Caught with Consequences Ch. 02

Mayıs 1, 2024 Yazar admin 0

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Chapter Two – The Trial

Adele arose and addressed the jury to make her opening statement.

“At least twenty-five percent of women serving in the U.S. military have been sexually assaulted, and up to eighty percent have been sexually harassed. Women in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by fellow soldiers than they are to be killed in combat,” she began.

“Now this is not a court martial, the defendant is not a member of the military but he is a Defense contractor and Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer was on duty when she was attacked in the offices of Dynamic Aerospace Solutions where she had been seconded to work on the acquisition of Defense apparatus, which for the sake of security will not be articulated, nor is it relevant to the case.”

“What is relevant, and that the plaintiff’s counsel will prove, is that Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer made a sexual assault report to military officials who directed a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination or SAFE Report be rendered. The Uniform Code of Military Justice prescribes that the victim of a sex-related offense that occurs in the United States must be consulted on their preference regarding whether the offense should be prosecuted by court-martial or in a civilian court with jurisdiction over the offense. We will explore the contents of Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer’s SAFE report which has been tendered to the court, released by her in the cause of justice.”

“In summary, I will prove to this court that Oliver Randal sexually assaulted Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer in his office after he had sexually harassed over a considerable period of time and that the attack was unprovoked and premeditated. We will be asking for a guilty verdict and an award of damages that recompenses Amanda for her pain and suffering and sends a strong message not only to the military but also to their contractors and civilian employees that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” Adele completed her address and sat down at the plaintiff’s table.

Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer sitting at the plaintiff’s table in full uniform dabbed at the tears running down her cheeks and Adele put a comforting arm around her.

It was all part of the performance to make the jury sympathetic.

Weldon Jennings arose from the defendant’s table, straightened his tie and cleared his throat. He was wearing a dark Armani suit and brilliant white shirt. He was tall, dark and handsome but not officious or presumptuous; juries loved him.

“My adversary has made a remarkable and arresting opening statement. She’s quoted some facts and figures regarding the military and its abysmal record regarding sexual assault. She’s tossed around words like Uniform Code of Military Justice and SAFE reports,” Weldon began his own opening remarks.

“The reality is none of those words have any relevance here. We are not, as the plaintiff’s counsel has articulated, sitting in a court martial or for that matter a criminal court. We are sitting in a civilian court room undertaking a civil trial. The plaintiff bypassed the option of bringing criminal charges against my client.”

“The plaintiff went straight for the money.”

“Why?”

“Because Dynamic Aerospace Solutions or DAS as it is known informally, has won a billion dollar Defense contract to provide guidance systems to the latest long-range air-to-air missile. As one of Dynamic Aerospace Solutions’ three CEOs, Oliver Randal is a cash-cow as far as Amanda Palmer is concerned and she knows that any settlement offer made by DAS would be substantial.”

“But the plaintiff has outfoxed herself. There will be no settlement in this case. We will prove that my client is innocent.”

“Thank you,” Weldon wrapped up his opening statement quickly.

He had been careful not to besmirch Amanda Palmer’s character. Victim-bashing was never a good tactic, especially where sexual misconduct was involved. Better to show Amanda as a moneygrubber who had foregone criminal proceedings and instead went straight to civil litigation in order to make a substantial amount of money. There were always jurors who hated gold-diggers and he counted on there being one or two on jury. He only needed four of them to cast their vote in the defence’s favour for his client to win the case.

Judge James Duncan Payton Chatsworth III sat at the bench wearing his black robe looking distinguished and knowledgeable. He took an inordinate amount of time giving the jury directions, even though they had been explained meticulously after the voir dire. The jury’s attention began to wane and some were close to nodding off by the time he finished his speech. The jury wanted to hear the dirty details of the crime not the judge prattling on in legalese.

Weldon Jennings didn’t mind the judge antagonising the jury, it worked in his favour. Also Judge Chatsworth was known to be a defendant’s judge when it came to he-said, she-said cases of sexual misconduct. He was no fan of the #metoo movement and believed there was far too much bias afforded to anyone bringing an istanbul escort unsubstantiated complaint.

Adele Edwards had made a name for herself winning civil litigation cases where consent was in question. Most of the cases were uncountable, in other words they were he-said she-said, without witnesses to the act, but accompanied by forensic evidence which was often not conclusive. The presence of semen and even bruising and flesh wounds could be explained away by the defence as vigorous consensual sex. Adele’s forte was winning over the jury and making them sympathetic to the plaintiff. In one notable case she had taken the stand herself and told of her own sexual assault by a gang of fellow students at college and explained that compliance under coercion and intimidation did not signify consent, neither did the victim becoming sexually aroused during the attack.

Adele Edwards called her first witness after a short break.

Janet Pennyworth was a fifty-something woman of pleasant disposition who was attractive although she carried a few extra pounds. She had a kind, open face and was the perfect plaintiff’s witness. They got the deposition out of the way quickly and Adele began the questioning in earnest.

“So you are a senior clerical assistant at Dynamic Aerospace Solutions, Los Angeles California and you were at your desk on the day of the alleged incident,” Adele was leading the witness but this was a civil case and these facts had been established during the preliminary questioning of the deposition.

“Yes,” Janet smiled sweetly at the jury, as she had been instructed to do during witness preparation.

“Please tell the court what you saw on the day in question,” Adele liked her witnesses to extrapolate rather than to ask a series of direct questions.

“I saw Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer go into Oliver Randal’s office. She stayed in the office for about thirty minutes or so and then suddenly the door was flung open and Amanda staggered over to me and told me she had been raped,” Janet’s smile had vanished and she looked angry.

“What exactly did Amanda Palmer say?” Adele asked.

“She said ‘Rape! Rape! Rape! I’ve been raped. Mister Randal has raped me!’ Amanda was crying,” Janet gave Oliver Randal a scathing look.

“So she was distressed. How did she look?” Adele continued.

“Her uniform was dishevelled. She was missing a shoe, her skirt was hitched up and her nylons were full of runners and her panties were torn and hung around one ankle, her blouse had been torn open and her makeup and hair were ruined,” Janet said solemnly.

The jury, consisting of eight women and four men, leaned forward, listening intently. They were getting to the juicy bits of the trial.

“What did you do?” Adele asked.

“I told Julie Westwood to call 911 and helped Amanda Palmer to the break room where I made an attempt to comfort her while we waited for the police and the ambulance,” Janet explained.

“And did Amanda say anything to you while you were waiting?” Adele was ready to wrap it up.

“She just kept repeating over and over again that Oliver Randal had raped her,” Janet gave Oliver another withering look.

Adele handed the witness over to the defence.

“How long have you worked at DAS Miz Pennyworth?” Weldon Jennings asked, smiling at the witness and giving her an easy question to start with.

“Over twenty years. I started working for Mister Randal way back when we were in our old offices when the company was just starting out,” Janet was proud of her service to the company.

“And you are now part of the managerial administration of the company, even though you described yourself as a senior clerical assistant, a better title might be Executive Assistant would it not?” Weldon asked.

“Objection, leading,” Adele interjected.

“Withdrawn,” Weldon said dismissively.

He could tell that Janet Pennyworth was flattered at being referred to as an Executive Assistant. Weldon had achieved what he wanted.

“And how long have you known Oliver Randal?” he continued his line of questioning.

“I’ve known Mister Randal all the time that I’ve been with the company,” Janet replied.

“And during the time you’ve known Oliver Randal have you ever experienced any form of harassment or witnessed him harassing other female members of the staff or women generally?” Weldon asked.

Weldon knew he was sailing close to the wind here but he was taking his chances.

“Well, like a lot of gentlemen of his generation he is sometimes condescending and has a wondering eye but I’ve never seen him actually harass any women, no.”

“And have you heard any complaints or rumours that he has used his position to obtain sexual favours?” Weldon asked.

“I’ve not heard any complaints per se; but I think he might have gotten a little closer to one of the legal secretaries in the Compliance section than decorum would dictate,” Janet Pennyworth seemed pleased with her answer.

“But you never heard the secretary in the Compliance escort bayan section complain or look distressed or request a transfer or resign?” Weldon knew all about Oliver’s brief affair with the little vixen from Compliance.

“Well you know young people these days. Their moral compass tends to swing as the mood takes them,” Janet tsked.

“I’ll take that as a no. And did you actually witness Lieutenant Commander Palmer being attacked or did you see anything that occurred in Mister Randal’s office?” Weldon was nearly done.

“No. The blinds in his office were closed and the door was closed; in fact I heard it lock when Lieutenant Commander Palmer went inside the office,” Janet folder her arms, she was getting annoyed.

“You didn’t hear any screams, cries for help, or sounds of a scuffle or fight?” Weldon asked.

“No… well not really. I did hear muffled voices but nothing I could decipher. The walls are insulated and as I said the door was locked and the blinds were drawn,” Janet seemed pleased with her answer.

And so was Weldon Jennings.

“And is it unusual for Oliver Randal to have his blinds drawn and door locked?”

“Well no. A lot of his work is classified and he has access to the secure Defense network so he is obliged to keep his office locked down when he’s working on sensitive material,” Janet replied.

“After Amanda Palmer staggered, as you put it, from Mister Randal’s office; did he make any attempt to leave? To run away? Any attempt to restrain Lieutenant Commander Palmer or to contradict her, to shout her down so to speak?” Weldon asked.

“He just sat in his office until the police arrived. He looked stunned,” Janet sighed.

“Thank you Miz Pennyworth. Nothing more your honour,” Weldon had done the best he could.

Adele bought in Julie Westwood who had seen exactly the same series of events that Janet Pennyworth had seen and heard. Weldon Jennings elicited the same responses to his questions: no Julie Westwood had not witnessed any sexual assault and spoke favourably to Oliver Randal’s character.

“You honour, the defence is prepared to stipulate that the next three witnesses will provide the same testimony as provided by Miz Janet Pennyworth and Miz Julie Westwood and that they will respond in kind to questions submitted by the plaintiff and the defence. In the interests of a speedy trial and to unburden the court I request my stipulation be upheld and spare the court hours of repetition,” Weldon said to Judge Chatsworth.

“So stipulated. Move along Miz Edwards,” the judge was obviously bored.

Adele looked at the jury and decided that objecting and calling another three witnesses to say the same thing would only irk them. They had heard Janet Pennyworth’s testimony and heard it corroborated by Julie Westwood; it was enough that the jury knew that she had three more witnesses that could substantiate the evidence; they didn’t need to hear it.

Both Oliver Randal and Adele Edwards knew that keeping the jury onside was the only way to win this trial.

The judge recessed for lunch and Adele was torn between her loyalty to her client, who seemed to need constant reassurance, and to her kidnapped daughter Kimberly. She compromised and spent half an hour with Amanda Palmer, assuring her that the trial was going their way and then handed her over to her co-counsel, Sandra Cochran, while she slipped away to make some calls.

“Anything?” Celia asked.

“I’ve heard nothing at all. I received a text from Cassandra Rivers on my burner but I haven’t read it yet; I’m too busy trying my case,” Adele replied.

“I’m going crazy Adele; Michelle DeLong is holding my case together. All I can think about is Kimberly and Alisha,” Celia was stoic under pressure but Adele could sense the intense strain she was under.

“The kidnappers will have to make their demands soon otherwise it’s pointless. Let’s talk hard facts: if the girls had been kidnapped by traffickers we’d never hear from them, they would have just disappeared. If they were sexual psychopaths, they would have done what they were going to do to them by now and moved on. The kidnappers told me they would be making demands soon so we just have to wait it out,” Adele fought back tears.

“Are sure we shouldn’t go to the FBI Adele? The kidnappers seem to only want to talk to you and you seem to be making decisions for both of us,” Celia said coldly.

“Look… they told me that we need to make it worthwhile for them to keep the girls unharmed and alive. That if we do what they ask they will not touch them and keep them well cared for. They said if we go to the authorities they will kill them. They said they will know if we do,” Adele whispered harshly into her phone.

“They know what we’re doing; they’re monitoring us. They hacked my computer, they have our phone numbers. Steven Baker hasn’t been able to trace them and fuck knows what Cassandra has been doing. Until we know what they want we have to carry on like nothing has happened,” Adele sighed.

“That’s easier said Kartal escort than done,” Celia was crying now.

“Look honey… Kimberly is made of stern stuff. I never told you about this, I promised I never would, but she and I have been in a similar situation before and we survived. I can’t tell you about it over the phone; I’ll tell you about it when you get home. I have to get back to court,” Adele looked at her watch.

Celia said nothing for a beat and then her voice was so quiet that Adele could hardly hear her.

“You better tell me Adele. You better assure me our daughter is going to be ok,” Celia broke the connection.

She pulled the burner phone from her handbag. It had vibrated whilst she was in court but the judge would have had a fit if she had pulled the phone from her bag. The only other person beside Celia with the number was Cassie so the message had to have come from her.

‘I have something. Don’t try to contact me, I’ll contact you’ the message read

Adele went to the ladies room to fix her face and when she came out she was all business. She re-entered the court and took her seat. During the break a large video screen had been positioned so it could be seen by the judge, the jury and the defence team.

“You honour the plaintiff calls Senior Master Sergeant Jessica Long,” Adele called her first witness after lunch.

After Jessica Long was sworn in Adele began her questioning.

“Can you identify yourself and your current position please?”

“I am Senior Master Sergeant Jessica Long and I’m currently the sexual assault response coordinator and uniformed victim’s advocate stationed at the Sixty-First Medical Squadron at the US Air Force base Los Angeles,” Jessica looked pretty and prim in her uniform but she gave off an attitude that she was not to be messed with.

The jury were getting excited. There would be more juicy evidence for them to digest. Weldon Jennings made a point of appearing calm and Oliver Randal remained stoic.

The screen was suddenly filled with an official looking document.

“Master Sergeant Long, can you tell us what we are looking at on the screen please?” Adele asked in a deferential tone.

“That is a Department of Defense Form 2911, Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Report, usually referred to as a SAFE report. Its principal purpose is to document the medical and forensic examination of a sexual assault victim. Form 2911 also documents the victim’s reporting preference, that is either Restricted or Unrestricted, which is an intrinsic part of the sexual assault prevention and response program,” Master Sergeant Long said by rote.

“In Part C of the report, Lieutenant Commander Palmer elected the reporting option Restricted, is that correct,” Adele pointed to appropriate part of the form with her laser pointer.

“Correct Ma’am, just as you see there on the screen,” Jessica Long asserted.

“What is the difference between a Restricted and an Unrestricted report?” Adele made a point of looking at a document in her hand.

“If the victim elects to file a Restricted Report, the sexual assault can only be disclosed to the uniformed victim advocate, sexual assault response coordinator, the victim advocate, sexual assault response coordinator and healthcare personnel.”

“Restricted Reporting is confidential and does not trigger an investigation or command involvement, and allows the victim to access

Advocacy services, medical and counselling services, and victims’ legal counsel,” Master Sergeant Long explained.

“So this form is used solely by the Department of Defense?” Adele looked up from her notes.

“Yes. It was introduced by the DoD in response to the ending of violence against women campaign after the US military’s abysmal record of dealing with sexual assault victims was made public,” Senior Master Sergeant Long said bitingly.

“Objection, the witness is testifying to facts not in evidence,” Weldon Jennings rose to his feet.

“Overruled. Too late now anyway counsellor the plaintiff’s counsel has made her point,” the judge waived his hand dismissively.

“Are there any exceptions to these rules Master Sergeant Long?” Adele asked.

“In some states, including California, healthcare providers are required to report sexual assaults to law enforcement, and cannot offer a Restricted Report,” Jessica Long answered.

“So what happened in the case of Lieutenant Commander Amanda Palmer? You would know of course, having been appointed her Victim’s Advocate, is that correct?” Adele was getting to the point.

“Commander Palmer’s incident was reported to the civilian first responders via a 911 call made from the offices of Dynamic Aerospace Solutions. When the police arrived Lieutenant Commander Palmer refused to answer any questions and when the emergency medical team arrived she allowed them to provide her with first aid but insisted on being taken to the nearest military hospital for treatment,” Master Sergeant Long replied.

“Because she refused to identify her assailant or even admit that an assault had taken place, the police just lodged an incident report in their system and left the scene. The EMTs drove Commander Palmer to the Los Angeles Air Force base and handed her over to us at 61 Medical Squadron,” Jessica articulated.

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