Officer, is that dandruff under your nostril?
It’s the last week of 2007 inside Orange County’s Central Justice Center, and the place is dead except at each of the three public entrances. A half-dozen young bailiffs have forgotten security fears (Al-Qaeda!) but collect pay and perks while they chat happily about the electronic toys they received for Christmas. Moments later, a well-dressed, polite, non-English-speaking man stops me, displays a court document and asks me if I speak Spanish. Nope.
I scan the document he’s holding and direct him to the new DNA-collection office mentioned in his papers. He’s confused, and so, though I’m due elsewhere in the courthouse, I walk him to the second-floor DNA office, knock on the window, and watch a gray-haired man ignore us for 10 minutes. Hey, thanks, asshole.
(There’s nothing like watching a government employee exert no energy. I’m guessing a judge ordered my paper-toting Mexican to submit his gene sample, but--hey--you, pal, were too busy DOING SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN COLLECTING AN ALLEGED CRIMINAL’S DNA.)
Anyhow, there’s a cocaine-and-cop story in the courthouse. Haven’t you heard? A veteran California Highway Patrol officer in OC apparently was dreaming of an electrifying, white Christmas. At 4 in the morning a couple of days ago, he broke into a police evidence locker in Santa Ana and stole $1 million worth of confiscated cocaine, according to prosecutors.
Wasn’t it just last year that investigators nabbed another veteran OC CHP officer for allegedly trying to screw a 12-year-old girl in Laguna Beach?
Cop crime cases often lure me to the courthouse because they’re fascinating. Okay, I also anticipate that DA spokesperson Susan Kang Schroeder will bark official pronouncements, wear shiny new high heels and give cop-criminal lawyer John Barnett a run for his pretrial PR money.
(I wasn’t disappointed. But Frank Mickadeit of the Reg was absent--perhaps because he’d long ago choked on too many Schroeder juices. I hope not, though. OC without Frank would be like, well, Dorothy without Toto.)
So there I am on the third floor, cramming myself into C57 with seven television camera crews and reporters to see 32-year-old Joshua Blackburn (pictured without the coke), a six-year veteran of the CHP in OC. He’s a no-show. A court commissioner coldly tosses the media cameras from the courtroom (unlike what any other alleged hoodlum would experience) and allows the accused cop to appear via closed-circuit TV (unlike what any other alleged hoodlum would experience).
On the video screen, Blackburn appears wearing an orange Orange County Jail jumpsuit, his hands in his pockets (unlike what any other alleged hoodlum would be allowed to do). He looks as if he’s in line at McDonald’s. His head is cocked to the right, and he’s expressionless. The judge asks if he understands he faces three criminal charges: burglary, possession of drugs with the intent to sell and narcotics transportation. Blackburn nonchalantly says “yes,” as if simply confirming a burger order. Hold the onions.
The hearing takes just three minutes, but is sure to make the evening news.
In the back of the tiny courtroom, the cop’s wife looks miserable. Her eyes are swollen, and she looks ready to cry again. Perhaps, she is a victim. Her honey is locked away and unable to pay the $4 million bail. If convicted, he faces a potential 25-year prison sentence. My heart goes out to her.
But there’s good news, Mrs. Blackburn. Don’t sob too much. This is Orange County. Dirty cops always walk out of the courthouse with smiles. Heck, sometimes they get promoted and praised by lap dogs in my profession. Sometimes they even become sheriff.
Just make sure he wears his uniform during the trial.
-- R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly