Like the Naked City, we've got a million of them

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Supposedly there are eight million stories in "The Naked City." At least that's what the intro to the old black-and-white TV crime drama set in New York City told us.

"And this has been one of them," the 1960s show sign-off would add.

In court recently there were considerably fewer than eight million stories, and this piece will focus on none of them.

Only occasionally in court do you get that sweet "wish-this-were-a-sound-bite" remark from those who would tell you there's no way orange is the new black.

However, statements like those a female suspect made in Putnam Circuit Court the other day are priceless.

As Judge Matt Headley informed her that her hearing date in a relatively minor case had been set for March 17, she perked up, responding with the comment, "That's St. Patrick's Day."

What followed were remarks that left mouths agape in awe.

"I'll be in green," she advised, pausing to adding, "which is better than orange."

A dozen offenders trooped their way in Superior Court on the perp parade Monday. Each had a story, none really worth retelling for the public good. Yet each was its own window into the world of those who repeatedly stray from society's proper path.

It was mainly a procession of people hurting themselves through addictive behaviors, poor decisions and an inability to make good on second, third or fourth chances.

It wasn't 12 angry men either. In this courtroom count, eight men and four women made their shackled presence known in court.

Sadly, there seems to be a growing trend of female offenders. Where it was once rare to see more than one or two women escorted into court at the same time, now more often than not they tend to parallel their male counterparts.

On this day there were no lovers, muggers or thieves (OK, one minor thief). And the most serious charge on the menu was a Level 6 (lowest) felony for domestic battery. Even in that case, the suspect's wife was in court to argue in his favor.

So the biggest crime among the group waiting their turns in front of Judge Denny Bridges is that they are repeat offenders. Back in court because they violated home detention. Back in court because they never showed up for community service. Back in front of the judge because they never fulfilled their part of a pretrial diversion bargain.

The breaks they'd previously shunned stand out as much as the bad tattoos they now sport.

Released on probation, only to do something silly to violate the terms. Or released on their own recognizance (whatever that really means) only to recognize they're in trouble again. Each case seems more frustratingly painful than the one before it.

For example, our first customer says he's been "a drifter" for four years, living somewhere in Indianapolis now but back in the Putnam County Jail for an inability to stand prosperity.

No. 2 is in for a bond review hearing on a Putnam County charge. Even if he gets out, Owen County is waiting to get its hands on him too.

Offender No. 3 is back on a fourth petition to revoke probation. Seems he never followed through on a court-ordered program, and now that he has shown up, he's tested positive for meth.

Next up, a woman who failed to attend a sentencing hearing in a 2012 case which would have been long over by now had she just followed the rules. Now that she's been rearrested, seems she's in more trouble because her kids haven't been going to school.

Another woman has violated her home detention, gotten into a little criminal mischief in the process and hopes the judge will release her on her own recognizance (OR). But a petition to revoke bond and four pending misdemeanors later, and now instead of going home, she faces a $5,000 cash-only bond.

Next up, the young fellow who keeps winking at the stunning-looking gal seated next to me. He's facing a misdemeanor in a new case but Judge Bridges realizes he looks familiar. "Weren't you in here just last week?" he asked. Of course, he was, but he failed to show up for the court-ordered program in which he was enrolled in Terre Haute. Couldn't get a ride, he says.

Choices, choices, choices!

Another young woman follows. She was recently OR'd to begin the county's methamphetamine protocol but has since tested positive for -- surprise -- meth. Now it's time for a petition to revoke bond.

The elder statesman in court this day seems to have a legitimate story about suffering a heart attack and being unable to complete his court-ordered program. And he'll get OR'd by the judge but he still must report to Owen County for some pending case in Spencer.

For the younger guy up next, it's failure to report as required and failure to submit to a drug screen that has landed him back in the court system. He's rewarded with a petition to revoke probation and a stiffer bond at $5,000 cash only.

Finally, the last woman in the bunch is in court on a petition to revoke her probation that began with a guilty plea entered three years back and a probation that started less than a month ago. In between, she produced positive drug screens for meth and other drugs and now could see 545 days of back-up time restored to her sentence. It's $10,000 cash-only bond for her.

So while there may well be eight million stories in the naked city of New York, there really seems to be just one here in Greencastle and Putnam County ...

And it's replayed eight million times over.