Justin is accused of doing something he says he didn't do.
Will he be cleared, or will he be found guilty?
At six-thirty Dad texted me that he’d ordered a pizza for dinner. He asked me to listen for the doorbell when the pizza guy arrived. Yup, we were both at home, Dad in his office downstairs and me in my bedroom upstairs. He usually texts me because it’s faster and I can’t claim he never told me to do something. Anyway, I’d finished my homework except for English, so I went downstairs to the family room and started to read the short story we’d been assigned to read and then write our response; that’s sort of a critique, but focused on what I thought about the story.
When the pizza arrived I let Dad know, then opened the box and put it on the kitchen table. I re-cut the slices, put out the salad that had been included on the order, and we sat down to dinner. At first all we did was table-talk, saying things like, “Please pass the salad,” and “I’m going to put the pizza in the oven to warm it, so do you want to wait or have another piece now?” And so on.
Finally, I decided to get to the subject I wanted to discuss.
“Did you finish reading the documents about Susan Carver?”
“Yes, though I didn’t read every part of every document, especially the ones that were linked.”
“Justin, I’ve been thinking about what you said. I agree that covering up Susan Carver’s part in this and leaving you with the negative notoriety is the wrong thing to do. Unless Beth can come up with something else, I think we should press for a trial and see if the District Attorney agrees. If he doesn’t, then we should state that we’re going to file a civil suit.”
“Whoa! What’s Aunt Beth going to think about that when you tell her?”
“I don’t know. I’ll find out when I phone her.”
“Can I listen in on the call?”
“Let me talk to her privately first so I can talk with her about the documents. Then I’ll tell her I want you to join the call.”
“Okay. I’ll stay in the family room.” The family room is next to Dad’s home office, so from there I’d be able to hear him call me and jump onto the call right away.
I cleaned up the kitchen and put half of what was left of the pizza in the freezer and the rest in the refrigerator. Then I went back to the family room and picked up my tablet and reread the short story, thinking about how I’d write my response to it — it had to be turned in Monday morning before my English class. I figured out what I wanted to say in my response and made some notes.
It didn’t take too long for Dad to call me to join him in his office.
“Beth, Justin has joined us on this call. I’ve turned on the speaker.”
“Hi, Aunt Beth,” I said.
“Hi, Justin. I assume that you know that my plan for avoiding a trial has been shot down by your attorney.”
I looked at Dad and raised my eyebrows to question if what Aunt Beth said was the way I’d interpret it. He nodded a yes.
“Yes, I know that. So what’s the next step?”
“I’ll talk to Lawrence Wilde and see what he says. I’ll try to reach him now, and if he’s not available I’ll try again tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” I said. “Maybe you won’t be able to talk to him until Monday.”
“That’s a possibility, but he did say I could call him at any time. I’ll let you know if I don’t reach him tonight, and then tomorrow. After I talk to him I’ll call and we can discuss what he says.”
“Aunt Beth, I’m going to read those documents I sent you,” I said.
“I can’t prevent you from doing that. I’d really prefer if you’d wait until I’ve talked to Lawrence Wilde before you read any of them. Let’s see what concessions he’d be willing to make to avoid a trial.”
Shit! “Okay, I’m not happy about that because I’m really curious to learn what my friend found doing Google searches. But I’ll wait until you talk to him and get back to us. If we don’t hear from you by eight o’clock Monday night, I’ll start reading them then.”
“That’s acceptable. I’m going to say goodbye and try to reach Lawrence Wilde now.”
“Alright, Beth,” Dad said, “we’ll hear from you later. Goodbye.”
I went to my room and began writing my response to the short story. About an hour later, around eight-fifteen, Dad sent me a text: “I’m on the phone with Beth. Please wait in the family room for a few minutes.”
I went downstairs and waited as he talked to her, then he called out for me to join him in his office.
“Beth, Justin is here now. You’re on the speaker.”
“Justin, for your benefit I’m going to repeat what I told your dad. The Gages want to have a meeting Monday afternoon at one-thirty in the large conference room here. Here’s who will be there: Susan Carver; both Mr. and Mrs. Gage; Lisa Werth, Susan’s CPS case worker; Lawrence Wilde, Susan’s attorney; Taylor Berman, one of our staff juvenile specialists; and Roger Thomas, who’s also a staff juvenile specialist. We’d like both of you to be there as well. Can you make it?”
“I can,” Dad said. “Justin, you have school on Monday. Can you miss your afternoon classes?”
“I don’t see why not,” I said. “I don’t have any tests Monday afternoon, so I should be good to go. Aunt Beth, how long will the meeting last?”
“It should be over by three-thirty or four. I’ll give you a letter stating you were required to be at a meeting at the district attorney’s offices; you can turn it in Tuesday morning as your official excuse for leaving early.”
“Beth, please tell Justin what this meeting is about.”
“Alright. Justin, Taylor Berman and I had a telephone conference with Lawrence Wilde tonight. We told him that you have an iron-clad alibi for Saturday, October tenth, that you were in Clovis at a cross country meet, that you left school Friday morning around eleven, and that you didn’t return to Los Arcos High until about eight o’clock Saturday night.
“I emailed the birth certificate for Susan Carver to Mr. Wilde’s phone. It proves she is not related to either you, Justin, or to your dad. We did a trace and found that Susan’s grandmother is from Utah. It appears that she is not related to your family; it’s coincidental that your last names are the same. Of course, a trace is not as positive as a DNA test.
“Her birth name was Susan Malette. Susan’s mother divorced her husband when Susan was two years old, and she had Susan’s last name changed to Carver, her mother’s maiden name. Her father is French and after the divorce he moved back to France. By the way, the files that you sent me included a link to her birth certificate. Thank your friend for finding that document; it turned out to be important. CPS had said that Susan’s birth certificate couldn’t be located, so they created a replacement when Susan went into the foster system at the age of four.
“Susan’s mother was killed in an automobile accident when Susan was three years old. Susan’s only relative in the United States was her maternal grandmother who wasn’t able to take on the responsibility of a small child. So Susan became a ward of the court and was put in the foster system. She was assigned to her first foster family when she was five and the relationship appears to have been successful. However, her foster father was transferred to Australia when she was ten and she was returned to a foster facility. The Gages were qualified as a foster family and they became her foster parents.”
“Why didn’t anyone adopt her?” Dad asked.
“Her grandmother objected to the attempt of Susan’s first foster family to adopt her. So she remained a child living with a foster family.”
“Why would her grandmother object to her being adopted?” I asked.
“Her mother was and her grandmother is Mormon, and both her first foster family and the Gages are Christian. The objection was based on religion.”
“Does Susan go to Mormon church services?” I asked.
“Mrs. Gage was asked that question during her initial interview. Apparently Susan never showed an interest in going to the Mormon church, even though the Gages encouraged her to do so. The Gages go to church services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Susan goes with them.
“Mr. Wilde thanked us for the information and said it was a lucky coincidence that he was at the Gage home to talk with Susan and Mr. and Mrs. Gage this evening. He said he would tell them about your alibi, Justin, and that he would call me back.
“He did call back about a half hour later. He said that he told the Gages and Susan that Justin had been at a cross country meet in Clovis on Friday and all day Saturday, that there were over forty witnesses that you were actually there, and that Justin couldn’t have raped Susan.
“Mr. Wilde told me that Susan started to cry and confessed that she’d lied about being raped by you. She had consensual sex with her boyfriend that Saturday, October the tenth. He gave us the boy’s name but we’re not going to release it because he’s unaware of the rape allegation. He had no part in the situation with Justin that Susan had created and that spun out of control.
“Justin, your demands are accepted by Susan Carver and by the Gages. You now know why it happened. You’ll receive a letter from Susan apologizing for saying you raped her and for saying you were her brother. She will also write an essay explaining why having sex when you’re too young and then lying about it and getting an innocent boy into trouble is very easy to do and very wrong. You’ll also receive a copy of that essay. You won’t be named or otherwise identified in her essay.”
“Where does she go to high school?” I asked.
“College Park High School.”
“What about having the charges Lieutenant Gage made against me expunged?”
“Actually, since there are no charges on file there’s no record except the day log at the Shell Ridge police department. You aren’t named in the day log. The two officers who came to Los Arcos High to arrest you were given your name verbally. The day log lists that a juvenile female was raped and officers were being sent to Los Arcos High School to find and arrest a juvenile suspect. So there’s nothing to expunge.”
“How’d they find my name?”
“From the bicycle registration database. It can be searched by name, address, phone number, bicycle license number, make and model, and so on. It’s just like searching any database.”
“How’d they find out my high school?”
“That was also easy. They just checked your address against the map of county school districts and attendance areas. You can search by address and find out what public elementary, middle, and high school you’d attend. Then they were able to find you in the school’s student database.”
“Huh! I wouldn’t have thought it was so easy. So the police have access to my school’s student database?”
“Yes, just like other agencies that have been granted access, including the district attorney’s office. That’s allowed so students can be found in the case of emergencies or if they are the victim of a crime.”
“Okay. I guess the only things that aren’t being fixed are the rumors about me at Los Arcos High. I don’t see how they can be easily fixed. But they are my biggest problem right now.”
“Justin, I have an idea about how we can help resolve that problem. I talked to Principal Rodino at Los Arcos High. We’re going to put on a required assembly on what can happen to a student if someone lies about them. Your school is going to use this as a teaching moment. You won’t be named, and neither will Susan. However, we will describe how a student at Los Arcos was falsely accused of rape by a girl he didn’t know. We won’t include that she said she was your sister because you said that wasn’t included in the rumors at school. If kids ask if that was you, it’s your option whether you say yes or no.”
“That’s a no-brainer. I’ll absolutely say yes. That will clear my rep and no one will think I raped a girl. You know, you ought to give the same assembly at College Park High. Without naming any names and leaving Los Arcos High out of it.”
“That’s a good idea, Justin,” Dad said.
“I agree. After we do the assembly at Los Arcos High I’ll talk to the principal of College Park High and see if we can schedule it there as well.”
“Cool. So, why do we need the Monday afternoon meeting if everything is being taken care of?” I asked.
“That’s because Susan Carver wants to apologize to you, and Mrs. Gage and Lieutenant Gage want to apologize to you as well. They want to do it in person. Also, we will have them make statements and sign them so they can be put on file and given to Mr. Wilde as Susan’s attorney and your Dad as your attorney.”
“Wow, I’ll actually get to meet Susan Carver in person. Okay. I’m good for Monday. Let’s do it!”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Justin Carver
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