Subject: Living in the real America. From: Michael Williams 100705,1252 Date: 28-Aug-95 03:30 MICHAEL WILLIAMS 87 My court-appointed attorney, William J. Stevens persisted in paying periodic visits, on each occasion offering the same scenario: the bare table save for the stapled plea agreement opened to the last page, a fancy pen with the cap removed, and the command, ever-intensifying in amplitude: "Sign this"! Inevitably, I would refuse to sign it, and he would storm out, red-faced and seething with anger with the warning: "you're never gonna get outta here!" One day Stevens came to visit me again in what was to be his most ingenious attempt to trick me into accepting the plea agreement he'd been aggressively trying to force me to accept almost from the time we met. He was visibly delighted to see how worn down I had become. He told me he had some very bad news to tell me, and then he went into his Academy Award-winning act. He told me that my infant daughter, Shannon, whom I had never even seen, was dying in a hospital in Rome, Georgia. She had spinal meningitis and had only a few days to live. Her mother was in the hospital with her, sleeping on a cot next to her bed. There was nothing more that could be done to save her life. She was going to die. I cannot describe what it feels like for a father to hear something like this after going through what I'd been through for so long. I doubt that there's a man alive that wouldn't find it the worst torture of all; infinitely worse than physical torture. Stevens told me that he'd gone to speak with Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Barsella and F.B.I. Special Agent Richard Loyd, (whom he always referred to as "Rick"), and they felt very bad about the situation. They were willing to have a U.S. Marshall fly to Georgia with me so I could be at my daughter's deathbed. Everything was already arranged. I was going to be rushed into court immediately so the judge could formally grant permission for me to go. Of course, I believed Stevens. It never would have occurred to me that anyone, especially someone in his position would sink so low as to fabricate something like this. Besides, I was going to be rushed before the judge to get permission to go to Georgia, so there was really nothing for the prosecution to gain from this. Even before Stevens left, I was sent downstairs on the security elevator for the "emergency" court session. It looked as real as could be. I wasn't given a chance to make a telephone call to the hospital, or to anyone else, as the guards said I was wanted at the courthouse "now". IN DEFENCE OF MY HONOUR 88 When I arrived at the courthouse, I found myself entering through what appeared to be the judge's chambers, through the back door. I had never entered this way before. Everything looked different. It seemed like some top- secret transaction was about to take place. I was taken into the courtroom where I walked slowly past the judge, and close enough to look right into his eyes at close range. I was shocked to find that the eyes I was looking into were not the eyes of Hon. Harry Leinenweber, who was presiding over my case, but another judge I had never seen before, Hon. George Marovich. I felt something very strange was going on. The courtroom was completely empty. The judge kept looking in my eyes, seemingly trying to communicate with me. He seemed to be very concerned about my case; far more sensitive than Judge Leinenweber. I stood there, so close to him, just looking into his eyes, seeing so much sympathy in them. I couldn't understand what was going on. Suddenly, Stevens entered with Laurie Barsella. They were smiling, happy, looking like good friends who were having fun together, not adversaries who battling each other for a fellow human being's life. Stevens stood on my right, with Barsella on his right. Even though the standard court stenographer was present, the judge had a large reel-to-reel tape recorder turned on to record the session. In all my court appearances, there had never been a tape recorder. Why was there one today? Everything seemed so different. The judge announced that he was the substitute for Judge Leinenweber that day. The judge looked out to Stevens and Barsella and asked "What are we here for today?" Stevens answered "To enter a plea, Your Honour." I thought I would have a heart attack when I heard those words! To enter a plea? I grabbed Stevens' arm and frantically asked "What is this? I'm not here to enter a plea! You told me we were coming here to get permission for me to go to Georgia!" Stevens quickly whispered to me "Barsella just told me it's part of the deal. You have to plead guilty in order to go to Georgia." I began to smell a very big rat. MICHAEL WILLIAMS 89 The judge looked even deeper into my eyes, as if trying to communicate with me, or read me, as I told Stevens I wanted to call my attorney friend, Robert F. Bourne to discuss this with him. We had had a firm agreement from the very beginning that any decisions pertaining to the case would always be checked out in advance with Bourne. Stevens whispered that he had "just gotten off the phone with Bourne and he said to tell you everything's fine, go right ahead with the plea." It's impossible to describe the pressure I was under at this point, but, for lack of a better description, I would compare it to being stretched in two different directions by a medieval torture rack. I kept thinking about my daughter, poor little innocent Shannon, whom I had never even seen. How would I feel after she died, knowing that I didn't care enough about her to do whatever was necessary to see her on her deathbed? Wouldn't any good father plead guilty under these circumstances in order to be at his infant daughter's side as she passed away? The judge then asked: "Counsels, how are you all today"? With those words, the court session began. The judge was visibly suspicious and annoyed. He loudly demanded to know what was going on, and seemed to be leaning towards calling off the proceeding. At one point, he looked at me and said: "Well, I'm concerned about what you did. I don't want to be a semanticist here, and I don't want to take all afternoon to do this, but I don't want to send somebody who is just behind in their bills to jail". The judge was defending me more than my own attorney was.