The Special Prosecutor’s Office

All the way home, I troubled about this business of telling the Special Prosecutor that I’d been subjected to a shakedown.  The Pocono Mountains turned into the rolling green hills of lower Pennsylvania as I passed Allentown and continued south.  There was something in me that always relaxed when I got to this close to home.  I breathed better.  Tension that I didn’t know I had dissipated.  The curve of the land, the angle of the sun, the smell of the air—I was born of this.  Ten generations of me had been born of this land.  We had been shaped by it and for it.  We were farmers.  We worked the land.  Father, daughter, grandson—generation after generation, we kept faith with the land.

When I was driving long distances, I changed into a pair of ragged tennis shoes, worn soft with washings.  On this trip home, I diverted to Valley Forge.  It was in early spring and there was still snow on the ground.  I carefully picked my way around, taking photographs of some of the monuments and wooden huts as my tattered shoes filled with snow.  I turned back and photographed my footprints in the snow.  This was Valley Forge, the place where 12,000 Continental soldiers settled for the winter in 1777.  Only about a third of them had shoes, and many of their feet were leaving bloody footprints.  This was twenty-five miles from the Hope farm.  What did we do?  Did we bring food, clothes, blankets, comfort?  Was it too far?

We had given our sons to this founding of a nation.  Robert Hope had been killed at the Battle of Brandywine in January of that year.  The previous year, his cousin Thomas had died of wounds suffered in the war.  We were not the daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers.  Mary Boone Hope (niece of Daniel Boone) and Jennet Hope, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, saw their sons off to the war from which they did not return.  They were Quakers; Quakers must not fight.  Because they went to war, they would have been read out of the Meeting.

And Robert and Thomas Hope did not die so that some petty government employee could shake me down for a political contribution!

The Hope family farm is located in Chester County; West Chester is the county seat of Chester County.  I grew up in West Chester.  On this trip back to Pennsylvania, I drove into West Chester, went for a walk and came to the courthouse, built in 1846.  It was on the steps of this courthouse that my mother had stood with civil rights protest signs in the 1960’s.  Now, as I walked past, I noticed a plaque by the courthouse door.

There also was a plaque by the door of the Onondaga County courthouse, wherein Dick Sheeran shook me down for the Republican Party.  The plaque listed the names of the men on the architectural design committee.  Filled with bitterness and cynicism, I walked up to the door of the Chester County courthouse to read the plaque placed there.

It was the Ten Commandments.

There was a time and a people for whom the law was absolute and above all.

When I returned to Syracuse, I called the Special Prosecutor’s Office for an appointment.

The Special Prosecutor’s Office

Syracuse, New York, gets an average of ten feet of snow each winter; Nome, Alaska, only gets five.  Come winter and a below-zero wind-chill, I had discovered that I couldn’t hack working outside at the gas station so, in February 1977, I had moved on to a job at Syracuse University where I became the style editor for “On Competence,” a two-volume report generated within the School of Education’s Cultural Foundations of Education program.

The university is a world unto itself.  It is a town of about 25,000 people—students, faculty and staff.  Instead of Republicans and Democrats, it has students and faculty; each group has a legislative body and a newspaper.  The university has employment, housing, transportation, food service and a police force.  It is only dependent on the outside world for mail delivery and fire protection.  If you have a problem with the county then there is no safer place to hide than the university, which neither knows nor cares what is happening downtown.  It was from the anonymity and security of the university that I traveled to the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which was located in a high-rise office building two blocks from the center of Syracuse.  A major bank was located on the first floor.  Special Prosecutor Peter Andreoli’s rationale was that anybody who wanted to talk to him could enter the bank by its front door then exit the backdoor into the building lobby and hence to his office without being observed.  Everybody has to go the bank, right?

I went to the prosecutor’s office after work and was met by Assistant Special Prosecutor Guido Viseone and an investigator.  Later, I would find out that one of the absolute policies of Andreoli’s office was that no citizen would ever meet alone with a staff person; there would always be two staffers in the room.  This was one of the guarantees of office integrity; there would be no secret meetings, no deals made.  For the same reason, all the office doors had a vertical glass panel; everything was open to observation.

Guido was an Italian Catholic attorney from New York City.  He had a round face, receding hairline, curly hair, and could get anything he wanted from a witness.  Of course I didn’t know that at the outset of the first interview, in which I was scared to death.  Absolutely petrified—but poised, God almighty, poised.  I sat there with my hands folded in my lap, trying to keep my voice from quivering, and began to tell my story but Guido kept interrupting with questions.

Q:  Did Mr. Sheeran’s office have solid walls?

A:  No, they were glass from the waist to the ceiling.

Q:  Was the door opened or closed?

A:   Probably closed—I don’t remember.

Finally I asked him if I could just tell my story without interruptions.  “Oh, sure,” he said, “sure, sure.”  Eager to please, Guido Viseone, I would come to learn, would do anything it took to get a witness to tell the story of what happened.  He was soft-spoken, agreeable, there to be of service to the citizens.  So I told my story without any more interruptions.  God knows, I had practiced it in my head ten thousand times.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to The Special Prosecutor’s Office

  1. susan morris says:

    hi ann!!! are u in a nursing home? If you are I want to visit u should not be alone there i hope u remember me !!! I have more news but no time I aqm at library computer down again u can call me 585 966 9431

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