Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.
Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.
Chapter 38 — Lee Ramsen Retracts Testimony
“It’s a fucking lie, pardon the language. Last semester Tom and I had English 2 during sixth period with Ms. Furman in room D109. That’s nowhere near the second floor of Building E. Then seventh period I had Computer Technology with Mr. Wong in room A102. If I went to the bathroom on the second floor of Building E between sixth and seventh periods I’d never make it to my Computer Technology class. You can check the school records, I wasn’t late to my Computer Technology class on that Friday. In fact, I wasn’t ever late to my Computer Technology class all semester.
“Tom had Baseball as his PE class seventh period. That’s all the way across campus from Building E.”
One of Beth’s staff was sitting on the other side of me. I turned to him and asked, “Can I get on your laptop?”
“Sure. By the way, my name is Alex Clark.” He pushed his laptop in front of me.
“Hi, Alex. Do you have an internet connection?”
“Yes, it’s connected to our server by WiFi.”
I brought up the school website and the campus map.
“Okay, see the layout? The campus is like a fat letter L. The vertical part of the L has all of the classroom buildings. Building E is here at the top of the L, on the north edge of the campus, then south of it are the quad and the Cafeteria. Buildings D, C, B, and A and the Administration Building are lined up in that order below the quad and Cafeteria. Below the Administration Building there’s the staff parking lot, the Little Theater is east of that, and further east is the gym, forming the horizontal part of the L. The student parking lot is inside the L just above the horizontal part. The south end of the campus has the football stadium, baseball field, tennis and basketball courts, and playing fields, and they’re below the horizontal part of the L.
“If you look at Building E, see it’s marked that there’s a boys’ bathroom at each end. But the one on the second floor is at the west end of the building, see the 2 in a circle next to it? The one on the first floor is at the east end, see the 1 in a circle next to it? The girls’ bathrooms are the opposite, the one on the second floor is on the east end and the one on the first floor is on the west end.
“Here, on the other side of the quad and the cafeteria, is Building D where Tom and I have our sixth period English 2 class. It’s in room D109 which is at the east end of the building.
“Now, here is Building A where I have Computer Technology in room A102 on the west end of the building.
“Here’s the gym behind the Little Theater. The entrance to the boys’ locker room is on the south side of the gym. The football stadium is at the east side of the campus south of the gym, and the baseball field is south of the football stadium
“Try to plot a way that Tom and I could get from D109 to the boys’ bathroom at the west end of the second floor of Building E and have sex, then how I would get to my class in A102 and how Tom would get to the boys’ locker room then out to the baseball field on time. Can’t be done. We only have six minutes between classes. It couldn’t be done without me and Tom being seriously late to our seventh period classes. And we weren’t. You can check the school records and we won’t be on report for arriving late to our seventh period classes on that date.”
“Alex, can you print out copies of that Los Arcos campus map? In color?” Beth asked.
“Sure. I can have Joyce run them over here after they are printed in our office.”
“Let’s print twelve copies,” Beth told him.
Alex brought up the print dialog box and issued the print job.
“You know,” I said, “there’s something else I just remembered. That guy said that he went into the boys’ bathroom at exactly two twelve p.m. Let me pull up our bell schedule for Friday, May fourth.”
I brought up the bell schedule for May and scrolled down to the fourth of May.
“Gotcha, asshole!” I whispered. “Uh, pardon my language. But look here. That Friday we had an assembly right after homeroom, a presentation on alcohol abuse that everyone had to attend in the Little Theater. When we have an assembly it shortens every one of the classes that day so we’ll get out of school at the regular time.
“So, look at the times. Sixth period ended at two sixteen p.m. and seventh period started at two twenty two p.m. The time he says we were in the bathroom in Building E, two twelve, is four minutes before sixth period classes ended. That doesn’t even consider the time it would take for me and Tom to get from D109 to the west end of Building E. The guy is a liar and the bell schedule proves it.”
“I’ll print twelve copies of the bell schedule page that includes the month of May, Beth,” Alex said.
“Curt, is there a way to find out if he’s a student at Los Arcos?” Beth asked.
“Sure. I can log in to the student roster.”
I went back to the school’s home page and clicked on the link for registered students and logged in. I scrolled down to the R’s and found ‘Ramsen, Lee Alan’.
“He is a student, and he was a junior last year. Wait a minute, see this code? It means that he was suspended. I can’t find out when that happened or why, but you could ask him, right?”
“Absolutely right, Curt.”
“Ms. Wolman, there’s something else I remembered that I told you about. We both forgot about it when I testified. Right after Don threw me against the table and broke my arm, he shouted ‘Get the fuck off the floor you little nigger loving faggot’ then he grabbed my broken arm and tried to pull me up off the floor and I started screaming. It’s what he said to me that I think is important, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is important. And we did forget to have you relay that when you testified. If you don’t mind, I’ll recall you after Lawrence Wilde finishes presenting his witnesses.”
“Of course I don’t mind. I want to do anything that to see that Don gets put away for as long as possible.”
“Good. Now all we have to do is wait for Joyce to bring those printouts over from my office. Thank you, Curt. You’ve been a big help and I appreciate it.”
Mr. Williams and I went back to our seats in the gallery. After about ten minutes a girl came in with a large manila envelope and handed it to Beth. The girl got Beth’s signature on a form and left, and I saw Beth look up at the clock. It was quarter to eleven. She looked around and when she saw me she pointed and then raised two fingers. I pointed at me and then Mr. Williams and she nodded. I bumped his shoulder and whispered, “Ms. Wolman wants us at the Prosecution table.”
When we got there she had us sit down.
“I’m going to ask to see Judge Young right now. Curt, I want you to verify the contents and source of this campus map and the bell schedule. Michael, you’ll accompany Curt in the Judge’s chambers. Any questions?”
We both said no questions. She waived the Bailiff over and handed him a note then whispered something to him. He nodded and went back to the door into the Judge’s chambers.
When he returned he said, “Please accompany me.”
I expected the Judge’s chambers to be large and have fancy furniture like those I’d seen on TV shows like Law and Order. It was nothing like that at all. It was a small office with a metal desk, an old executive type wood chair where Judge Young sat, and two dining room type wooden side chairs on the other side of the desk across from the Judge. There were no big paneled bookcases, just one short metal bookcase across from the side of the desk. It reminded me of the teachers’ offices at school.
Mr. Williams said, “Judge, if it’s alright with you I suggest that Curt and Ms. Wolman sit across from you so they can show you our evidence. I’ll stand in back of them.”
“That’s a good idea, Michael. Now, Beth, what new evidence do you have that you’d like to present?” Judge Young asked.
“Lawrence Wilde called a student from Los Arcos High School, Lee Ramsen, who claimed that he saw Curtis Fischer and Thomas Williams having sex in the second floor boys’ bathroom in Building E on the Los Arcos campus between sixth and seventh periods. He said it occurred at exactly two twelve p.m. on the fourth of May of this year. He was very clear about the accuracy of the time and date. Curtis has provided me with several items of evidence that will refute Lee Ramsen’s testimony. Curtis can explain why what Lee Ramsen claimed he saw could not have occurred.”
Judge Young looked at me and smiled.
“Alright, Curt, how about explaining it to me. Go slowly. I may interrupt with a question from time to time, but don’t worry about that. I’m sure you’ll do as good a job explaining this new evidence as you did giving your testimony in court.”
“Thank you, your Honor.”
I went over the campus map, the location of our sixth period English 2 classroom and the location of the boys’ bathroom where Lee Ramsen said Tom and I supposedly had sex, the location of my seventh period Computer Technology classroom, the location of the boys’ locker room in the gym where Tom would suit up for his seventh period Baseball practice and get to the baseball field. I ended by showing how it would be impossible for us to get to that boys’ bathroom, have sex, and get to our seventh period classes on time.
Then I showed him the bell schedule for the fourth of May and how we couldn’t have been there because we’d been on an assembly schedule and wouldn’t get out of our sixth period class for another four minutes after he said he’d seen us in the Building E second floor boys’ bathroom having sex. It also proved that Lee Ramsen couldn’t have been there either. I told him how the school district didn’t allow teachers to release students before the bell ending each period’s classes, and that school records would show that Tom and I weren’t late to our seventh period classes.
Judge Young had several questions.
“Can you prove where your sixth and seventh period classes were held last semester?”
“Yes. Ms. Wolman, if we can use Alex’s laptop I can show Judge Young my schedule including the teacher names and rooms, and we can print that out. I’ll have to log in because each of us has a password for accessing our information. Tom would have to look up his schedule himself.”
“I think your schedule would be enough, Curt,” Judge Young said.
Mr. Williams said that he’d get Alex’s laptop and bring it in to the Judge’s chambers.
As he got up the Bailiff knocked and opened the door.
“Your Honor, it’s two minutes before eleven. Do you want to extend this recess?”
“Yes. Joe, please say that Court will reconvene by eleven thirty.”
“I will make that announcement now,” and Mr. Williams and the Bailiff left and closed the door. After about a minute we heard a knock and the Bailiff opened the door. “Mr. Williams, Your Honor.”
Judge Young nodded to indicate it would be okay to have Mr. Williams enter the Judge’s chambers.
Mr. Williams put the laptop in front of me. I saw the browser still pointed to the Los Arcos website, so I logged on to my account. I brought up my spring schedule and turned the laptop so Judge Young could see it.
“See, sixth period I had English 2 with Ms. Furman in room D109.” I grinned. “I got an A in that class. Seventh period I had Computer Technology in room A102 with Mr. Wong. I got an A in that class, too.”
Judge Young laughed. “I gather from all this list of classes you had last semester that you’re a good student, Curt. You got an A in every class.”
“Not to brag, but I have straight A’s in all of my classes starting in first grade in elementary school.”
“That is something to brag about, Curt. Don’t be reticent about telling people that you get top grades. I can see that you’re on track to be the Valedictorian of your graduating class at Los Arcos. I remember that you said you’re planning to go to college?”
“Yes. I want to go to the University of California at Berkeley and major in Computer Science. Tom Williams is also a straight A student plus he’s an athlete, a pitcher and is in the starting rotation on our varsity baseball team. We’ll be competing with each other and with a bunch of other kids to see who’ll be the Valedictorian of our graduating class.”
“Curt, do you mind if we show your class schedule from last semester in Court? If we do it will become part of the public record for this trial. It would add to the strength of how you couldn’t have been in that bathroom.”
“It’s okay with me. I don’t have anything to hide.”
“Alright, can you print your class schedule for me?”
“I think so. I watched Alex and he used the default printer. Ms. Wolman, could someone bring the copies here?”
“Yes. I’ll call Joyce as soon as we’ve finished with Judge Young and I return to the Prosecution table.”
“Beth, you can call now, from here,” Judge Young told her. So she placed the call as I set up to print twelve copies of my class schedule from last semester.
“I have one more question,” Judge Young asked. “Does this Lee Ramsen actually attend Los Arcos High School?”
“Yes,” Beth replied, “Curt checked his name on the school roster and he was a junior at Los Arcos High last Semester. He’d be a senior this fall. However, he is listed as having been suspended. There’s no way to know for how long or for what reason he was suspended.”
“Thank you for this information. Your evidence is approved for presentation during your cross examination of Lee Ramsen. As soon as Curt’s class schedule arrives please have the Bailiff bring a copy to me. When I return you can hand out copies of these three evidentiary documents to the Defense team and the members of the Judicial Panel, and begin your cross examination.”
He stood up which I figured would be our indication that we’d finished our meeting and we could leave his chambers. I took Alex’s laptop with me and returned it to the Prosecution table. Mr. Williams and I started to walk to the gallery when Beth put her hand on my shoulder.
“I’d like to have the two of you remain at the Prosecution table.” She signaled the Bailiff and asked for two additional chairs, which were brought in.
We sat down with Mr. Williams next to Beth and I sat next to him. Alex sat at my left. Joyce came into the courtroom with an envelope and handed it to Beth and got her signature. Beth checked the pages and signaled for the Bailiff. She gave him a copy and he went back to the Judge’s chambers. A couple minutes later Judge Young returned and the Bailiff announced that Court had reconvened and Lee Ramsen returned to the witness stand.
Beth had Alex hand copies of the three documents to each of those at the Defense table and to the three members of the Judicial Panel.
“Ms. Wolman, please proceed with your cross examination of Mr. Ramsen.”
“Mr. Ramsen. I assume, as a student at Los Arcos High School, that you’re familiar with the location of the second floor boys’ bathroom in Building E. Am I correct?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Is that boys’ bathroom at the west end of Building E?”
“Uh… I guess that’s at the west end.”
“What was your sixth period class last semester and in what room was it held?”
Lawrence Wilde stood up. “Your Honor, I have to object. The Prosecutor appears to be on some sort of fishing expedition here. I can see nothing germane about what class Mr. Ramsen attended last semester.”
Judge Young shook his head. “Well, you might not find it germane, but I certainly do. Objection overruled.”
Beth looked at the Court Reporter. “Please repeat the question I asked Mr. Ramsen.”
“You asked, ‘What was your sixth period class last semester and in what room was it held?’”
“Um… California History and Government with Mr. Linder. I don’t remember what room it was in.”
“Your Honor,” Beth said, “If I may have a moment I believe that I’ll be able to refresh Mr. Remsen’s memory.”
“Please proceed, Ms. Wolman,” Judge Young replied. “Let me know when you’re ready.”
“Your Honor!” Lawrence Wilde said in a loud voice, “I object to this delay!”
“Do you have somewhere else to go, Mr. Wilde?”
“No, Your Honor. I’m only interested in a rapid conclusion so a judgment can be delivered.”
“That’s my job, Mr. Wilde. Objection overruled. Please sit down.”
I knew what Beth wanted, and I hoped the spring class schedule was still online. It was.
I whispered to Beth, “California History and Government with Mr. Linder was in room E116, near the east end of Building E on the first floor, a short walk to the boys’ bathroom at the east end and on the first floor.”
“Mr. Ramsen, your California History and Government class with Mr. Linder was in Building E. But it was in room E116, on the first floor, close to the boys’ bathroom at the east end of the building. Is that correct?”
Lawrence Wilde started to stand up, to object, I assumed. But Lee Ramsen answered before he could say anything.
“Yeah, that’s where my class was.”
Lawrence Wilde sat down. He didn’t look pleased.
I barely heard it, but Alex chuckled under his breath. I agreed. Lawrence Wilde was a dufus. I glanced at the Defense team. They were looking over the three documents. I saw Lawrence Wilde shrug his shoulders and shake his head. I don’t think they understood what those three documents that had been entered as evidence meant.
Beth Wolman continued her questioning. “Why didn’t you use the boys bathroom on the same floor and at the same end of the building as your class in room E116?”
“I think the boys’ bathroom on the first floor was closed due to a water leak or something. All I know is that we had to use the other boys’ bathroom on the second floor.”
“That must have been a long walk, all the way from room E116 to the other end of the building and up a flight of stairs. How long would you say it took you to get to that boys’ bathroom after your sixth period class was over?”
“I don’t know, maybe two or three minutes.”
“Were the halls crowded with all of the other students getting out of their sixth period classes and hurrying to get to their seventh period classes?”
“Yeah, I guess. Same as usual.”
“Are you sure that with all of the students in the halls and on the stairway that you could make it from one end of the building to the other, and up the stairs, in just two or three minutes?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“You ask ‘why not’ and I think I have a question for you that might help you answer your own question. You said that you saw Curtis Fisher and Thomas Williams having sex in the second floor boys’ bathroom in Building E, at exactly — and these are your words, Mr. Ramsen — ‘at exactly two twelve p.m. on Friday, May the fourth of this year’. Is that accurate?”
“Yes, it is.”
“You don’t want to change your mind?”
“No. Are you implying that I’m a liar?”
“You should tell us the answer to that question, Mr. Ramsen. Let’s say you were extra fast going from your sixth period California History and Government class with Mr. Linder in room E116 and you made it in just two minutes and arrived at exactly two twelve p.m. That means you left your California History and Government classroom at two ten p.m., right, Mr. Ramsen?”
I could tell that Lee Ramsen started to guess what Beth was driving at.
“It turns out that sixth period at Los Arcos High School on May the fourth of this year didn’t end until two sixteen p.m. because the school was on an assembly schedule. So you left your California History and Government classroom six minutes before your class was over. Please explain how you accomplished that to the Court, Mr. Ramsen.”
Lawrence Wilde finally caught on. He stood up and shouted, “Objection! Ms. Wolman is badgering this witness!”
“Objection overruled. Sit down, Mr. Wilde, and stop shouting, or be in contempt of court.
“Now, Mr. Ramsen, please answer the Prosecutor’s question.”
“I guess I got a pass to leave class early. I had to go real bad.”
“If you left class early, why were there so many other students in the hallway and on the stairs?”
“I guess I forgot. That was a long time ago.”
Beth looked at Lee Ramsen and shook her head. “We can check with the Los Arcos High School Administration and verify that you were given a hall pass to go to the bathroom. We can check with Mr. Linden’s records and verify that he granted you a pass. The school district is very strict about students leaving class early or being in the halls without a pass. We’ll take the time to do that checking. If we find that you lied on this witness stand we’ll charge you with perjury, Mr. Ramsen, and you’ll go to trial. Do you understand me? Do you want to correct or retract your testimony, or should I continue to ask you questions?”
“How do I retract my testimony?”
Judge Young answered Lee Ramsen’s question. “You can retract your testimony, Mr. Ramsen. The legal process for doing so will have to be explained to you by an attorney. I strongly advise that if you do consider to retract your testimony that you obtain an attorney to avoid a charge of perjury. You cannot use Mr. Wilde or anyone from his firm or Mr. Williams because they would have a conflict of interest.
“However, in the pursuit of justice, Mr. Ramsen, I will allow you to retract all of your testimony in this trial, and it will be stricken from the record. If you do so, you are to meet with someone from the District Attorney’s office to determine how they are going to handle your case. You must meet with them within the next week, and Ms. Wolman, I’ll assign that responsibility to assign someone from your staff to schedule a meeting with Mr. Ramsen, and they are to keep me informed. Again, I strongly advise you to obtain an attorney with knowledge of perjury and retraction of testimony to assist you.
“Mr. Wilde, because of conflict of interest neither you nor anyone from your firm are to discuss this matter with or meet with or contact Mr. Ramsen or any of his family members. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Ramsen, you may step down from the witness stand. Please remain in the gallery of this courtroom. Ms. Wolman, you will meet with Mr. Ramsen when we adjourn for lunch.”
“Yes, I will. Thank you, Your Honor,” Beth replied.
“Now, Mr. Wilde, do you have any more witnesses to call?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Ms. Wolman, do you have any witnesses to call for redirect?”
“Yes, Your Honor. I would like to recall Curtis Fischer.”
I was reminded by the Bailiff that I was still under oath. I sat down in the witness stand.
Beth Wolman asked me the question that I expected. “Curt, you told me that Donovan Clarey did something and said something to you after your arm had been broken. What was that?”
“He said ‘Get the fuck off the floor you little nigger loving faggot’ then he grabbed my broken arm and tried to pull me up off the floor. That’s when I screamed a whole bunch of times, real loud, because my arm hurt so bad.”
“Are you certain that’s exactly what he said to you?”
“Yes, I’ll never forget it. I’ve never been in so much pain and so scared in my life.”
“Thank you, Curt. I have no other questions for this witness.”
“Mr. Wilde, do you have any questions for this witness?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Fischer, you may step down from the witness box.” I returned to where I’d been sitting at the Prosecution table as Judge Young announced, “This trial is adjourned for lunch and will continue at two o’clock. Mr. Wilde, I want to see you in my chambers, now.” He banged his gavel.
We stood and I looked at Mr. Williams.
“Curt, this is, without a doubt, the most bizarre trial I’ve ever been involved in. I don’t know what to say about it.”
“How about this. Don doesn’t know how to pick a lawyer?”
“That’s a start.”
“What’s going to happen next?”
“The Prosecution and the Defense will present their summations and try to convince the Judicial Panel that their point of view is the right one.”
“The Judicial Panel will meet and render a verdict.”
“When will that be finished?”
“Anywhere from tomorrow to sometime next week. I’d guess much closer to tomorrow than to sometime next week. Then Judge Young will announce the verdict and will hold a sentencing hearing. That will most likely happen next week or the week after.”
Mr. Williams looked over his shoulder to the gallery.
“Hang on a minute, Curt. I want to say something to Lee Ramsen.”
What was that about? Why would Mr. Williams want to talk to Lee Ramsen? I was pissed at Lee for lying on the witness stand, and I thought Mr. Williams couldn’t give him any legal advice.
He returned after about three or four minutes.
“I gave him the name of an attorney who specializes in perjury cases.”
“Oh. I guess that’s okay.”
“Everyone is entitled to have an attorney, Curt. Lee is very shook up. I could see that he’d been crying. Let’s leave and go have lunch. Then I have something to talk to you about in private and in confidence that I don’t want the others to hear.”
“Okay, both are fine with me, especially the lunch part. I’m hungry.”
We caught up with Tom, Mrs. Hutchins, Mark, and Kyle. They didn’t know what happened in court today, so Mr. Williams gave a brief summary. They couldn’t believe a witness, called by Don’s attorney, lied on the witness stand.
“Okay, where should we have lunch? I’m starved,” Tom asked.
“Fish and chips at Sailor Jakes!” I said.
Everyone agreed. We had to drive because it was too far to walk and across a freeway bridge too, so we drove. Because Mr. Williams has a big SUV that Tom called a UAV — an Urban Assault Vehicle — it had enough room for all six of us.
Lunch was great. Sailor Jack’s always has the best fish and chips, real light batter and extra-crispy fries. I don’t like vinegar on my fish and chips, so as usual I skipped that part and ate them the way the cook fixed them, no adornment of any kind.
After we got back to the courthouse Mr. Williams motioned for me to follow him. We went into one of the witness waiting rooms and he closed the door.
“Curt, I wanted to tell you what Lee Ramsen told me. He said a guy talked to his stepfather and then to Lee. He offered Lee a one thousand dollar scholarship when he goes to college, and his stepfather four thousand dollars in cash, if Lee would testify that he saw you and Tom having sex at school. Lee said the guy helped him invent the story he told in Court. He’s scared right now, scared about what’s going to happen to him, and scared of his stepfather, and scared of the guy who hired him to lie in court.”
“He’s scared of his stepfather?”
“Yes. He says his stepfather lost his job and they’re having a hard time and were about to lose their home. He said his stepfather is going to be real upset because of what happened in court today. That four thousand dollars would have helped with the mortgage payments.”
“Was his stepfather in court today?” I asked.
“No, he wasn’t. I didn’t ask why not. That’s for Beth Wolman to find out. I want to chat with Beth for a few minutes as soon as she gets back from lunch. I called and left her a message. I think it’s in your interest that we find out what she plans for Lee and I want to make sure she know that he might be at risk of being abused because of his testimony today. I’m also curious about who made the bribe, though she might decide not to tell me that information.”
“Can I sit in on your meeting?”
“I think that it’s better for me to discuss this with Beth in private. I’ll make sure Beth knows that I’ll keep you informed.”
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