My Name’s Brian Bockelman and I’m Still a Felon: Part Two

This is part two of an I-don’t-know-how-many-part series anymore. To read part one, go here.

I got up before the sun on September 19th ready to make the nearly three hour trek down to Neosho and put this whole thing behind me. I had no idea what to expect when I got there, but I was prepared. As prepared as I could be, anyway. I had reprinted all my evidence for the judge and put it in a nice little packet. I even had my girlfriend, Lauren, by my side. For moral support, sure, but also in case I got arrested and needed someone to bail me out.

I had spoken with my lawyer, Jeff, on the phone the night before. He said he was familiar with the judge handling the case and was confident this would all get resolved painlessly and my life would go back to normal by the end of the day. My appearance was scheduled for 10 am, but he told me he’d be getting to the courthouse at 9:45 and instructed me to do the same. He was going to try to talk to the judge early and give him the down low on my case.

After stress eating two sausage egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches from McDonald’s and pounding a venti caramel macchiato from Starbucks on the drive down (not an ad), we crossed into Neosho city limits. If you’re the judge or prosecutor of my case and you’re for some reason reading this, please skip to description #2 of Neosho.

  1. At first glance, Neosho somehow failed to live up to my incredibly low expectations. At second glance, it was even worse than at first glance. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it’s like if a $5 hooker were a town. I’d be worried someone from Neosho would see this and be offended but I’m pretty sure no one there has internet.
  2. It was the greatest town I’ve ever seen or been to.

It was about 9:45 when we got to town. We located the courthouse and I shot Jeff a text telling him I was there. After a couple minutes he responded saying he wouldn’t be there for another 15 minutes or so. So much for being early.

Lauren and I sat there in the car and waited. I debated going inside the courthouse to wait, but was concerned I’d be arrested on the spot. You may think I was being paranoid, and I’ll admit I probably was, but my law firm had warned me it was a very real possibility if I showed up to the courthouse without a lawyer present. Thankfully my car has air conditioning (nbd) so it wasn’t an issue.

10:00 am rolled around and I got another text from Jeff saying he was running late and to go on in without him. It figured. Why would this go smoothly when everything else up to this point had been a forty car pile up? I got out of my car, watching my step carefully. I didn’t want to chance tripping and falling on a stray syringe of meth.

We went inside the courthouse, went through security, and were directed toward a woman sitting behind bullet proof glass. She asked for my name, I gave it, and she began typing. After a few moments a puzzled look overcame her face.

“We don’t seem to have you scheduled for an appearance today.”

On the drive down, between stuffing my face with McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches, I had joked with Lauren that perhaps I should just crash into the medium as a quick way to solve all my problems. I was beginning to think I should have.

I told the woman that yes, I did have a court appearance that day. She asked who my lawyer was and I told her his name. She didn’t recognize him and told me to go sit with the other accused criminals who were waiting to get in front of the judge. I joined my brethren on a bench that ran along a hallway with an unmarked door at the end.

As I sat there I couldn’t help but entertain the idea that Jeff wasn’t even real and was never going to show. To be sure he was real, I pulled out my phone and went to the law firm’s website to look him up, something I probably should have done before driving three hours that morning. To my relief I found him listed under the “Meet the Attorneys” tab along with his photo. He looked like a nice enough guy: goofy smile, beard, messy hair, about 30ish. Now I could identify him when he showed up. If he did.

In the meantime Lauren and I made small talk about who-fucking-knows-what as I craned my neck every time someone came through the door, hoping to see Jeff’s beautiful bearded face. Each time someone walked in and it wasn’t him, a piece of me died. Kate Upton could have come through that door and paraded around naked and I would have told her to put some fucking clothes on and sit down so I could see the door.

Finally, after 800 years of waiting, Jeff arrived. He rushed through security, found me, and formally introduced himself. Our interaction was brief. He apologized for being late, grabbed my packet of evidence from me, and told me he was going to go back and talk to the prosecutor to get this resolved. Within seconds of appearing, he was gone. If he hadn’t physically taken my evidence from me I would have been convinced I imagined the interaction ever even happened.

He was gone about 15 minutes before re-emerging from behind the unmarked door at the end of the hall. He relayed to me that the prosecutor was unwilling to resolve the issue that day. Apparently she was still trying to build her case against me and had yet to pull the bank’s security footage from the day of the crime. You know, the security footage that showed the person who did this? Her supposed smoking gun? From nearly three years ago? She had yet to pull it.

He went on to say that while I couldn’t get the felony taken care of, I could at least get my warrant lifted while I was there. Which was great, because it meant I could do 95 out of that God forsaken town while doing bumps of cocaine off my dashboard without having to look over my shoulder every two seconds again.

Jk.

Out of curiosity I asked what sort of case the prosecutor was trying to build against me. Jeff told me they were trying to say I was down there visiting a friend when I commited the crime, and that the friend covered my expenses for me while I was there. This was why there were no charges on my bank statements in the area of the crime that weekend.

“But what about my purchase in Kansas City the night of the crime?”

“Good point, I dunno.”

Lol what the actual fuck was going on? Where did these people study law, www.pleasegivemeadegreesoicanfuckpeopleover.com? And who was this supposed friend of mine I stayed with? By all means, bring ’em in so we can catch up.

Jeff went back behind the unmarked door as I sat and waited with my fellow criminals to be called in front of the judge. Not much later a voice over the intercom called my name.

As Lauren and I walked into the courtroom the first thing I noticed was how empty it was. I don’t know what I was expecting. Perhaps the narcissistic part of my brain thought this was the OJ trial of Neosho and that the whole town would show up. Instead I was met by five people: Jeff, the judge (male), the deputy clerk (female), the prosecutor (female), and a police officer (male).

Jeff was standing in front of the judge. As I walked up to meet them I had one of those “what do I do with my hands?” moments. Like, what would a felon do with their hands and what’s the exact opposite of that? In the pockets? Crossed? Hands on hips?

I didn’t have much time to overthink it as the room was quite small, and before I knew it I was face-to-face with the man who could make this all okay. My lawyer introduced me and instructed me to hand the judge my packet of evidence. I obeyed and the judge tossed the packet aside without giving it a glance. He looked down and began doing some sort of paper work as Jeff and I stood there in awkward silence.

It took everything in me to not fill the silence with some stupid wisecrack, because that’s who I am by nature. It’s my defense mechanism for when I feel uncomfortable. “Come here often?” I wanted to say to the judge. Or “I wore a black belt with brown shoes. I hope you aren’t judging me too hard for it.”

Thankfully the judge saved me from myself and broke the silence.

“Alright,” he said. “The warrant for the arrest of Brian Bockelman issued by Neosho County has been lifted.”

Great!

“But….”

Oh no.

“I only have jurisdiction to lift the warrant issued for the forgery charge. I don’t have jurisdiction to lift the warrant issued for the larceny misdemeanor charge.”

He said it so casually I was sure I must have misheard him. He continued talking but all I could think about was what he had just said. A second charge? For what? When? I had a million questions. By my side, I could feel Jeff’s energy screaming “What the fuck, man? You only told me about the forgery.” Bro, that’s all I knew about. I’m as shocked as you right now.

I regained consciousness in time to hear the judge’s final statement. “If you aren’t able to get ahold of the appropriate judge and get the warrant lifted, we’ll have no choice but to take you into custody. Until then, you aren’t allowed to leave this courtroom and we need to detain you.” He banged his gavel and dismissed us.

Horror flooded my body as I processed what the judge had just said. It started in my chest and spread to my fingertips until I was drowning in it. Jeff bolted from the room, presumably to try to get ahold of the necessary judge to get this sorted out. But part of me wondered if he was bouncing for good. I wouldn’t blame him.

The deputy clerk called me over.

“Okay, so we’ve got you scheduled for two separate court appearances, one for each charge. The first is October 25th for the misdemeanor theft. The second will be October 31st for the forgery.” She scribbled this on a slip of paper and handed it to me. A souvenir to remember this horrible trip by.

The police officer grabbed me by the arm and directed me to a bench where I would have to sit until my lawyer (hopefully) came back. As I sat there, I admittedly and understandably was freaking the fuck out. How was this actually happening? What was the theft charge for? What did they steal? If I actually go to jail will I be able to post bond and get out today? Or will I have to stay overnight? Why won’t the judge open my packet of evidence and see there was no way this could have been me?

To be honest I’m pretty sure I jinxed this into happening. From the day I found out I had a felony on my record up until that moment, I made a lot of jokes to hide the fact that I was screaming inside for five straight months. I specifically made a lot of jokes about me ending up in prison or some holding cell in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. In my work email to tell my team I was going to be gone for the day, I literally said “Hopefully the next time you see me I’ll be a free man. And if I don’t come back, it’s safe to assume I lost the case and am in prison.” I joked about it a lot. I never once thought it could actually become a reality.

There must have been a lull in the schedule because after my case was handled the judge and prosecutor began to small talk.

Judge: “How’s the football team doing.”

Prosecutor: “Got a win last Friday.”

Judge: “Ah…that’s great to hear.”

Lull.

Prosecutor: “You know, my youngest started volleyball this year.”

Judge: “Is that right?”

Prosecutor: “Yep. JV.”

Judge: “That’s nice.”

The non-chalantness was suffocating. The way the judge had nonchalantly told me there was a second warrant for my arrest. Then how he nonchalantly told me I’d be taken into custody if I couldn’t find a way to get it lifted. The way the deputy clerk had nonchalantly told me the dates of my next court appearances. The way the judge and prosecutor were nonchalantly talking about their mundane lives without a care in the world as I sat there prepared to be taken to jail for a crime I never commited.

I saw Lauren out of the corner of my eye. She had been sitting a few pews over from where I was since we walked in. She went over to the officer and asked if she could sit with me. He nodded and she sat down by my side.

She had come as moral support, something I had insisted I didn’t need since I assumed everything would go smoothly. But she had insisted even harder that she was going, and that she’d be by my side no matter what happened. In that moment I was happy she had. I needed her then more than ever. I waited for her to say the absolute perfect thing to calm me down, because she knows me better than anybody, and always knows the one thing I need to hear.

“Hey, can I have the keys?”

“What?”

“The keys,” she restated. “To the car. Just in case this doesn’t go well. I don’t want to be stuck here.”

I took the car keys out of my pocket and handed them to her. So much for moral support.

(At the time I was honestly kind of annoyed that was the first thing she said to me, but looking back it was perfect. What an objectively funny thing to say in that moment.)

We sat there and talked, trying to ignore what was happening but never quite succeeding. We were able to get some information from the officer as we waited for my lawyer to return, which helped ease my mind. He told us the judge we needed was the Neosho city judge, and that the judge present was the Neosho county judge. He also said that the city judge’s office was directly across the street from where we were, so it shouldn’t be too long before we heard back from him.

About an hour later Jeff returned with a large man who I prayed was the all powerful city judge. He walked up to the county judge and flippantly said “I lift the warrant. The warrant’s been lifted.” The large man seemed annoyed, which annoyed me. Sorry for the inconvenience, BRO. He turned on his heel and just like that, he was gone.

I was relieved, but also a little confused. Was it really that informal to get a warrant lifted? All a judge has to do is speak it into existence? No paperwork or anything? Would this be put into the system or am I relying on word of mouth?

I didn’t ask any of these questions. I was just happy to be free. The officer let me go and Jeff told me to go outside and wait for him. He’d meet us in a minute. Lauren and I stood on the sidewalk outside the courthouse and waited. It was an absolutely beautiful day, but not even that could mask the shittiness of the situation.

When Jeff rejoined us a few minutes later he seemed flustered.

“Look, no judgements if you did man, but I have to ask: Did you do it? Because you have to realize how bad this looks for you right now.”

“DOES it look bad?” I thought. I didn’t even have enough information to understand what was happening. I didn’t do anything.

“Look, I didn’t do it,” I told him. “You’ve seen the evidence yourself. There’s no way I could have.”

He ran his hand through his hair as he contemplated this. He exhaled, nodded, and agreed. I didn’t do this. There’s no way I could have.

I asked him what the misdemeanor theft charge was all about: when it happened, what was stolen, etc. Jeff told me he didn’t know, but he would look into it as soon as we parted ways. I asked if I would actually need to come down for my court appearances. He said not necessarily.

If the two cases were linked to each other and the security footage clearly showed it wasn’t me who forged the check, all charges could be dropped without me having to make another trip down. If the theft charge was completely separate from the forgery, however, then things would get a little more hairy.

And that was it. I stood there wanting more, wanting to do more while I was there to get the whole thing resolved, but there wasn’t anything else that could be done. I thanked Jeff for his help, he told me he’d look into the theft charge, and we were on our way home.

On our drive home, somewhere between the middle of fucking nowhere and the middle of fucking nowhere else, Jeff texted me: “No probable cause statement was filed for the Neosho City case.”

“Is that typical?” Lauren texted him back for me because I’m responsible and never text and drive.

“Not really.”

Kewl. Care to elaborate? No? Okay.

I got home and anxiously awaited updates. Updates that would never come.

A week later on September 25th I texted Jeff asking if he had found out anything new, specifically around the theft charge. Another week went by before he finally replied on October 2nd. He said he hadn’t learned anything new and that the prosecutor was presumably reviewing the security footage. He also apologized for the delayed response and informed me that he had put in his two week notice with the law firm, meaning he would no longer be my attorney moving forward.

I couldn’t believe it. In the span of two weeks I’d lost just as many lawyers. The conspiracy theory portion of my brain started churning:

What if this is all a set up? What if my case is toxic? What if the person who stole my identity and committed the forgery is related to someone in power and I’m their fall guy? What if this involves the mob? What if this involves the Russian mob? And anytime a lawyer gets close they get pushed out? Or murdered?

Or maybe this firm just has a problem retaining employees.

Regardless, I was onto my fourth lawyer now (including Molly) with no signs of a resolution in sight. All I could do is sit and wait.