The heavy-set bailiff with a booming voice announced, “The People of San Francisco against Dylan Matthews.”
Almost with a snap of a finger, I stood to the right of Artie Chin while a junior prosecutor stood on the other side of Chin. Judge Ester Strong sat directly in front of us. The sixty or so year-old judge looked down at the file in front of her and then over at me. A slight smile crossed her lips for a nano-second before she resumed her judicial posture.
Back and forth legalese-filled salvos from the prosecutor and my lawyer ended up with Chin saying, “My client enters a not-guilty plea.”
“I’m inclined to allow Mr. Matthews to be released on his own recognizance, without bail, but I do want to ask him a couple of questions,” said Judge Strong, leaning forward and staring into my eyes. “What will you do if I set you free this morning? Will you go back to Temecula and return for your preliminary hearing in two weeks?”
Three possible answers crossed my mind at that moment: forty-sixth anniversary trip to Tahoe, playing with grandchildren, or enjoying a few rounds of golf with my buddies. All would have pleased the judge so I could have walked out the door into the sunlight once again, but they all evaporated into nothingness. What came out of my mouth caused a reaction much like dropping a live grenade into the courtroom.
“I will walk out the door and go directly to the Castro District and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to that community. They deserve to be set free from the kingdom of darkness by the love of Jesus.”
Judge Strong stood up and pointed a finger at me. Her judicial mask slipped off her face, revealing her inner feelings.
“Mr. Matthews, you have no right to impose your self-righteous religious beliefs on our gay and lesbian communities. I will make sure your bigoted beliefs cost you dearly by setting your bail at one hundred thousand dollars and remanding you to our county jail. What do you think of that, Mr. Matthews?” she proclaimed loud enough for everyone in the building to hear her.
“I shall not pay one dime nor allow anyone to raise money to set me free nor will I eat another bite of food until I am set free from this jail. Whether I walk out the door or am carried out in a casket is up to the Lord, I shall trust Him to set me free,” I replied.
“Well, we’ll see about your so-called God and how your arrogance holds up two weeks from now at your preliminary hearing. Next case.”
My lawyer escorted me back to the small holding pen.
“Maybe you would have answered differently if I would have warned you ahead of time that Judge Strong is a lesbian and staunch leader in the LGBT movement,” he whispered.
Then, a voice cut my heart.
“Dylan, Dylan, I love you…”
I turned to see Jane waving at me. She looked great in her yellow dress, one of my favorites, but all I could do was nod my head and wonder about what she was thinking.
(Continued in Part 6…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.)