Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
This is a two-part blog.
Today in April was one of the first days in the year that was beautiful enough to take my motorcycle out, instead of the car.
It was warm, sunny and around 10 degrees.
I arranged with my friend Dan to meet him at Dufferin Mall through MSN Messenger and on the phone.
I left my house by driving north on Shaw to Queen.
I went west on Queen to Ossington.
I went north on Ossington to College.
I went west on College to Dufferin.
I went north on Dufferin to Dufferin Mall.
I met Dan to hang out a bit and so that he could return a DVD rental (Deliverance) to me.
We talked for a while, smoked and then said good-bye and left the mall to head back home.
I left Dufferin Mall from the main outdoor parking, headed south and went to the first side street.
I drove through some side streets and had a little leisurely ride before heading home to arrange to go out with friends.
I drove past Dovercourt, to Ossington.
When I got to Ossington, I made a right turn signal, and then headed south to my house.
When I turned right, I noticed that a police cruiser heading north put on his flashing lights, so I immediately made a right turn signal, moved towards the curb, came to a complete stop with my signals flashing, to let him go around me unobstructed.
The cruiser instead, came in my direction; the officers came out of the car, handcuffed me and arrested me.
I simply stood there asking what was going on and what has happening while they handcuffed me. I kept repeating over and over I don’t know why you are doing this? and Whats happening?
I was very upset, shaken and distraught.
The officer who was chasing ‘me’ told me he had chased me all over downtown for around 10 minutes, I had hit speeds of over 140km/hr and so on. I told him it wasn’t me and he said ‘I know it is you beyond a shadow of a doubt’. I asked him if he got my plates and he said no, but he KNEW it was me.
I ride a yellow bike, and I ride all the time wearing a black leather jacket, black helmet, and blue jeans. Pretty average looking in my opinion, nothing too specific about me or my motorcycle.
So to make a long story short, I was kept at the station in a holding cell for 6 hours until I was released, I spoke to a legal aid and they told me to not answer any questions the officers had about the incident until the trial. The cops were very intimidating.
I have no traffic tickets or criminal charges on my record until NOW, but I am now looking at 2 criminal charges.
I have to return to have my photo/finger-prints taken and then I have my first court appearance in June. I am also not allowed to operate a motorcycle until the trial is completed.
This problem carries with it so many repercussions.
I am a responsible rider, and in fact I was going to be leaving to teach English overseas in September and I wanted to take a road trip to California before I left, but now I have this problem in my life.
A criminal record would destroy my life
(I have never committed a crime).
I could not travel to the US.
I wouldn’t get a pardon for a few years which would put me in my 30s before I could focus on a career.
I would have to waste tons of money to legally represent myself with a lawyer.
I would not be able to become a teacher.
I would tear my family’s heart up.
Now all I can do is wait.
A criminal trial is a long, boring and stressful ordeal.
The first thing I did was write down all the events of the day, so that they would stay fresh in my mind.
I tried to receive legal aid, but due to my income and assets, I wasn’t able to.
I then contacted a lawyer (whom was recommended to me from other motorcycle rider friends I have had).
I met with the lawyer several times before the trial began, and we discussed things such as my defence, my alibi witness, cross-examination techniques and various other things that would make or break me in a criminal prosecution trial.
I was arrested in April 2005, and my trial was to be held at the end of November 2005.
The day of the trial finally arrived.
I had spent so much of my energy getting ready for the day and expecting the worse.
I kept asking myself:
‘If I am innocent, why was I being charged with a crime?’
‘If I am innocent, why was I not released after they arrested me?’
‘If I am innocent, why am I so frightened?’
‘How have these charges held up, considering the lack of evidence on behalf of the Crown?’
As I said before, the criminal justice system is a very slow process.
This was the 4th time going to court before my trial finally began.
The trial began with me stating my plea of ‘Not Guilty’ and the proceedings beginning.
I could not believe how many people were involved in this trial.
The only experience I had had in a courtroom was for traffic violations, and it was always a quick and painless procedure.
First, the police constable who was ‘chasing’ me testified, and was cross-examined.
Secondly, the police constable who had arrested me testified, and was cross-examined.
Thirdly, the police constable who had taken photos of me, my personal possessions and my motorcycle testified, and was cross-examined.
When this was all done, the day was over.
I had been in trial from 10am-4pm and I had still not been on the stand, nor had my alibi witness.
I had placed such a great deal of stress on myself for knowing that I would receive an outcome to my pain TODAY, and instead it was to be continued more than 2 weeks afterwards.
The trial continued with me going on the stand right away.
First, my lawyer questioned me.
He asked me about my education, my current job, and other questions to establish myself as a productive and contributing member of society.
I then spoke about my experience with motorcycles, the courses I had taught (I was an instructor for the Ministry), the type of motorcycle I had and so forth.
I then retraced the steps I took on the day I was arrested and spoke about various other aspects of motorcycles and my riding habits.
I also focused on how popular sport bikes were in Toronto and how common colours like ‘Yellow’ are (My motorcycle colour).
The Crown Attorney then cross-examined me.
This was quite frightening.
I knew that I didn’t have anything to hide but I also knew that a simple misstatement of words could jeopardize my credibility as a witness and could change the entire future of my life as I knew it.
The Crown was a clever and tricky individual.
The type of questions the Crown asked me were:
‘Is it safe to assume that it was a nice day to take your bike out?’
‘Is it safe to assume this was one of the first days you took your bike out after the winter?’
‘Did you want to just let your bike rip and show off some power?’
‘Do you ever let your bike rip and show off its performance?’
‘Are you saying you never go fast on your bike?
‘I travel at the speed of traffic, and I never go 5-10km over the speed limit’
‘You NEVER speed?’
‘I have not gone 5-10km over the speed limit, Sir’
‘Have you ever had a speeding ticket?’
‘You have NEVER been pulled over by a police officer?’
‘I have never received a traffic conviction, Sir’
The Crown brought into play a ticket I had received a year ago for going 70km/hr in a 60km/hr zone.
I did not remember losing this ticket in traffic court but as it stood, I had been convicted of speeding 10km over the limit, even though there was no fine or demerit points.
I then told the Crown, that I did not remember being convicted for this ticket and due to the fact that I had no paid a fine, I did not recall it.
I also added that I had previously stated that I on occasion have gone 5-10km over the speed limit, and I was not trying to lie or waste the court’s time.
The Crown’s questioning with me lasted about 30 minutes.
I tried to remain as composed, polite and sincere as possible.
I pretended as if I was in a job interview.
At one point the Crown asked me:
‘Is it safe to assume, that you are simply a liar?’
I tried not to laugh at this, and simply replied with ‘Yes sir, I have not lied in any matter whatsoever’
I could not stand the low blows he was taking with me, but I also understand it is simply part of his job to make his case as credible as possible.
The Crown asked me things about whether or not my bike was a performance oriented vehicle, why I had put an aftermarket exhaust system from a company called ‘Two Brothers Racing’ on it (He stressed the word ‘Racing’), why the time period from the time I left the Dufferin Mall, to the time in which I was arrested was so close to the time of the motorcycle chase.
The Crown also focused on asking me why I had taken such a direct route to get to the mall (in which I recalled all the street names I had taken) compared to the route I took when I left the mall and just went on a leisurely ride to get back home, and not paying attention to street names.
Whenever I answered a question, I tried to focus on the fact that I was a skilled but defensive rider who would not want to put my life or anyone else in jeopardy.
After the questioning was done, my Alibi witness was called in, questioned and cross-examined.
The Crown and Defence gave their closing arguments.
My lawyer’s closing argument was very well done and he focused on precedent from other cases and the fact that it is simply as case of mistaken identity.
The Crown’s closing argument was quite poor and he portrayed me as being a liar and a reckless person who had lied about his speeding conviction, so therefore I was also lying about this incident.
The Judge had a 15 minute recess and then came back and told me his decision.
When the Judge returned, the first thing he said when he sat down was ‘Marco… is charged with.. .
As soon as I heard this, my heart jumped in my throat, my whole body started to shake, and I started to breathe very heavily.
I felt as if I was going to pass out.
I had NEVER had a panic attack (I guess you could call it that?) in my life (other than the time I was arrested) and all I envisioned was my life being over as I knew it.
Being new to a law proceeding such as this, I did not know that the judge was simply reiterating the facts.
After he read them all, he then went on to state the thoughts of his decision.
He stressed the fact that based on other trials, he did not see enough evidence to warrant convicting me beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore he asked for the charges to be stayed.
My impression of the Judge was quite bittersweet at first.
He came across as a very gentle, and Grandfatherly man but I had also caught him dozing off several times during the trial.
Once I heard everything he stated when he read the outcome to the trial, it all clicked in. He had retained EVERYTHING said and when he was closing his eyes, he was probably simply trying to listen more attentively.
After over 12 hours of being in a courtroom for my trial, it was finally over.
Words can’t really describe how relieved I felt.
I was crying, and shaking.
My hands didn’t stay still for over a half hour.
My mother was crying, my father had tears in his eyes.
My friends in court were all full of smiles and congratulatory responses.
Thinking back though, it could have easily gone the other way too.
It is all up to the judge and just as I was found innocent of this crime, I could have been found guilty.
I don’t think I would be able to continue life as I knew it, if I had been found guilty.
My mind would not allow me to go through an appeal process.
I would have lost my job.
I would have had trouble finding work due to my criminal convictions.
I could not become a teacher.
I would have difficulty travelling.
I would be harassed for various other things, if and when they would come up.
YET, even as an innocent man, there is still so much other nonsense I have to deal with.
I have to file for a Human Right motion to have my fingerprints removed from the police computer.
I have to pay thousands of dollars to my lawyer for something I should not have gone through in the first place.
I can’t counter sue because according to Canadian law, it will only work if the cops treated me in a malicious and hurtful manner (Which they did not).
I lost work opportunities and my life could have taken a totally different route, if this had never happened months ago.
Closing, all I can think of saying is that a criminal trial is one of the most stressful things to ever happen to someone.
It destroys your heart and eats away at your soul.