Trial Preparation

So I kicked the offending travel voucher back to the head auditor and she returned it to Dick Sheeran and a couple weeks later I asked the auditor what had been the outcome.  She gently replied, “Oh, you’d have to ask Mr. Sheeran” so I did.  He told me that when the employee was called on the carpet by her department head, she not only confessed that she was billing the taxpayers from home-to-work but also she wasn’t even driving her own car—she was driving a county car and filling the gas tank at the county pump.  All that mileage that she was claiming for using her personal car every hour, every day, every week, every month for God knows how long—none of it happened.

The Department of Social Services employee was stealing from the taxpayers.  Was she prosecuted, fined and forced to make restitution?  No.  Was she fired?  No.  What was her punishment?  Mr. Sheeran chuckled a little and said the employee was told to stop doing it.  I have no knowledge as to whether this particular employee was making semiannual payments to the Republican Committee but, in the normal course of business, she would have been—and those payments bought protection.  If she did something wrong then it was acceptable because her boss also was doing something wrong and that was acceptable, too.  Onondaga County government, very simply, was one massive tangle of criminal activity; it was morally corrupt, as well as politically.

Over in the Division of Purchasing, where Jack Bachman was director, they would send out letters to major vendors—heavy equipment suppliers, insurance companies, etc.—who would be told the dollar value of their business with Onondaga County in the previous year and, therefore, how much they owed the Republican Committee.  Guido Viseone incredulously said “They put it in writing.”  He appeared conflicted between outrage at their arrogance and awe at their stupidity.

“They put it in writing”—and so did I.  I was so offended by The Syracuse Newspapers biased coverage of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation that I wrote a letter to the editor, which was published prominently.  Afterwards, a television reporter called and very carefully and hesitantly asked if I would talk to her.  When I said I would be glad to, she was obviously very relieved; apparently she had been fearful that I would report her phone call to the Special Prosecutor’s Office. 

In fact, no one from the Special Prosecutor’s Office ever discussed with me my public comments.  I had a right to speak and I did so without consultation or confirmation from the Special Prosecutor’s Office.  Consequently, I did a television interview from the patio on the top of my downtown apartment building.  In the background was the courthouse where the shakedown had occurred.

Meanwhile, back at the Syracuse Research Corporation, I had finished producing “On Competence” and—still classified as a secretary—was moved to a small, windowless office in the Energy Unit where I did dreary secretarial kinds of things.  Then one day I got a call from the Special Prosecutor’s Office asking me to come in for a meeting:  Richard Sheeran would be the first defendant to go to trial and they needed to prepare me.  It was then that I met the “trial unit” of the prosecutor’s office, which consisted of Long Gray John and Fast Willie.

John was gray—he wore gray suits, had gray hair and sounded gray.  He spoke without passion in a soft, low voice.  John was from New York City and he was a very smart man and an outstanding lawyer; he also had a wicked sort of cerebral humor.  Attorney William Day introduced himself as Bill but was called Willie around the office.  Tall, slender and dark-haired, he was a generation younger than Andreoli, Guido and John and came from Madison County, adjacent to Onondaga County.

Peter Andreoli had made every effort to hire Onondaga County lawyers to work on the investigation because he wanted local involvement; he wanted it to be the people’s investigation.  What he learned was that the word had gone out that any attorney who took a temporary job with the Special Prosecutor’s Office would never again work in Onondaga County.  They would all stand together:  the Republican Committee, The Syracuse Newspapers, the county government, the lawyers—they would stand united against this outside invader who came seeking the truth.

So John and Willie invited me in, sat me down and asked me to tell them everything I’d done since I graduated from high school.

“Oh, you’re not going to like this,” I said.

“Tell me,” said John.

So I told them about my psychiatric history.

I had been hospitalized for depression about four times, maybe starting around 1972.

John asked, “Does the defense team know?  Did you tell anyone in county government?”

I couldn’t remember whether I’d had any conversations with any of my co-workers about it but my memory blinked open and I clearly saw Norm Mordue, head of the District Attorney’s Grand Jury Unit, making notes on a legal pad when I asked for some time off.

“Yes,” I said, “they know.”

John paced around the office almost humming—one always had the sense that John was constantly emitting a low hum as he worked out problems—and then he spoke:  “We will go to the judge and ask for a proactive hearing; it will not be called a competency hearing.”  They would get out in front of the problem and get a court order that my psychiatric history could not be brought up in the trial.

As John explained it, what the law says is that in order to testify the witness must be able to accurately perceive, remember and relate reality at the times of the incident, the grand jury testimony and the trial testimony.  We all agreed that I fit the bill so we prepared for a hearing.

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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