Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Verdicts

The Verdicts
By Jay Unver
 
Wednesday morning a small but nervous crowd gathered in the foyer of the Old Opera House in downtown Lehrton, MS for the second day in a row. Some chatted about the weather. A few talked about farming and gardens. One old man in overalls told another old man in ragged overalls how to spray his yard to keep out rattlesnakes. I think it involved sulfur. But for most of the pins-and-needles crowd, there was constant speculation about the verdict and the sentence. For many, for Zane Hodge himself, the reality that Randy Beets may face suspension and thus kill a world championship showdown between the two at the Pensacola Bay Bridge Swim was stunning, sobering, frightening even.

The seconds ticked by like a loud clock on a B Horror movie. "What is taking him so long?" was the mantra that circled and circled the room over and over like a bad song stuck in one's head. The Trial of the Century had ended at 5:05 pm Monday afternoon. It was now Wednesday morning and already, Dr. Nomann, who was deliberating with himself in his chambers, had sent out for an extra pot of coffee. A bad sign all agreed.
Randy Beets praying for his acquittal.

Thirty minutes later, at precisely 8:30 am on Wednesday morning, Judge Timothy Nomann, clad  in his judicial robe and looking haggard, like Merle himself, opened the door to his judge's quarters and stepped out. Without saying a word, he made his way to his seat and getting comfortable, cleared throat and simple said, "We have a verdict." An audible gasped seemed to suck the air out of the room. No one sat, but all stood in a nervous silence. Nomann cleared his throat again.

"On the charge of filing false documents with the Association of Sports Swimmers, count one: not guilty."

Someone clapped and somebody else yelled, "Injustice!"

Nomann pounded the gavel. "There will be silence in this courtroom. Until all verdicts are read, you will hold any demonstration of approval or disapproval. If there are any more outburst, the bailiff will remove you from this building. Is that understood." It wasn't a question.

"Count two, false documents: not guilty."

"Count three, false documents: not guilty,

"Count four, false documents: not guilty,

"Count five, false documents: guilty.

"On the charge of cyber-bullying, count one: not guilty

"Count two, cyber-bullying: not guilty,

"Count three, cyber-bullying: not guilty,

"Count four, cyber bullying: not guilty,

"Count five, cyber-bullying: guilty.

"On the charge of conduct unbecoming an ASS: guilty.

This concludes the trial. Tomorrow I will announce sentencing."

The room errupted into a buzz that sounded like 10,000 bees. Once more, Hodge left the courthouse without comment.