! Much love to ya!