Don felt sick!
Staring at Joseph, his lawyer who sat behind his desk opposite him, he gasped, ‘you can’t be serious! Plead guilty?’
Joseph shrugged. ‘The evidence is overwhelming. You have avoided tax in an illegal manner for two years.’
‘It was a mistake! That’s all, a stupid mistake!’
Joseph sighed. ‘They can show that you planned to hide revenue, that you set up bank accounts under assumed names to do just that. Here’s a hint,’ he added strongly, ‘if you plan to steal, don’t get caught! Give it up, Don. Plead guilty.’
Don stared at the desk, the noise of a busy legal office slipped in under the closed door. ‘What will I get?’ he asked quietly.
‘No one can say for sure,’ Joseph said.
‘But you can guess?’ Don pressed.
‘I used to be able to but with the new legislation coming into force, it’s anyone’s guess what the judges will come up with.’
The prisons had become overcrowded over the years and there had been a greater use of home confinement instead of prison as a sentence. The newspapers had picked up that white collar criminals received home confinement while other criminals received prison.
The inference was that home confinement was not really a punishment, that these white collar criminals were laughing at the system.
The outcry that followed forced the government to address the issue and pass legislation which enabled judges to add further penalties to the sentence of home confinement.
A bank teller convicted of embezzling was sentenced to two years home confinement but was allowed out each day to wash the cars parked in the street. Every day! People drove from miles around to park in the street to watch him and to have their car washed by the embarrassed criminal.
The television and the newspapers covered his humiliation every day until the civil libertarians jumped on the bandwagon and, from then on, privacy was enforced.
No names were released but details of the sentences were and the judges became competitive, seeing who could come up with the most ingenious and devious sentence. It seemed that everyone hated white collar crime.
‘So you can’t predict what the sentence will be?’ Don asked.
‘It’ll be home confinement,’ Joseph said, ‘but what the additional sentence will be, we don’t know. The judges have gone crazy with power and their imaginations.’ He looked guilty around the private office. ‘Of course, he quickly said, ‘I never said that.’
‘Home confinement and what?’
Joseph shrugged. ‘It depends on the judge. There have been,’ he said in a conspiratorial whisper, some strange sentences, let me tell you. It’s all on public record, although we don’t know who the poor bastards are. One judge sentenced some bloke to be naked for a year! A whole year! Imagine that, forced to walk around his house naked while his wife and the rest of his family, if he had one, wore clothes!’
I could put up with that, Don thought, lying around naked, no clothes to wash and just watching television all day. That wouldn’t be a problem. ‘’So who’s the judge that’s overseeing my case?’
‘Judge Emily Bluestone.’
‘What’s wrong?’ Joseph immediately asked when he saw his client’s shock. ‘Do you know her?’
‘No,’ Don groaned, ‘but I think Sandy does!’
‘Sandy? Your wife?’ Don nodded sadly. ‘But that could be a good thing,’ Joseph said excitedly, ‘she may be able to influence the judge’s decision. Not that she could do so openly of course,’ Joseph said hurriedly.
‘Maybe,’ Don said quietly, ‘maybe.’
‘Darling?’ Don tentatively asked that night. Sandy was reading her book on the living room sofa and didn’t even look up to reply.
‘What?’ Her voice was still crisp and ice-cold and Don knew she hadn’t quite forgiven him yet.
‘The court case…’
‘What about it?’ she snapped.
‘It is next week, I have to be there, of course.’
Sandy closed her book and looked coldly at him. ‘I think this is the stupidest thing you have ever done! And you’ve done some big ones before but nothing like this!’
‘Darling…’ he said weakly.
‘Don’t darling me! You’ll end up in prison and I’ll have to twiddle my thumbs!’
‘We have enough money,’ he protested, ‘you’ll be all right but,’ he added, ‘I don’t think it will be prison. It’ll be home confinement so at least you’ll see me.’
‘Oh joy!’ Sandy said sarcastically. ‘You’ll be at home all the time but unable to go anywhere?’
‘It won’t be so bad, will it?’ he pleaded. ‘It’s better than prison.’
‘I suppose,’ she said grudgingly and he smiled, moving closer to her until she said sharply, ‘I still haven’t forgiven you so keep your distance.’
‘Of course, darling,’ he said hurriedly, moving back on the sofa and Sandy reopened her book.
‘Darling?’ he said after a moment.
‘You know Emily Bluestone, don’t you?’
‘Emily Bluestone? Emily Bluestone,’ Sandy said as she thought. ‘yes, that’s right. She plays sometimes at the tennis club. Tall woman, if I recall. Why?’
‘No reason,’ he said innocently, ‘except the judge at the trial is Emily Bluestone.’
‘Emily? A judge! Well, I never.’
‘You didn’t know?’ Don said, surprised.
‘I’m trying to read, darling,’ Sandy said a little crossly.
‘Sorry, darling. Will you come to the trial?’
Sandy smiled at him. ‘Of course sweetie, I’ll be there to give support.’
Don nervously paced up and down the corridor while Sandy and Joseph sat waiting and watching him. ‘I don’t see why I have to wait,’ he said. ‘I pleaded guilty, I don’t see why she just can’t sentence me…’
‘It’s protocol,’ Joseph explained patiently. ‘The Judge must consider the sentence carefully and then announce the punishment.’
‘I’m sure it will all work out well, darling,’ Sandy said.
A door opened and a burly man in a blue uniform motioned to them. ‘The Judge will see you in her chambers. This way, please.’
‘Her chambers?’ Don whispered to Joseph as the three of them followed the bailiff.
‘New privacy regulations. The sentence must be pronounced in private, although the legal representative, immediate family and the bailiff are present.’
The bailiff opened the door and three passed him as they walked into the room where Judge Bluestone sat behind her desk.
‘Donald Jones, Your Honour, for sentencing.’
Very good, Henry. Good afternoon, Mister McLeod,’ she said to Joseph who nodded.
‘Good afternoon, Your Honour.’
‘You are Sandy Jones?’ Judge Bluestone said to Sandy.
‘Yes, Your Honour.’
They don’t know each other, Don thought moodily, there’s no influence there at all!
‘I would emphasise,’ Judge Bluestone said to the three, ‘that this sentence must be applied in strict privacy and must not be disclosed to anyone. The facts of the sentence will be incorporated into the public record but personal details will not be revealed. To reveal any details of this case to anyone will be seen as contempt of court and you will be severely penalised. Is that understood?’
All three nodded and Joseph said, ‘yes, Your Honour.’
‘Good, you two may sit,’ Judge Bluestone said, waving her gold pen at Sandy and Joseph. ‘Mister Jones, please step forward.’ He did so and she looked down at her papers. ‘I have considered all the facts and even though you have pleaded guilty, I feel that you must have an added incentive not to re-offend. Are you ready to receive your sentence, Mister Jones?’
‘I am, Your Honour,’ Don croaked.
‘Very good. I hereby sentence you to twelve months home confinement from today’s date.’
Don’s heart pounded excitedly. Only twelve months! A piece of cake!
‘I am also sentencing you to twelve months of enforced chastity. Both sentences will be served concurrently. You will be taken from here and fitted with both devices. Take him away, Henry.’
‘Yes, Your Honour.’
Don felt faint and Henry seized his arm and led him through a side door before he could say anything. As he was about to protest, a man and a woman in a white coat stood on either side and he felt a prick on the back of his hand.
‘What the…’ He staggered and Henry held him up as the man and woman smiled at him. ‘What did you give me… ?’ Don spiralled into darkness.