The other day was the day I met the alleged white supremacist (I stress the word "alleged"). I was a little nervous. Not that I thought the defendant would have any violent or extreme reaction, but I had never met a real-life white supremacist before!
I saw a rather gruff looking character right outside the courtroom, and for some reason I had the feeling that this was the guy. Physically, he was not imposing. He only stood about 5 foot 8. He had an average build. Middle-aged. Gray, thinning hair. He kind of looked like a worn out guy who had worked on a farm for most of his life. I approached him and asked, "John?" He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked, "Are you a Chinaman?" Just kidding; he didn't say that. He just responded, "yes." He had no negative reaction to seeing my very Asian face. We had a firm handshake. I introduced myself. His father came too and the first thing I thought was, "Oh, here is the head honcho of the Klan."
We went into a conference room and talked about the case. It was clear that they had major beef with the police. What a surprise! I mean, we're talking about Officer Hoppie ... I listened to them carefully, and we combed through the police report to look for discrepancies. He pointed out numerous things that he thought were complete lies by the police. The interesting thing was that he never denied the white supremacist allegation by his co-defendant. As we talked, the father kept interjecting with things like, "Yeah, what is wrong with the police these days?" He also said things like, "Now, this is a good attorney. This guy really listens. A lot of attorneys don't care." I appreciated the compliment.
Overall, I found them to be pretty normal people, and in fact, I thought the guy was innocent (although I think that of most of my clients).
I took my newfound knowledge of the case and let the prosecutor know about the flaws. He agreed the case was weak, so he reduced the charge from a misdemeanor to an infraction (which is pretty much equivalent to a traffic citation). Unfortunately, because infractions are so low on the totem pole of crime, the defendant no longer had the right to an attorney; the judge took me off the case. A trial date was set.
So that's it. Kind of anticlimactic, huh? Well, I guess that's a good thing. He didn't call me a chink and I didn't call him a honkie. I followed the advice of what some readers suggested, and I made no mention of race and just treated him like I would anyone else. I think it worked out. They expressed a lot of appreciation for my help. And I was actually sad that I couldn't continue to work with them.
What I learned from this is to never prejudge a white supremacist. They're people, too!