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The Thanksgiving in jail for saving a life — lessons learned

Dan Clinciu
Nov 24, 2018 · 15 min read

Quite a few people asked me why I choose to live and work in Asia when I can get better pay and much more in the USA where I lived most of my life. We can certainly get a whole lot more in the USA besides good pay and what I got in America was more than enough to stay away from it. The greatest thing I ever got from America happened during my last Thanksgiving in the USA (how ironic), so I thought I’d share it during Thanksgiving time! After all, I’m thankful for what happened in the long run…

We always hear love is blind but it hardly ever is. At least not for rational people, for whom, mature love sees the present quite well but unfortunately not the future. Love can’t predict how genes interact and dictate what our brain and body will do over time, nor if we will be sane next year or even the next day. A lot can change in a few hours sometimes, especially as we get older. Some people go completely nuts when the clock on their mind explosives tics down to zero. Unfortunately, we never get a warning about these abrupt and unexpected changes in emotions and behavior. Their terrifying outcomes can leave us lost, hopeless and completely ruined! But thanks to angels such as internet, technology, science, and amazing strangers, sometimes not all is lost and lives can be rescued and restored.

Thanksgiving was two days away. My mom passed the same year so it was the first Thanksgiving without her. She bravely battled breast cancer for 30 years and it was especially painful since the previous year I wasn’t able to spend Thanksgiving with her. So here comes Thanksgiving again, sending its sadness to trap me as an immense and sticky spider web that I could not free myself from no matter in which direction I struggled. In my worst nightmare, I could not have had a more terrible Thanksgiving. As my mom’s passing wasn’t enough, my relationship at the time was a living hell. My girlfriend of four years turned out to be bipolar. Although she was a smart and ambitious woman, during her latest episodes, she destroyed much of what we had. At first, she had outbursts that weren’t too out of the ordinary and having to deal with emotional individuals all my life, I thought, no problem, I got this. However, over time, the more frequent and severe her episodes got; a common occurrence when untreated. She would smash things, take off and disappear for a day or two and turn off her phone after sending threats of committing suicide. I could not take it anymore and I thought after Thanksgiving passed I needed to seriously talk to her about getting help and medication or end the relationship.

But unfortunately, her new episode arrived to celebrate Thanksgiving early. The day before thanksgiving she decided life was too much of a burden and why not get rid of it once and for all? At first, she kept running hysterically back and forth from the bedroom to the kitchen as if something was chasing her. I knew craziness was about to go down. Sure enough, it kicked in all of a sudden. She raced for the shelf and got a decent size kitchen knife and tried to slice her wrists. I wrestled the knife out of her hand and held her still, preventing her to move. After a couple of minutes, she began to struggle and scream hysterically saying I need to let her go as I have no right to hold her still. I made the mistake of letting her go and she ran for the bathroom and locked the door. At least she didn’t have knives or anything she could harm herself in there, I thought. Fifteen minutes later I unlocked the door to find her barely breathing, with a bottle of sleeping pills next to her. Right away I called 911 and asked for an ambulance asap.

Fortunately, in about 10 minutes they were there and took her to the emergency room. I followed and made sure she was stable. The paramedics declared me a hero and said that another 15 minutes and they might have taken her to the morgue instead. I wanted to stay there and wait for her to wake up. But since I didn’t close an eye for more than 28 hours since the fiasco began, I looked like hell. The medical staff said they got it under control and that I should go get some rest. Since the hospital was only 10 minutes away I went back home planning to get a couple of hours of sleep and then return to the hospital.

I sat in my bed with my mind running to and fro. I thought, thank God she’s in a hospital at last. For sure they will get her the proper help when she wakes out of this mess and it might save us from another major fight trying to convince her. I finally fell asleep when the doorbell rang. Who could it be? “This is the police, open the door”. I thought something terrible must have happened, but the staff at the hospital told me she was stable just minutes ago. It can’t be! “Sir, please step outside, you’re being charged with domestic violence”. Fearing the worst happened I quickly stepped outside not paying attention that I was only wearing a shirt. My words stuttered as I was now shivering uncontrollably out of exhaustion, panic and the cold. “Is she OK, did something happened to her after I left the hospital?” The cops were trying to do their job and thought they were dealing with a real case of domestic violence, who could blame them?

I knew I made a big mistake by leaving the hospital before she woke up. A renter living with me (convicted felon) decided to get revenge for being “nagged” about the late rent went to the police and gave false testimony about him hearing noises of possible domestic abuse. But at this point, I was so tired that I could not care to ask, nor care to know any more of the nonsense that was happening.

One of the officers offered to have the honor of escorting me. This guy began talking to me as though he was trying to help my cause. Tired, cold and stressed beyond limits, I was almost shocked into a coma by what he said. Then again, I didn’t know the guy, and who knows what he’s seen and had to deal with throughout his time on duty. He said,

“I’ve been to the hospital and looked over your case. I would not have rushed to call the ambulance if I were you. She wanted this, you should have granted her wish. You did this for someone that doesn’t value life? Someone that thinks life is a joke? I wish I can put her in jail and let you go Hopefully the judge will sort this out and do his/her job as well.”

I must admit it felt sort of comforting at first. At least someone didn’t convict me for something I didn’t do and I was hoping he’s right about the judge part.

I could not believe this… in jail for the first time! I sure had a lot to thank for. Who knows, it could have been a lot worse.

The following day I was told that two days later I could talk to a public defender (PD) if I can’t afford a lawyer. Not knowing much at the time I thought lawyers would be better than PDs. What I didn’t know and experience before is, of course, lawyers are only really good at ripping you off while pretending to help you. How can they help when many of them have worse issues in life than the people they pretend to help and need your money to fix their own problems or so they hope?

In the same cell was a nice fella from Guatemala. He was arrested for not having papers and being in the country illegally. I speak some Spanish so it made time pass by easier for both of us. He could not contact his family in Guatemala for the last 10 days and likely they had no idea if he was still alive. It made my situation look like a full-moon rave compared to his. I was thinking “America, the land of all opportunities indeed”. Not many places would offer you the opportunity of a Thanksgiving behind bars for saving someone’s life — but then again a few other places may kill you for it, especially for saving the wrong life. It’s good to know North Korea exists; brings things in perspective on such occasions. Comforting, isn’t it?

Later in the day, my girlfriend came to visit me in jail. She was sobbing uncontrollably. She could not believe what just happened. She said that she told the nurses and hospital staff what happened and could not understand why they would arrest me based on the testimony of a convicted felon and without any kind of substantial evidence. That day she wrote letters to the judge and the DA telling them what happened. We were both shocked beyond belief by how the judge and the DA responded. They both argued that I have coerced the “victim” into writing the letters. How was that possible if I was in jail and she was still in the hospital?

The scumbag lawyer I hired already dragged the case on for weeks and it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. I wasn’t allowed to return to work and two weeks into this mess, the employer terminated me. The judge and DA could care less about what my girlfriend had to say, my job or my life. She came to three hearings and not once was she asked anything or allowed to talk about what happened. They insisted on their nonsense about domestic violence. Respected professionals and people with the influence I knew in the community wrote letters to the judge for me, all in vain. Both the judge and DA refused to look at any letters and instead responded arrogantly,

“It only takes one time. For all we know, he could have killed her. Luckily she’s still alive”.

This was as absurd as me forcing the pills down her throat, thus, my response to them is — well… it only takes one botched allegation to ruin someone’s life and career. Sure there were questionable things. Why was her finger swollen, why she attempted suicide etc. But most of all, why was a convict’s testimony out of all people trusted without a doubt and what happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?

In a matter of days, I lost everything, my job, my life, and my clean record. I was at the mercy of probability and for some reason, I happened to be one of those 5% chances of something wrong going really wrong. Not much I could do when I wasn’t given any options and the judge didn’t care to hear anything from anyone except the lying of a convict and a corrupt lawyer.

Out on bail, I called a friend who was a public defender in Los Angeles and told him about what happened. Quite stunned, he said…

“Dude I feel so sorry for you. You fell through the cracks. This is a botched case and they’re not going to look stupid because of it. Get rid of your crooked lawyer so you won’t lose a penny more and simply plead no contest and they will likely reduce your sentence especially since it is your first offense.”

I was speechless.

“But what should I say happened”? He responded “Anything that’s not too incriminating, like you held her hostage for two minutes… whatever. They won’t ask as long as you plead no contest.”

Sure enough, as soon as I said I’ll plead no contest, they reduced my sentence and gave me 24 hours of anger management counseling. Strangely, all of a sudden, my girlfriend was no longer in danger of being around a criminal. While on trial, the nonsense the judge circled around was how afraid he was for her life because of me. And now, he wasn’t? I’m no longer the life-threatening abuser, perpetrator and violent criminal I was before pleading no contest? Either Judge Winn knew I wasn’t who he and the DA masqueraded me to be, or, they were hoping that once I’m out on probation, I would do something stupid to put me behind bars for a long time. As a matter of fact, he insinuated “Next time I won’t be so easy if you’re back for the same thing”. I almost wanted to say, “Oh really, so if I save someone’s life again, you’re gonna put me away for good Your Moronity?”

This tells you everything about this judge and how screwed up in the head he was on this occasion. I certainly hope he’s made better decisions as a judge. But in this case, who is the one with anger issues? Me for saving the victim, the person attempting suicide or him for sentencing me? Now, try to explain a potential employer which knows nothing about you that your criminal record is the result of saving your girlfriend’s life and someone you must address as “your honor” instead of “you moron”.

I decided to win against such nonsense in a different way. ML King had a crowd, but he didn’t have the technology and the global opportunities we have today. Learning from friends and the internet about teaching English and studying abroad, I decided to leave the USA in order to get a job and put this mess behind me. I got an ESL teaching job and was also fortunate to pursue my doctorate studies at one of the best universities in Asia.

Many years have passed since this incident. I received my PhD and I’m now an assistant professor and researcher. I have a wonderful family and I finished writing a book where I detail perspectives and issues on education, global opportunities, people and of course, the nonsense many endure and must get away from in the West. Through this unfortunate event, I point out how better things can sometimes come out of complete nonsense. Technology and science bring us incredible opportunities worldwide which are indeed our modern days saving angels. Their miracle in my life and how they saved me, makes me wanna shout “Bring it on John P. Winn, let’s see what else you got!”

Many other Americans were also saved by these “Real Angels” (certainly not those of the book of Revelation) and I’ve heard even more incredible/terrible personal stories from some of the American compatriots living and working abroad. Although I still suffer from Winn’s prosecutorial misconduct, the internet is a wonderful thing and gave me a life I would have never thought of. Because of it, someday people will learn of this and some form of justice may come about.

Why did I stay quiet all these years? At that time I was a brainwashed Christian and I literately adhered to the “turn the other cheek and do good to those that do evil” philosophy. I now still follow Christian values but unlike before, I only turn the cheek once.

Jesus dis say something remarkable though “If people persecute you in one place, go to another”. I did so and I found one of the nicest places and people on earth in Taiwan. What happened overall could certainly be a great screenplay!

It’s funny how both the judge and DA uttered nonsense that I could have killed my girlfriend and they were “protecting” her. Yeah, right, they wouldn’t even listen to her or allow her to talk and they want to call that protection? Isn’t it ridiculous that once I pleaded no contest my girlfriend wasn’t even in the picture? How is it she did not need protection anymore if I was this dangerous criminal on the loose now? Looking at the news and the politics we’re dealing with today, I doubt many would be surprised by how things are handled in the judicial system.

What I learned from this unfortunate event is that if I did something similar to what Rachel Dolezal did, it might have spared me from a Thanksgiving in jail and a criminal record. A trans individual I became friends with in Taiwan jokingly said I could have put on one of my GF's mini skirts and for sure the cops would have left my house nodding their heads if I stepped outside dressed as a woman. As much as we both laughed about it, s/he was probably right, but it’s a good thing I didn’t do it. I also realized that our system targets cis white males, especially if they contribute to society. It’s unfortunate I’m quite happy with who and what I am, otherwise, just like others shamelessly do, I could have slipped on a dress and some tights to gain extra privileges! I mean why not? Everyone that does it benefits from it!

I hope the way the internet saved my life which Judge Winn tried his best to destroy, it will one day bring him this story and show him that he was dead wrong. People worldwide that may be victims of various inapt systems should know there is hope in the world and you can overcome adversity. An experience like this taught me the fact that strangers many times treat you better than your own and offer you opportunities much better than your own ever would. The world is a beautiful place taken as a whole, but it can be quite ugly when you look at one particular place, country and any of its systems.

Sure enough, the US has plenty of great things besides having the worst all at the same time. The US passport is an unbelievable treasure for the time being. I can travel at will throughout most of the world and in many cases, I get better treatment than the locals. The US government protects its citizens abroad and goes out of the way to save any of them if they are kidnapped, treated unjustly and wronged by other nations. It is unfortunate that the US government cannot protect and offer the same great justice to its citizens inside as it does outside at times, because of what politics are doing to it. But due to the US passport, I don’t have to migrate or live illegally anywhere as many other citizens must do because their country and passport are worth less than toilet paper and they have no choice. Who knows, this might change someday. The way we’re doing things at home isn’t opening doors wide abroad for Americans like it once did. So, enjoy it while it lasts.

That is why we shouldn’t always focus on one place, country, system or a particular human being from a certain part of the world. There are many good places and countries in the world just as there are many good people in a given place or country. Nowadays, with so much progress in science and technology and so many options we can have a good life in most places on earth, some, surprisingly not given much thought by most people. Ironically and unfortunately we could have a very tough time and go through unbelievably horrible situations in some of the best places on earth. Incompetent and/or crooked people and systems could ruin many people’s lives in many places and great places aren’t the exception. But on rare occasions incompetent morons and/or systems are like forest fires that aid the seeds of various pines to break free of the cones that trap them, allowing seeds to sprout. Some people turn out to be just like the seeds of these majestic pines; they need a destructive fire to get rid of their cone (their small and insignificant life up to that point), so that they could sprout, grow and have the kind of life and future an unburned cone could never offer to a seed. It’s very unfortunate that the fire destroys lots of great things in its way, but at least new seeds will sprout.

Lots of people go through all kinds of traumas in their life many times because they want to help others and unfortunately because of no fault of their own. But this is how they often discover their strengths and special talents — not because they were treated fairly by others or the system but for being pushed to their limits. People find their true abilities because of adversity, unfairness and all the hardship they have to go through when they aren’t going to quit. Why quit when the world has so much to offer? The world and strangers are always full of surprises, most of the time good ones and I can testify to that. It makes you wonder why so many young people commit suicide who have it a lot easier in life and go through much less drama!

We can bury unfortunate things in one place or another and start new and fresh somewhere else. The truth about who we are may surface when we least expect it and other times, things that are untrue do the same. There’s plenty of evidence that many people regret not giving themselves a second chance. Don’t let those that wrong you get the best of you. Most of the time they are no one that matters, especially with the current opportunities we have. Now, I’m thankful especially every Thanksgiving for that time in jail as it helped me find out more about the world, the opportunities, and the wonderful strangers in it!

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