Friday, January 6, 2012

"Injury to Real Property"

The site of the crime

Where the cops got us

In 1984, my friend Amos was charged with "Injury to Real Property." I and three other guys were with Amos when he did the act he was charged with. This point would lead to two different journeys for us. For me, it was the start of a slow process of what would be our devolving friendship. For Amos, it would be the first of what is now over 7 dozen arrests or citations.

The other day, I was using browsing the criminal records feature available on LexisNexis. For those not in the legal field, LexisNexis is a legal database ranging from Supreme Court opinions, federal statutes, people finder and of course criminal records. I knew from the NC Department of Corrections website that Amos had been convicted of several things, but the LexusNexus database captures so much more.

It was depressing to see someone who I considered my best friend growing up have such extensive legal problems. The convictions range from shoplifting, ticky-tack moving violations, conspiracy (for what I don't know), assault on a female, and the latest: possession of a weapon of mass destruction. A judgment has not been recorded for the weapon of mass destruction charge.

Back to that winter day in 1984. Students in the Greensboro Public School system had a day off because of a teacher workday. A group of five were hanging out in the neighborhood when we had the idea to walk about a mile away to Kmart. On our way over, we passed through a construction site. Benny and Amos paused, looked at a port-a-potty and asked the rest of us "Do you dare us to tip this over?" Of course we dared them, and they sure as hell did it. We laughed and then continued on our journey. I remember seeing one guy in a nearby site. He was a big dumb looking country-boy type. He was the one who ratted us out.

About 10 minutes and a half a mile later as we were crossing over I-40/85 on an overpass on Randleman Road, a cop pulled up behind us and asked us if we had been at the construction site nearby. I kept walking as did a guy called "CT" but before we could break out into a full run, a second cop came from the other direction and swooped in beside us.

We were not technically arrested, but if sure as hell felt like it. Amos and I sat in one car while the other three sat in the other, but we were never handcuffed. The cops played us like a fiddle. Our cop told us that the other three said Amos and I did it. Later we found out that the 2nd cop told the other three that Amos and I said those three did it.

Amos and Benny confessed thus sparing the other three from being charged. The cops said that they could have charged us. Later, when I took criminal law, I found out how right he was. We watched the cops inspect the scene and openly laugh at all the shit spilled out from the port-a-potty. After the cops got the information from Benny and Amos and handed them their citations, we headed back to Kmart. I asked the cop if he could give us a ride there. He said "no."

Benny and Amos, both over 16 at the time, were charged as adults and the incident was permanently placed on their records. The rest of us were under 16. At the time, the conservatives had not began their crusade to try early teens as adults. The remaining three of us would have been charged as juveniles anyway if the cops had given us a citation.

I went home that night after that close brush with the law. I never told my parents and they never found out. I        
reflected on that day and what I needed to do from then on to avoid anymore trouble on that day. I had to carefully anticipate who my friends would be and what I was going to do when I was out with them.

I didn't turn my back on Amos from that day on, but that day began a slow process of our spending less and less time together. We never had any dramatic scenes such as him confronting me why we didn't hang out as much. He'd ask if we wanted to go out and do something. I'd often reply "no" without explanation. Don't get me wrong, we'd still go out, drink and other stuff. But he always wanted to ramp things up. Over half the time we'd get together, something illegal was involved.

That day was Amos's first brush with the law as an adult. He popped his cherry so to say. A quarter of a century later, he has many more citations, arrests and convictions. I hated to disassociate from Amos, but chances are that I would have been caught up in one of his schemes. No doubt I would have got in trouble and I'm not talking "Oh my god, I've been grounded for a week" shit. I'm talking arrests, handcuffs, bail, lawyers and "standing before the man" kind of trouble.

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