One of the most fascinating jobs I have ever held in my early years, was to serve as a reporter for a small southwest radio station. During the mornings I attended college classes and in the afternoons and evenings I broadcast the news. I worked full-time doing both. Sometimes my radio job was mundane, while other times, it was downright exhilarating. This particular week, a sensational drug trial had gotten everyone’s attention. For three days a jury had heard the case and now was deliberating the fate of the defendant late into the night.
A man had been accused of doing a very foolish and reckless thing; he had flown a small plane in the cover of night into our local airport without a flight plan or running lights. Seeing it as rather suspicious, a sharp eyed employee notified authorities. When police arrived, they were stunned by the magnitude of the pilot’s payload. Over 750 pounds of marijuana had been stuffed into the rear of the plane.
The pilot was then welcomed to our town the same way one is welcomed when they can’t pay in the game Monopoly. “You don’t pass go, AND you go directly to jail.” Throughout the week the accused sat stoic in his chair next to his attorney. The evidence was damning. Piled high in olive green duffel bags in front of the Judge’s bench was all the drugs he’d flown in. It was worth at that time about $250,000. It presented an imposing case of evidence. The earthy smell from the bags permeated the courtroom. I had not known courtrooms to ever smell like this. Furthermore, I had never been this close to an illegal substance with this kind of street value.
Having won over a number of the key players in the trial with my folksy demeanor, I was invited into the Judge’s chambers that late evening to await the verdict. I was awestruck that it was past nine o’clock at night and I was in the judge’s personal chambers with the two attorney’s, two bailiffs, and the judge himself. As they talked I listened. The judge and a police sergeant were expressing their anger that a local reporter had taken pictures of the stacks of drug laden duffel bags and placed those pictures on the front page of the newspaper. “What were they thinking??” opined the judge. He then then inquired of all of us, “How many of you are carrying (a weapon)?” Everyone but me and one attorney gave the affirmative. The judge sitting behind his desk, leaned forward and said, four guns is not enough weaponry to stave off a heist. I inquired, “What do you mean?” To which he replied, “We have had too many criminals do far more daring things with items far less valuable.”
The judge felt the need immediately to take extra precautions. Because of the newspaper story, he told us grimly, everyone (including the bad ones) now knew we had these large bags of drugs for the taking. Being late in the night he asked, “What would keep some nefarious characters from assaulting the courthouse with so little fire power?” Immediately, we all got his point. The judge then turned to the bailiff and said, I want all the bags of marijuana loaded up on a flat bed dolly and taken into the county clerks walk-in safe immediately. I had been in the clerk’s office before and the door was thick plated steel and imposing. Turning to me he then said, “Go with the Bailiff and help him load it up.” I wasn’t given a choice, so I quickly stood up and headed out the judge’s private door. The deputy and I left the office together, got the dolly down the hall, then returned to the dimmed courtroom.
We grabbed each end of a duffel bag and flopped it down cross-ways across the dolly. As we loaded each bag, it looked more like we were headed to the airport than trying to prevent a potential robbery. Now fully loaded, I pushed the seven bags filled with their contraband as the bailiff pulled and steered. Down the empty halls of the aged courthouse, we made our way to the Clerk’s office to safely stack our load. I laughed at the reaction surprised employees might have the next morning as they opened the safe to start the day. Paper clips, check. Envelopes, check. Seven huge green bags of marijuana, WHAT???
We arrived back at the judge’s chamber only to learn while we were absent, that the jury had finally reached their verdict. However, the public announcement of guilt or innocence would now have to wait until morning.
As I slowly walked down the granite steps of the courthouse to my car, my long day was done, the streets were deserted. While some of my friends might think this particular day nothing exciting had happened, I knew differently. My day had gone to “Pot,” and I really liked it!