“Your honor, as you know, I have already pled guilty to the charges against me, but I appreciate this opportunity to provide some background for my actions, so that they may be judged within the fuller context I will here provide in explaining that on the night of April 24, after a long shift not selling cars at Ford West, a dealership in Bellflower, I drove home through a slight drizzle to San Pedro, stopping by The Port Hole, a small bar just up the street from this courthouse, where, between approximately midnight and 1 a.m., I consumed a gin and tonic, a bottle of Budweiser and a Kamikaze shot, and, deeming the day’s sulk complete, exited to what had become a rather heavy downpour and walked toward my truck for the short drive to my apartment, along the way encountering a very wet African-American man, in his early 30s, asking for bus money to help him get to Torrance, to whom I responded, motivated simultaneously by benevolent empathy and a bluff-calling cynicism regarding his disposal of any funds presented, by offering a ride instead, a proposal that he, to my chagrin, accepted, so we took the Harbor Freeway northbound to Torrance, driving for the most part in silence through the steadily increasing rain, a quiet interrupted a few miles into our journey when I noticed my cell phone’s absence from its customary place in the cup-holder of the truck’s center console, reflected briefly on its possible whereabouts, determined my passenger the likely culprit and asked if he had taken it, an accusation vigorously denied, occasioning a conversational impasse repeated several times as we neared the Anaheim exit and I decided, in a glaring instance of panicked irrationality, that the best plan was to return to San Pedro and sort things out there, a course of action inauspiciously begun by my skidding over water pooled on the off-ramp, losing control, spinning completely around and crashing into a guardrail, after which, buoyed by an adrenaline-spiked cocktail of fear, anger, uncertainty and, one can reasonably assume, alcohol, I resumed driving, made a left on Anaheim, passed under the freeway and pulled onto the southbound on-ramp, a reversal that tipped the balance of panic toward my passenger, turning his indignation into desperate cries for release, to my lingering shame perfectly justified had he not stolen my phone, a (to my mind) unlikely scenario whose nevertheless legitimate possibility has provided much of the emotional impetus for my guilty plea, and as his appeals to be let out and my insistence that he first return the phone got louder, I again lost control of the truck, spun out and crashed into another guardrail, whereupon the engine died, my passenger exited and ran off into the night, and, after several failed ignition attempts, I walked to a nearby gas station, called 9-1-1, reported that I had wrecked my truck in the course of being robbed, requested a tow truck and returned to the scene to stand in the rain and await the highway patrol and tow service, both of which arrived within the time it took me to smoke a single, soggy cigarette, which the officers were kind enough to let me finish while explaining what had happened, an account quite similar to the one here provided, in response to which the officers administered a field sobriety test, an examination I feel I handled quite competently, although my assessment differs from that of the proctors, who decided to take me in for further testing, a turn of events I accepted cooperatively, to such an extent that the officers conferred and deemed me a suitable first arrest for Officer-in-Training Johnson, who then handcuffed me, read me my rights, helped me into the back of his patrol car and drove to the Harbor Division Station, where the breathalyzer registered my blood-alcohol content as .1 percent, just above California’s legal limit of .08 percent, I congratulated Officer Johnson and wished him a successful and safe career, went through the remainder of the booking process, including the confiscation of my driver license, and spent the night in a communal cell, following which I was released to a long walk home and the realization that with my license suspended until the date of this court appearance, my tenure as a car salesman was effectively over, then a few hours later took a taxi to the impound lot, where the tow-truck driver, upon hearing my story, had a sudden inspiration, asked for my phone number, dialed it on his cell phone and by pretending to be a police officer investigating a murder committed by the phone’s registered owner, a rather odd deceit perhaps itself illegal, ascertained that the man who answered “sounded black,” was unwilling to identify himself or how he had come into possession of the phone and had no interest in returning it, hardly conclusive evidence that my suspicions were correct, and not nearly enough to assuage my conscience, but heartening news nonetheless, after which the tow-truck driver took me and my truck to an auto shop, where it was soon determined that the vehicle had suffered irreparable structural damage, and having spent all my money on the taxi, impound fees and tow truck, I began another long walk home and the month-long course of reflection that has filled my waking hours between that day and this, an honest, careful consideration of the past failures in judgment that ultimately brought me here, beginning with my excessive consumption of alcohol, which from now on I intend to moderate, and extending to the selfish and self-defeating choices I have childishly surrendered to under its influence—such as getting behind the wheel after drinking, such as magnifying the dangers of driving while intoxicated by inviting someone else to ride with me, such as leaping to conclusions and endangering the life of a stranger who may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time—and leading into the less important but still pressing calculations of how to pay for the graduate studies I am set to begin this September at the University of Chicago, an expense I planned to offset with my car sales earnings, but which presently seems quite daunting, particularly in light of the fees and fines associated with a conviction for driving under the influence, costs I humbly request your leniency in determining, and, finally, expanding to a broader contemplation of my future, the responsibilities I must embrace to become the kind of person I want to be, and how best to ensure that my decisions and actions always reflect the lessons I have learned from this experience, the sum of which I hope you will consider as you formulate your sentence.”

Maybe that’s what I would have said had the courthouse clerk found my name on the docket. She looked over my summons, then, after several phone calls, deduced that the officers hadn’t filed charges with the District Attorney and told me I was free to go.

About the Author

John Nosco

John Nosco lives in New York and is a student at Columbia Law School. "Apology" is the seventh chapter of "Damage," a collection of experimental autobiographical essays. 

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