If someone would have asked me, “What do you want for your last meal?” It would not have been soggy cornflakes, warm milk, and awful coffee, which I ate for breakfast that morning. Sugar helped me endure the blitzkrieg against my taste buds, but my stomach demanded calories to halt its rumbling sounds. At the time, it was a dismal meal, but in the days ahead, I looked back on it as a pleasant repast. It’s funny how hunger can distort one’s memories.
Forty-five minutes later, the jailer stood in front of the holding cell with a clipboard in his hand. “Listen up men,” he said, looking down. “Ramos, Soto, Delgado, Valdez, Trujillo, and Matthews − you are in the first group to be taken to the courtroom. Your arraignments will begin at 9 a.m. If you have a lawyer, he will meet you there. If you don’t, a court appointed lawyer will handle your arraignment.”
He spun around and walked away.
I did my best to wash my face and clean up in the sink, but there was no mirror to help me in this task. I looked at the others in the holding cell and figured I looked better than some and worse than others. Oh well, I thought, this is as good as it gets for me today.
Two deputies guarded us as we walked over to the courtroom’s small holding cell. I sat down with the five homies on a metal bench and faced the empty courtroom. The clock on the back wall read − 8:34.
I looked up and saw a man wearing a dark suit and white shirt standing in front of the cell. He had short black hair and seemed to be of Chinese or Korean heritage. He motioned for me to come near him.
“I’m Artie Chin. Your lawyer, Jacob, referred me to you,” he whispered.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“You are charged with a hate crime for preaching to gays. This is a new law by the San Francisco City Council and went into effect three weeks ago on June 1st. The good news for you is that you are the worst possible test case for this law −”
He blew out a deep breath.
“You’re a retired seventy-one year old man, not an ordained preacher, have no ministry, and have no history of preaching or writing against gays. They’re after bigger fish than you.”
“Okay, what do you think I should do?”
“I’m sure you will be released on personal recognizance. No bail required. You will have to promise to show up in court in a couple of weeks, but I think I can get the charges dropped altogether. The judge may ask some questions, but probably not. You should be a free man in about sixty minutes.”
His words would have encouraged me if the Holy Spirit had not spoken to me a few hours earlier. I prepared myself for bad news.
(Continued in Part 5…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.)