Tuesday, March 12, 2013
One Sunday a sailor named Mr. Virgil made plans to leave the ship with his friends. He did not need his Chevy Citation and decided to let Tyrone Roden borrow the car for the day. Roden invited me and Terry Baum to go riding around with him in Norfolk, Virginia. I decided to bring a camera.
After we drove around for a few hours we started to come back to the ship.
It was still early as we approached the parking lot near the pier and we realized there was nothing to do but sit around the ship. Rather than sit around and be bored, we decided to leave the base again and head back to town.
Tyrone Roden drove the car, Terry Baum sat in the front passenger seat and I sat in the back seat.
Roden took a short cut on a street through a restricted area of the base where officers of the navy lived.
While traveling on this restricted street, I started to put a roll of film in my 35mm camera.
Terry saw some kids along side of the street and said something smart to them. The kids replied with something else smart.
Terry told Roden to back up. Roden stopped the car suddenly and jerked the car in reverse as I was trying to put the film in the camera. Then the car hit something and stopped. As I was trying to keep the film and camera from falling on the floor, Roden quickly drove away and turned at the first right. I looked to the right and saw about 3 kids and some cars parked down the street. I asked, "What happened?"
Roden had hit a parked car and wanted to get away.
We went to the parking lot near the ship. After parking the car, we saw the damage to the driver's side tail light and bumper.
Someone decided we shouldn't tell anyone. If Mr. Virgil should ask what happened to his car, then Roden would pretend he did not know what happened. And would say something like someone must have backed into the car in the parking lot and took off.
We went aboard the ship and I went to sleep.
Hours later I was awakened by Mr. Virgil yelling very loud for Roden.
When Mr. Virgil had returned to the ship, there was law enforcement ready to arrest him for the hit and run accident.
Apparently the kids were smart enough to get the tag number and report it.
Mr. Virgil found Roden and they both returned to the ship's entrance where the law enforcement was. Roden told them the truth about what really happened and for some reason they let him stay on the ship.
We figured there would be a fine and Roden would pay the ticket and damages.
On Monday morning, while everyone was getting dressed for muster, a message was announced on the ship's speaker system. I didn't hear the message because there were people talking and someone had turned the volume low on the division coop's speaker.
Someone came down the ladder and said they mentioned my name during the announcement and I was to get to the sales office. I thought it was a joke because that's where I was headed for after muster anyway.
Moments later other people came down the ladder and said Roden, Baum and I were to skip the muster and get to the sales office A.S.A.P.
When we arrived at the sales office, Mr. Hamilton told us to stand at attention and began his speech with a smile.
He described the nice weather as he was walking toward the ship and knew this should be an easy day at work since we had most of our sales orders done.
When he arrived on the ship he was given a message that said Mr. Hamilton, Tyrone Roden, Terry Baum and Michael Kribbs were to report to the captain and something about a car accident.
Then Mr. Hamilton shouted, "You've got 15 minutes to get your dress blues on and get back to the sales office! We're going to see the captain!"
We flew to the coop where several people helped us to get dressed in the required uniform.
After we rushed back to the sales office, Mr. Hamilton led us to see the captain.
Captain Myers let us know why we were there and said the car that Roden hit belonged to his neighbor who was also his best friend. He told us the reason that Terry Baum and I were there was because we witnessed the accident and failed to report the crime.
At some time during the meeting, Mr. Hamilton spoke for us.
He said to Captain Myers, "I really don't understand why this happened. These three men were some of his best workers." He also said, "Mr. Kribbs even worked extra hours at night in the sales office."
Captain Myers gave us 10 days restriction to the ship.
One or two weeks later we received a message to report to the legal authorities on base concerning the accident.
Terry Baum wanted us to deny everything about the incident.
I advised Roden not to listen to Baum. Lying would only make things worse, especially since they already knew what happened.
I had been to traffic court in Los Angeles, admitted to running the stop sign and paid the fine.
Then I left.
It was that easy.
Roden and I went to the legal office on base without Terry Baum.
When we arrived at the office they let us know why we were there and that we were going to trial. They also wanted to appoint to us an attorney.
We decided we did not want to make the situation any worse and declined the recommendation for an attorney. We just wanted to tell the judge the truth and pay the fine.
They tried several times to get us a defense attorney. We kept reminding them that we did not want an attorney because we did not want to argue this in court. We only wanted to tell the judge the truth and pay the fine.
The legal advisers looked confused, but finally said O.K. They wrote this on their papers then told us where and when the trial would be.
Another one or two weeks later Roden and I went to the trial in downtown Norfolk, Virginia.
There were only five people in the court room, the judge, Roden, Kribbs and two other people.
Roden and I stood before the judge with Roden standing at my right side.
The judge sat at the bench facing toward us with the two other people standing at a table along the left side of the judge.
When the judge asked us if we had an attorney we said no. Then I said, "We will tell the truth." And Roden repeated with the same answer.
The judge let us know the other two people were prosecuting attorneys. Then he asked them, "What charges do you have?"
One of the attorneys began to read from some papers with legal details about the charge. And he opened some legal books to substantiate the charge. Then the other attorney would do the same.
They both confidently kept taking turns reading the charges while opening legal books and showing the judge some papers.
As they were doing this, I could see this wasn't an ordinary traffic court.
I began to realize what the legal advisers on base were talking about with their advice to have an attorney with us.
There were two prosecuting attorneys prosecuting to the full extent of the law.
We didn't have any defense attorney.
We got nothing.
When the confident prosecution finally finished with their onslaught of many charges, Roden and I were very nervous.
Then the judge looked at Roden and asked, "Why did you drive away?"
Roden answered, "Because I was scared."
With a serious look on his face, the judge began to stare at Roden. He kept staring seriously and silently at Roden for one or two minutes.
Then the judge began to grin slightly. A while later his grin turn into a great big smile and he started to shake his head up and down in a 'yes' motion.
He turned to the prosecution and said, "You know we can't start this trial without a defense attorney."
Both prosecutors confidently agreed.
Then the judge did something that surprised everyone.
He opened one of his law book read to us where the judge at a trial could also be the defense attorney and said he could not be the defense attorney without permission.
The judge looked at Roden and asked, "Will you allow me to be your defense attorney?"
There were about 5 or 10 seconds of silence while we waited for Roden to answer.
Then I looked to my right at Roden and saw that he was just staring at me with a very confused look on his face.
I wasn't sure what Roden was thinking, but it looked as if he wanted to ask me "What do I say?"
I said, "Yes."
Then Roden looked to the judge and said, "Yes."
The judge (our defense attorney) officially began the trial.
Our defense attorney-judge and the prosecutors went back and forth with the charges, papers and legal books.
A couple of times during the trial he would look at me and Roden with a great big smile then return to look seriously at the prosecutors.
Many times when the prosecution would present a charge to our defense attorney-judge, he would read something to the prosecutor from his legal books and say, "throw this one out." Then he would say, "What else you got?"
I think it was the second to the last charge that concerned Roden's expired drivers license.
The defense attorney-judge said, "He's in and navy and it's an out of state license. It's out of my jurisdiction."
Then he insulted both prosecutors saying, "If you boys would learn how to do your jobs, we wouldn't have this problem."
The prosecutors seemed to be nervous and even a little confused. They just didn't seem to be as confident as they were earlier.
After they finished discussing all the charges, the defense attorney-judge looked at Roden and said that he was able to take care of all the charges except for one. It was a minor violation that cost about $40.00.
Then he asked Roden "Is that O.K. with you?"
Roden immediately answered, "Yes."
The judge officially ended the trial, and Roden sign some papers.
Then we left.
Captain Lowell Richard Myers