Dry Cleaners

By Robin Burcell

One of my favorite things to do is hunt for interesting articles in the newspaper, hoping for that spark of an idea that will lend itself into the makings of a novel.  Writing police procedurals and police thrillers definitely keeps me tuned into news on crime and the judicial system. But I also find myself increasingly frustrated over what I read, because if this stuff were in a novel, people would throw it across the room and say this could never happen in real life.

Sure, sometimes it’s a case of truth being stranger than fiction. Like this Dontay Brannon, held on two homicide charges, then being released–accidentally–on two hundred dollars bail. How the heck does that mistake happen? The authorities who were interviewed said that they were “reviewing the process.” Hello? What process is that? Did no one read this guy’s charges? Did they not question the absurdity of the bail amount in relation to the crime? (Uh, sorry, boss.  Thought he was only charged with one homicide.) And finally, does anyone charge 200 bucks bail for anything anymore?

What with inflation I’m not even sure petty theft qualifies for that amount these days. And allegedly, several people had to sign off on this guy’s release papers, which makes me wonder… did no one see the word HOMICIDE written anywhere?  (In interest of fairness, the various articles state that they didn’t see the word “homicide” anywhere, because a clerk never entered the two homicide and one attempted homicide charges into the computer. That doesn’t, however, explain why no one bothered to look at his paper file, which is supposed to follow him wherever he goes.) So if these officials “signed off” on his release, it makes me wonder what other papers they put their John Hancocks on before this latest debacle. It also makes me wonder who’ll be looking for a new job once the dust settles. 

And speaking of debacles, who hasn’t read about the Paris Hilton arrest on probation violation, her almost immediate release, and then the judge who was miffed that the sheriff overstepped his boundaries, and so ordered her back into custody? Okay, granted, the sheriff, had he been smart, should have waited a couple more days before letting her go, just to satisfy the public as well as the paparazzi who sell photos to the gossip papers sold at the check stand. (Did he really think no one was going to notice?)

Sure, Paris committed a crime, and the Hilton name shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail-anytime ticket, but if you really compare it to the typical arrest of the populace, the little people who are only accountants or fry cooks and don’t have a TV show with their on-again off-again best friend, you’d know that the typical stay for this violation is about what she originally served. And really, if you need to use valuable bed space in the So. Cal. jails, do you want Paris Hilton filling it, or maybe some person who will probably be released on 200 dollar bail for double homicide?

Question for So. Cal. officials: What’s the dollar amount on the Paris Hilton custody/release/custody/release thing?  Next question: How many real crooks have you released due to over-crowding in the jails, even before some judge was miffed that a DUI probation violator was released in a high profile case? And finally: What’s the average stay of your basic DUI probation violator? I want to know that my tax dollars are being spent wisely, not for sensationalistic news, nor because some judge wants to prove a point.

And speaking of judges proving points, what about the nitwit judge back east, suing the dry cleaners for a gazillion dollars, well, 54 million, because the cleaners lost a pair of pants that couldn’t have cost more than a few hundred at the most, even with alterations and taxes. Hello? Is this guy insane? (Asked and answered, your honor.) This judge should be disbarred, not only for such a frivolous suit, but for the waste of the court’s time. That it even got as far as it did is a testament to how screwed up our judicial system really is.  Just because someone is a judge, lawyer, member of the bar, doesn’t mean he should be able to abuse his power. To me, he looks as bad as the fictional psychiatrist at Macy’s trying to prove that Kris Kringle was insane and wasn’t really Santa in MIRACLE ON 34th STREET.  But back to real life. This judge back east took on a small business who made a simple mistake. He’s telling this business (and anyone who keeps track of the news) that it’s not good enough to apologize and make reparations. Why allow an error to be fixed in good faith when you can gouge the business, shut them down, bankrupt the owners, and send them packing as an example that they screwed with the wrong guy?

As of this writing, two of the above cases have come to an end. Paris has been released at even more considerable expense, because the FAA has been assigned to track high-flying paparazzi, and the city had to place barricades closing off Hilton’s home street to keep everyone out there as well.  In the dry cleaners case, a more astute judge ruled against the idiot judge, finding in favor of the cleaners. A separate ruling will determine what costs the cleaners will recover.  As for the double homicide suspect released on 200 dollars bail? He’s still outstanding, but the father of one of his victims has filed a law suit for $5 million for gross negligence, because people are now afraid to come to a family business in fear he might show up there. Somehow I think that suit trumps the lost pair of pants case.  What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Dry Cleaners

  1. Louise Ure

    Hi Robin,

    Nice to see you here!

    I’m still trying to figure out how that Dontay Brannon case could have gone so screwy. Maybe bail was listed as “$200K” and somebody didn’t know what the “K” meant?

  2. Elsandra

    In my jurisdiction many are let out on signature bonds, even for felonies like substantial battery and attempted homicide. One gal tried to stab her father, was released on bond, then committed suicide by jumping off one of our bridges into the harbor on Christmas Eve. The “system” is really screwed up and then the DA wonders why we don’t want to arrest anyone anymore.

  3. Rae

    I was intrigued by Dusty’s post the other day on his site, wherein a convicted murderer had threatened the jury members who convicted him. Strange days, indeed….

  4. pari

    Robin,Great to see you here.

    We have these kinds of problems happen frequently here in NM — no prison is immune and the sad part is that while people are angry, they also expect a certain amount of incompetence.

    In an utterly perverse way, it’s kind of good to know that it happens in other parts of the country, too.

  5. J.D. Rhoades

    “This judge should be disbarred, not only for such a frivolous suit, but for the waste of the court’s time. “

    From your word processor to God’s ear, it seems:


    By the middle of next week, Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge who sued his neighborhood dry cleaners for $54 million and lost, will receive a letter that starts the process of putting him out of a job.

    City sources tell me that a marathon meeting of the commission that reviews the performance of administrative law judges (ALJs) ended last night with unanimous agreement to meet again next Monday to revise and finalize the wording of a letter that will state the panel’s doubts about granting Pearson the 10-year reappointment that he has been seeking throughout the last months of his battle against Custom Cleaners and its owners, the Chung family.”

  6. Robin Burcell

    Thanks, everyone for the welcome. Granted, I wrote this a few weeks ago in preparation for the big day, but it was very cool to see Dusty’s link to the article on the judge who may lose reappointment over the issue. I’d like to say I planned it that way, that the article would come out right about now to keep things current. Yeah, that’s it. I planned it. 😉 (thanks for the link, Dusty!)

    I clipped this from the article: “A judge has a right to bring a lawsuit like any other citizen,” said a source close to the commission, “but he doesn’t have a First Amendment right to bring a frivolous lawsuit.”

    All I can say to that is “Amen.”

  7. Tom, T.O.

    Hi, Robin,

    Good post. These things boggle the mind and you cut right to the core!

    It was nice seeing you again at Thrillerfest.

    Hope to see you soon.


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