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Chit-chat from the Caffe Roma Robert Sheridan bobsheridan I danced into the Caffe Roma this morning and saw Ralph Mangiapane reading the first page of the Bay Area Section of the morning San Francisco Chronicle, which just happened to feature as the lead headline an article on a case I knew something about.

"Families Assail Plea Bargain in Foxglove Case" it proclaimed. True, I was there when they did it. "S.F. prosecutors accused of coverup" announced the sub-head. Yeah, they did that, too.

"The families of victims in the so-called Foxglove case accused the San Francisco district attorney's office yesterday of cutting a plea-bargain deal for the two main defendants in order to cover up prosecutorial bungling."

"It seems there was a load of dirty laundry in the district attorney's office that needed to be concealed from the light of day, and the politically expedient solution was to plea bargain the case," said so-and-so the nephew of victim so-and-so."

Ralph tapped the headline to show me he was hip to what was going on.

"You know you done good when your plea bargain is denounced in the headlines," I replied.

"You got that right." What happened, he wanted to know.

It started out like a routine sentencing, I told him, but then the DA asked the judge if the family members of the victims could address the court. Sure said hizzoner, that's allowed, as I hunkered down, waiting for the deluge.

One after another the relatives got up and read their prepared speeches, denouncing my client for being a serial-poison-murderer, the very thing I had disproved to the satisfaction of the court, but more importantly, to the district attorneys themselves. Hence they dumped the case, not entirely willingly.

But then each speaker gets off jumping on my client and they start in on the DA. Those bumbling, incompetent police and DAs, dumping the case on the very day I've got the former lead prosecutor on the stand to explain why she allowed one of the alleged victims to be cremated without an autopsy. Blah, blah, blah.

So my client wants to get up and defend herself and she tearfully points out she loved this elderly friend and he called and wrote her daily until he passed away, and there was never any murder, any harm, any conspiracy, all the charges that were dropped, and he hated his family for putting him in a home to boot. It was great. The first time she got to speak in public in seven years and she nailed it, through the tears of injustice set right at last. Angela the Gypsy came through.

It was a wonderful day.

On the way into court I saw Elijah, the child bank robber I was appointed to represent in federal court several years ago. His uncle put him up to coming along for the ride. Once we sorted that out and he agreed to cooperate with the prosecutor, who used to clerk for me, Elijah's life took a turn for the better, not without a few bumps. He was finally doing well, having found work in this robust economy. He greeted me on the steps of the Hall of Injustice, I remembered his name, he told me what he was up to and I wished him the best. Not too many success stories in this business, but I could squeeze him in, if I tried.

On the way out, I see the other Gypsies, Momma and Big Brother. Today they have nothing but thanks and praise for yours truly for finally extricating their daughter and sister from a seven-year nightmare. "We're gonna have a big pachiv for you," Momma says, and that sounds good. I've always wondered what a Gypsy party is like. Music, dancing, drinking, and fighting, I guess, what else could it be? The trick is to leave before the cops arrive, and I'm looking forward to it. Have been for years.

Last time I went to a victory party it was an Arabic party with live music and loads of dancing and middle-Eastern food. They video taped it to send back to the relatives back home so they'd know their son was innocent, as I'd pretty much proved. You never really prove anything, but when the DA dismisses the case after I'd hung the jury, that's a pretty good approximation.

I love those victory parties. It's important to celebrate your victories. Otherwise no one knows they happened.

So today was a good day; people I barely recognize saying "Hi, Bob." I guess that's what it means to be famous for fifteen minutes. People you don't know know your name. It feels good.

Then it was down the road to the courthouse in the next county where I've got a guy who says he's innocent. $2 million bail, but he's innocent. But that's the next county, where a $2 million bail doesn't necessarily mean you're guilty. Hell, Angela the Gypsy was held on "no bail," which is harder to make than $2 million. In fact you can't make no bail at all.

I reminded the judge once why hadn't he ruled on the bail motion I'd submitted in Foxglove. You want me to rule on it, he asked, the bail's a million dollars. I didn't want that headline, and Angela couldn't make it anyway, so I left bad enough alone.

If a case is rotten, I've learned, the best thing you can do is to investigate the pants off it. So my $2 million guy is going to have to sit tight while that happens and then we can talk about bail. Better to do this on the front end than the back, I've learned. You can pay now or you can pay later. That's the fact of life in the land of concrete and steel bars.

There were a lot of people in the Caffe Roma today, and Lovely Lisa, La Signorina Roma, was bustling around making sure everything was operating smoothly. "Hi, Bob," she called with a big smile, waving between the patrons lined up for their morning cup of life. "Lisa, love, Hi baby," was all I could think to say, but that was good enough.

It was that kind of a day at the Caffe Roma.

They should all be like that.


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