“Are you sure that you want to go ahead with this John?” He was not normally one to shy away from difficult cases but he had deep reservations about this one.
“We’ve already discussed this ad nauseam Peter, I’ve made my position very clear and I have no intention of deviating from it” He didn’t even look up from his paperwork, his very body language left Peter in no doubt that he was being dismissed.
“You do realise that, should we win, a very dangerous legal precedent will have been set?” Peter was loathe to arouse the wrath of this powerful man but he could not, in all conscience, let him continue on this path without a last ditch effort to change his mind. He was not even granted the courtesy of a response and so left the office with a heavy heart and a wish that he would not have to be the one to take this case to court.
“Do you deny, Mr Senator, that you had regular meetings with a member of the banned political group Action Against Atrocities” John felt that his opening was strong; to link the senator with known political activists would turn the jury against him from the start. He doubted that any of them understood the group’s manifesto or their political intentions, it was enough that the Government had handed forth a ban against membership. He wondered afresh at the political naivety of the majority of his country’s citizens….
“The ‘member’ you refer to counselor is my daughter and so, to answer your question, yes I had regular ‘meetings’ with her. If you have children, sir, I have no doubt that you have regular ‘meetings’ with them too” His sarcasm and hostility was not lost on the jury but Peter did notice that one or two were looking at him with something close to sympathy.
“Be that as it may Senator, you were aware that she was a member of Action Against Atrocities were you not?”
“For Christ’s sake, the girl is 19 years old, she’s passionate but naive and, like many kids of her age, she wants to change the World, she didn’t know what she was getting into and being a member of this group was not made illegal until 6 months after she joined” The man’s frustration was obvious, he knew that he was trapped in a situation not of his own making but how could he condemn or deny his own daughter; his only recourse was to fight back.
“No, I doubt that she did know but you did, didn’t you Senator? You knew that this group of activists was causing trouble for the Government with their hacks and their threats of action against the military. You knew that they were labeled a banned organisation after their attempts to free dangerous political prisoners from Guantanamo. You knew Senator” Peter could feel the jury stirring and knew that his use of the phrase ‘dangerous political prisoners’ would be enough for most of them to lose any lingering sympathy for the Senator.
“Oh Jesus” the man in the dock put his head back and stared at the ceiling, maybe trying to hold back tears or maybe just looking for divine inspiration.
“You knew, didn’t you?” Peter pressed him once again and waited patiently, like a snake for his response.
“Do you know who those men were that they tried to release?” the Senator’s voice was strong now, defiant and he half rose from his seat
“Sit down Senator” The judge spoke harshly from the bench, he had not wanted to be part of this trial and was determined it would be over as quickly as possible.
“They were innocent. They were men who had family in the Middle East and who visited them when they could, when they’d amassed enough money for the plane ticket home. They worked two or three jobs just so that they could go back and be with their families but, because their loved ones lived in towns that harbored suspected terrorists, and their travel records showed more than 2 visits in one year to those towns they were arrested and sent to Guantanamo. They have been there for almost 18 months with no explanation and no prosecution, they are merely suspects whose only crime was to want to see their families. They are subject to appalling conditions and treatment and..”
“Stop! That’s enough Senator, this is not a political platform and I will ask you to please restrain yourself and answer the questions that you have been asked by Counsel”
Peter smiled a mirthless smile and repeated his question
“Senator, did you have regular contact with a member of the banned organisation Action Against Atrocities?”
“Yes” Utterly defeated, weary, the man, father, senator slumped down in his chair and lowered his eyes.
On the day of the verdict John was in Court, he did not sit beside Peter but at the back close to the huge double doors. He was wearing a hat pulled down over his eyes and was, uncommonly, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Peter wondered if this ‘disguise’ would be enough to fool the waiting press but he doubted that his patron even cared.
“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict upon which you are all agreed?”
A middle aged woman stood up, her hands shaking slightly, nervous at being the centre of so much attention
“We have. We find the defendant guilty as charged” the words came out in a rush and the woman was grateful to retake her seat
“Senator McBride, you have been found guilty of treason against the Government and you will be remanded in custody until sentence is passed 14 days from today. Take him away” The Senator’s legs buckled as his was led back to the cells in handcuffs; he realised that all hope was lost, for him and for his beloved daughter.
“Well done Peter, you broke him” John was smoking a fat cigar and looking approvingly at the younger man standing before him.
“He as good as admitted that he is against this Government and our great nation and he deserves what’s coming to him” He lowered his substantial buttocks into a black leather chair and puffed away, deeply satisfied with himself.
“John, you cannot possibly mean to continue with this? You’ve won, your running mate for the Presidential candidacy is out of the race, he’s finished and the road is clear for you. In a few months time you will be President, you will have it all!” Peter was beginning to fear that the man before him was losing his sanity to political ambition.
“You know that the underdog sometimes wins Peter; the public loves an underdog”
“John, he cannot come back from this!” He was, against his better judgement, raising his voice and his patience wearing thin.
“Peter, you are a lawyer so, you tell me, is treason a Capital crime or not”
“Yes but..” he stopped abruptly as his future President fixed him with stare that was vicious and feral
“Yes. Peter, there are no buts, Senator McBride has been found guilty of treason and he will be sentenced to death in 13 days time; this man tried to stymie my political ambitions and he failed; don’t you make the same mistake”
This longer that usual tale was written in response to another super prompt from the lovely Fandango