The defendant squirmed like a five year old at a wedding. The courtroom was packed, and the prosecuting attorney was finishing up his opening remarks.
“…and because of the repeated violations of the defendant, performed while a member of the ‘El Primo’ organized family, the state intends to pursue racketeering charges, proving that the defendant’s actions were both systematic and long-term.”
“Thank you Mr. Kane,” the judge said.
Victor “Lefty” Suarez gulped nervously from his water glass and avoided eye contact with the jury. A small bead of sweat trickled over the scar on his cheek and settled with the rest of the perspiration on his collar.
“Call your first witness, Mr. Kane.“
“Thank you, Your Honor. The state calls Riley Ward to the stand.”
A slim, well dressed man proceeded to take the stand.
“Mr. Ward, state your occupation please.”
“Special Agent Riley Ward, FBI.”
The prosecutor grabbed a file from his assistant and returned to the witness.
“Agent Ward, do you recognize the men in these photos?”
“Yes,” Ward replied.
“Is it true that the men in these photographs have all been convicted for the very same crime that the defendant is on trial for?”
“Yes sir, they have.”
“And can you identify the man with these felons in each one of these pictures?”
“Yes, it’s Mr. Suarez,” he said, pointing to the defendant.
“Thank You,” said the prosecutor, returning to his seat.
Lefty’s attorney, Mr. Grimes, was up in a flash.
“Agent Riley, do you have any witness evidence of my client in the commission of any crime?”
“No, but his association with...”
“Thank you agent, you’re excused,” he cut him off coldly.
“Your honor, we would like to call Det. Detrick Dunn to the stand. He’s been in charge of surveillance on Mr. Suarez for the better part of a year. At this time, we would like to present audio and video evidence, exhibits D, E, and F.” Mr. Kane handed over the evidence. “Much of the surveillance takes place at an establishment we believe is a front for meetings."
“Mr. Dunn,” asked the prosecutor, “Can you declare with full assurance that it is indeed Mr. Suarez in these videos and wiretaps?”
“Yes, without a doubt,” said Dunn.
“Do you indeed have proof that this establishment was the site of frequent meetings, and that many high ranking members of the organization were present?"
“Yes, sir,” said Dunn
“And do you have proof that strategies were discussed, money was contributed, and that 'El Primo' himself was in attendance?
“Absolutely,” smiled Dunn.
“No further questions; your witness,” Kane said,gestured to Grimes.
Suarez’ eyes were glassy and his body rigid as his attorney approached the witness.
“Mr. Dunn, do you have irrefutable evidence, on tape, that my client actually committed a crime?”
“Well, no,” stuttered Dunn.
“Do you have any evidence of my client contributing any money, or ever recruiting anyone into the business?”
Dunn looked away.
“No,” barked Dunn.
“Mr. Dunn, you testified you have had my client under surveillance for nearly a year. In all of that time,” Grimes said, raising his voice, “Do you have any surveillance or witness evidence of my client ever speaking directly to ‘El Primo’ himself?”
Kane was on his feet. “Objection!”
“Overruled,” said the judge. “The witness will answer the question.”
“We know he’s guilty! He talked about ‘El Primo’ all the time.” Dunn was standing now, pointing at Suarez. “He had a ledger with names and procedures. We taped him confessing over the phone!”
Grimes threw his hands in the air. “Your Honor!”
The judge pounded his gavel. “Sit down and limit your answers to the question.”
Dunn gripped the rails tightly. He looked up slowly, seething, and locked eyes with Grimes.
The verdict was in. The prosecution and defense returned. The courtroom was charged with electricity. Reporters were on edge, ready to call in their stories. Finally, the jury returned and took their seats. The foreman handed the verdict to the judge, who read it and handed it back.
“Has the jury reached a verdict?” the judge asked.
“We have Your Honor. We the jury, find the defendant ‘not guilty’ on the sole count of being a Christian.”
The courtroom erupted in chaos. The defense celebrated with shouts and high fives. Across the aisle, the prosecuting attorney hung his head. He had failed miserably.
Victor ‘Lefty’ Suarez would walk; circumstantial evidence could not link him to the crime.
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