Courtroom Nine

"Fifty One Months......"


The drugs were great that night; the music drifted on. Young Johnny McNiegh had been there for 12 hours and he knew it would easily go on for twelve more. As the music drummed on with a beat reminiscent of the late Jerry Garcia, Johnny could not stop the unending echo in his head of "what a long strange trip its been...."... though the words were different now....yet never fully heard or understood.

Beside him was his girlfriend, another Rave junkie. With her, the dude Johnny knew as Skippy; "from UCSB," he said. Johnny once questioned that because Skippy seemed a little old and spoke with a strange accent. If he only knew then what he knows now Johnny's life would be quite different.

"The People vs. McNiegh" the clerk bellowed out in that same hollow tone that had rung through Courtroom Nine all afternoon. The clerk, a woman who appeared to be in her mid-seventies, dressed in a dark suit that was probably the same one she wore on her first post college job interview, scowled at each defendant as they stood before the rostrum with an accusatory look that pierced the defendant and informed the audience that this was her courtroom as much as the judge's. Judge Murphy was in no better mood.   Today, however, he deferred to the clerk to espouse the usual disdain for those who came before the almighty bench of "Judge James Anthony Murphy III."

Holding back tears from his eyes, Johnny, with handcuffs removed but chains on his ankles, looked back at his family, then quickly away. He couldn't bear to look at them longer lest he see the pain that he caused them by his arrest. He was the one who was to succeed in college, versus the family that had worked so hard to put him there.

It all came down to today. Today Johnny would be sentenced. Sentenced for sales of quantities of "Mr. Natural" blotter acid, LSD, to a government agent. The agent was no one other than the man he knew as Skippy.

Now Johnny, prior to the agent's involvement, wasn't selling large quantities, his Public Defender explained. He was a college student that enjoyed music and the retro 60's psychedelic scene that went with that music, the college Rave scene. Johnny would merely find "acid" for his friends. He was not the source; he was not the "big cheese." Johnny, although wrong in selling the LSD to the agent he thought was his friend, was 'entrapped' into doing so by the agent's enticement of easy money, money college students never had.  His lawyer continued,  passionately inquiring of the court: "Why? Why wasn't the government going after the source rather than Young Johnny McNeigh, .... but for the agent's enticement he never would have sold any quantities of drugs. The Government never went after the source...."

The Public Defender's pleas fell on deaf ears. As the Prosecutor stood to reply, Judge Murphy declared: "The Government need not respond, .....I've read the probation report and I've heard enough..... O.K. , the defendant having plead guilty to sales of LSD the Court, having heard the arguments of counsel and reviewed the memorandum submitted, imposes a sentence of 51 months in state prison, no parole...

Johnny's head fell, his parents cried. As he was lead away to begin his sentence, the Prosecutor and the agent, Skippy, smiled. They knew that Judge Murphy would never make them answer the Public Defender's question. They knew that the source was just another government agent....

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