Friday, July 30, 2010

“Courtroom Connection”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a daydream fantasy. Do not be alarmed.

My friend Ezekiel Byler-Gregg is Editor-in-Chief of the revived Burton Daily Bugle.

As a small-town wordsmith, he has often displayed the ability to provoke thought and spur debate. This quality is one considered useful in his field. However, having the natural inclination to offer public dissent can sometimes yield unwanted results.

Recently, Ezekiel was required to appear in county court over a line of credit he had used to help bolster his local newspaper. As the following transcript reveals, his appearance proved to be unruly, but memorable:

MEDIATOR – “Clerk, please begin recording. We are here today to consider case number 515996: Mega Financial Services vs. Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of Burton. Present are Chandra Block, counsel for MFS, and Tony DiPlano, representing Mr. Byler-Gregg. Should the parties here today reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable, I will notify the court that all further legal actions are canceled. Do you understand?”

(Everyone signifies their affirmation.)

MEDIATOR – “Very good. Ms. Block, will you describe the intent of your lawsuit?”

CHANDRA BLOCK – “I am here on behalf of Mega Financial Services to recover funds owed to Stern-Fowler Bank of Delaware. Mr. Byler-Gregg is delinquent on his account and was sent to us for debt collection over a year ago.”

MEDIATOR – “Thank you. Mr. DiPlano, do you have a response?”

TONY DI PLANO – “I am here to represent my client.”

EZEKIEL BYLER-GREGG – “Ahem! That would be me!”

MEDIATOR – “Mr. Byler-Gregg, it is not necessary to speak. I was addressing your counsel.”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “Sorry, mam.”

MEDIATOR – “Would you describe your case, Ms. Block?”

C. BLOCK – “We entered into a credit agreement with Mr. Byler-Gregg in 2005. Beginning in 2008 he was unable to maintain his payments and incurred additional fees and overdraft daily interest charges which inflated his sequential average calculated balance percentage rate…”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “In other words, when I couldn’t pull the wagon, you added more hay!”

MEDIATOR – “Mr. DiPlano, can’t you control your client?”

T. DI PLANO – “Ezekiel, be quiet!”

C. BLOCK – “Our actions were in keeping with Federal banking guidelines.”

MEDIATOR - “Defendant, how do you plead to this charge?”

T. DI PLANO – “My client pleads guilty.”

(Gasps echo around the courtroom)

MEDIATOR – “Do you understand the consequences of this plea?”

T. DI PLANO – (Whispering to his client) “Are you sure about this, Zeke?”

MEDIATOR – “I say again – do you understand the consequences of your plea?”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “Indeed I do. I am guilty… guilty of trying to help my paper survive in touch economic times… and guilty of living in a nation where the government is willing to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out wealthy bankers and industrialists while average people struggle to survive.”

(More gasps fill the air)

MEDIATOR – “Mr. DiPlano, control your client!”

C. BLOCK – “This is outrageous!”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “No, bailing out the criminals who wrecked our financial system was outrageous.”

C. BLOCK – “I demand that the defendant be removed, immediately.”

E. BYLER GREGG – “Allowing the politicians who supervised this mess to write laws that will supposedly cure the problem was even MORE outrageous!”

MEDIATOR – (Pounding her fist on the bench) “Bailiff! Where are you?”

BAILIFF O’MALLEY – (Looking puzzled) “Right here, mam!”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “Think about it, Ms. Block… without the government welfare your industry received, you would be unemployed right now. Instead of prosecuting me over a small, personal line of credit, you would be seeking an honest job for yourself.”

T. DI PLANO – “Zeke, shut up! You are wrecking our case!”

C. BLOCK – (Sounding out of breath) “He’s insane! Completely insane!”

E. BYLER-GREGG - “Stern-Folwer Bank took billions in bailout money when times were difficult. Now, it should be my turn. I became a victim of the same economic chaos that put your bank in jeopardy. Shouldn’t I receive the same respect from my own government?”

MEDIATOR – “Bailiff! Do you hear me?? Eject the defendant!”

BAILIFF O’MALLEY – (Looking dazed) “Yes mam!”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “As a journalist, I enjoy the freedom and liberty to speak truth to my readers without fear of recrimination. Did I somehow surrender that right at the courthouse door?”

MEDIATOR – “Mr. Byler-Gregg, the issue at hand here is your delinquent line of credit…”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “Not at all. The greater issue here is who actually controls this republic…down-home, average citizens, or members of the privileged ruling class?”

(Chandra Block faints in her chair)

T. DI PLANO – “I apologize most humbly for my client’s behavior…”

MEDIATOR – “This is no place for political speechmaking!”

E. BYLER-GREGG – “There is nothing political about this. The phrase ‘We The People’ should have real meaning in America. Today, tomorrow, and forever!”

MEDIATOR – “Bailiff, clear the courtroom! This session is hereby adjourned!”

Postscript – Ezekiel Byler-Gregg negotiated a payoff of his debt after readers of the Daily Bugle organized a grassroots effort to help satisfy his obligations.

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