The following is Chapter 7 of A Christmas Story by Mike Furches. You can see the preceding prologue and Chapters in the archives or links section of this page. This story is copyrighted by Mike Furches and intent to publish in book form in 2015. This is the variation prior to final edit prior to publication.
My How The Times Are A Changing
by: Mike Furches
Judge Sweazy was known as a tough no nonsense judge. This strapping man had learned his tough attitude from the days he wrestled at The University of Centsral Oklahoma. He wasn't much more than a wrestling partner when he was there as he was at the same weight as a future Olympic medalist and MMA Champion. He was a heck of a partner though and a real student of the sport. He learned much of his toughness by being beaten to a pulp in the practice room by a future Olympian but he worked out hard during every practice and head to head drill, giving it all he had. Judge Sweazy had learned, wrestling was more than an individual sport, it was also a team sport and helping his partner get better helped the team get better, it was a way he could contribute and he worked hard to contribute and give all he could.
After wrestling in college Judge Sweazy went on to do some assistant coaching on a small college level where he was able to finish his degree prior to going to law school. The mental toughness and hard work habits assisted him in accomplishing his goals. He took what he had learned in the practice rooms to the court room, realizing that sometimes, tough situations required tough consequences and were needed to get people to ultimately work towards their goals and aspirations to become productive citizens in society. While Judge Sweazy was a no nonsense judge, he was also a fair judge that took into consideration the situations involved around the alleged crimes of the accused who came before him.
The courtroom only had some 10 or so people sitting in it. The court docket was posted in the hallway and many of those coming to observe the various trials would come at the designated or approximate times. James Briscoe was early on the docket due to the defendant trials being listed in alphabetical order. Among the 10 or so in the court room sat, Charlie and Tayra Hamm, Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson. The four were all sitting with each other directly behind the defendant James Briscoe. The four of them had worked with James attorney, a young public defender who had agreed to work with the prosecutors office on a plea bargain where it would be agreed that James would spend a year on strict and supervised probation, repay in full the victims of his crimes, primarily the Hamm's and spend 9 months working 24 hours a week for 9 months to pay back the victims and another 250 hours of community service at Discovery Bible Fellowship, the Hamm's and Detective Hay's home church. It was easy to get the prosecuting attorney to agree due to the circumstances of the crime, the recommendations from Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson didn't hurt.
"Will the defendant James Briscoe please stand!" Judge Sweazy stated while looking down at the papers before him. At that point, James and his attorney stood.
"It is my understanding Mr. Briscoe that you and the prosecutors office have come to a plea agreement, is that correct?" Judge Sweazy asked.
James looked at his attorney who nodded at him, thankfully this part had been rehearsed and James knew what to expect, "Yes sir that is correct."
"Is this something that both attorney's agree to?" The judge asked.
Both the prosecuting and public defender responded with a firm, "Yes sir that is correct."
Judge Sweazy then turned his attention towards James, "Young man you find yourself in a unique situation, a situation I am not so sure will provide you the help you need. It is however the only remedy I can see at this time that may in fact help you. You can rest assured, the fact that people have worked to help you including the public defender, the family you victimized, The Hamm's, the cities prosecuting attorney and the two police officers, Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson should not be taken lightly because it is a certainty that without this help and support you would have done a year in a juvenile detention facility. Do you understand that son?"
"Yes sir," James responded in an embarrassed tone.
"It is also my understanding that you have two brothers and a sister but your mother's whereabouts is unknown, is this correct?" The Judge asked.
Again James responded, "Yes sir."
"Are there any plans with the Family and Children's Services department to try and keep this family together in any way?" Judge Sweazy asked.
James attorney responded, "Your honor we have a letter of support that will allow James to visit his siblings on a regular basis while they are in foster care. While the children are in 2 different homes, the Hamm's and Sergeant Jackson have agreed to work together to allow weekend visits at his place of residence where he has graciously volunteered to keep the children over the weekends plus see to it that young Mr. Briscoe does the mandated community service and work he is obligated to. In this Detective Hay will also assist in the supervision at work and maintain regular check ups on young Mr. Briscoe away from his volunteer and work commitments."
"I understand Sergeant Jackson, Detective Hay and Mr. Hamm are in the court room today, please stand." Judge Sweazy stated. All three stood. "Gentlemen do you understand that once these conditions are agreed to that you are obligated by law to follow out these charges, both in the agreement with Family and Children Services and the court of Tulsa County?" Judge Sweazy asked.
Charlie, Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson stated, "Yes sir we agree and understand."
Judge Sweazy spoke emphatically and with a point on fact attitude, "Everyone please be seated with the exception of the defendant James Briscoe." As soon as everyone was seated Judge Sweazy looked directly into the eyes of James from behind the bench, "Young man, as stated earlier you have a unique and valuable opportunity being provided you. It is one that as a judge I am glad to see people working together to help a young man who has been dealt a tough hand. Being dealt a tough hand though does not exonerate you from the crimes you have committed. You should understand the severity of violating any of the terms of conditions which have been shared with you and you have signed off on prior to this hearing. Failure to comply in any way will result in you being reprimanded over to the Tulsa County Jail immediately upon the violation of the signed agreement. At the point of violation, you will be incarcerated and sentenced immediately to a state juvenile correctional facility for a period of 1 year without parole possibilities. Do you understand all of this Mr. Briscoe?"
"Yes sir I understand." James responded.
Judge Swayze then leaned towards James from behind the bench, "Then young man, I am going to agree with and sign this agreement between the prosecutors office and your attorney. The conditions of release will also be signed in the outside corridor with the prosecutor, public defender, Mr. and Mrs. Hamm, Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay who will also be a part of the supervision team. At that point in time it is my understanding that you are going to be living with The Hamm's as a part of the victim restitution you have offered and agreed to since you don't have any parental guardians, is that correct?"
James responded, "Yes sir that is my understanding."
"Mr. and Mrs. Hamm?" The judge asked.
As the Hamm's stood up they responded, "Yes sir that is correct."
"And the both of you have discussed this with your family and they are in agreement?" Judge Sweazy asked.
"Yes sir we have discussed everything with them and made plans accordingly and we are all in agreement." The Hamm's responded.
"Good," Judge Sweazy responded. "Son I wish you and all involved the best. You have a unique opportunity and I hope and pray it works out for you. I commend the families and officers involved for their willingness to go a step above and beyond to help this young man out. Mr. Briscoe, I don't want to see you in my court again unless on good terms. I tend to be hard at times but I also try to be fair. This is the fairest option I see for you with all that you have gone through. Without the assistance from all of these fine people involved this opportunity would have never happened and my hands would have been tied to place you in a correctional facility. May God bless you and be with you in this venture."
"Thank you sir." James responded, "I promise to do my best."
"Good," Judge Swayze responded, "I wish you the best and if there is anything I and/or this court can do to assist please contact us prior to problems arising, not after, now again young man, God bless and be with you."
"Yes Sir and again, thank you." James responded
Another hour later, after the paperwork was done, pleasantries exchanged between the prosecuting attorney, the public defender, Hamm's, Detective Hay, Sergeant Jackson and young James Briscoe. James was in the car with Charlie and Tayra heading for the Hamm's home in Owasso. He was in for a new and unexpected journey in his life, here he was, moving from North Tulsa and Turley to the Owasso suburbs. Riding along with a White married couple, listening to of all things, Garth Brooks singing I've Got Friends in Low Places. James knew there were things he was going to have to get used to, but from Usher to Garth Brooks was something he wasn't expecting to go through quite so quickly.
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