New Year's Day, 2012:
As I face the judge, I am heartened by the 'leniency' he'd shown to Josh. I fully expect to be fined and sternly rebuked by the judge and then released back to my parents who watch anxiously from the public gallery of the court-room.
All I want is to put my foolish New Year prank behind me and to move on from here – much chastened by infinitely wiser.
The judge peers at me over the top of his glasses as he loudly calls out my name to gain my attention.
"Matthew Driscoll. It pains me to see a young man of your standing appearing before me charged with such a serious breach of public order."
Suddenly, the judge's words and the way he delivers them warn me that all is not going well for me. I feel a chill sweep over my body and I begin to tremble. My knees sag and I feel that I am about to collapse. Desperately, I grab hold of the dock rail and hold on with white knuckled determination.
"You stand in the dock with your friend Joshua Macklin and both of you have been charged with two most serious offences. I have already delivered my judgement of the defendant, Joshua Macklin and believe me when I say that I derived no pleasure from doing so. His offence was of such a nature that required a harsh penalty. And your offence is no less so. In fact, you are guilty of the type of reprehensible behaviour that can't be tolerated in our society and left unpunished. Quite deliberately, you chose to act in a lewd and obscene manner in that you bared your buttocks in a public place. What prompted you to act so foolishly is immaterial. Whether it was alcohol-fuelled or simply a response to a stupid challenge doesn't concern me. What matters is that you did so. Our society demands modesty from its citizens. It requires that young men remain chaste and its young women stay virtuous. The exposure of so intimate a part of your body flouts these most basic tenets of our community's standards, Therefore, I find you guilty of the most vile and lascivious behaviour. But before I pass judgment on you, I must be absolutely certain of your guilt. You will therefore remove yourself from the dock and stand before me facing the public gallery. There, you will remove all your clothing and present your back to me so that I can judge beyond a shadow of a doubt that the buttocks in the picture presented to this court do in fact, match your own. STEP DOWN!"
Even though the judge's words don't immediately register with me, I hear the audible gasp of surprise from the spectators and I hear a strangled sob – I think from my mother. But in my dazed state I can't be sure that it came from her.
Uncomprehending, I stand in the dock and hear the judge's instruction to his bailiff.
"Bailiff! Remove the defendant from the dock and if necessary help him disrobe."
I offer no resistance as the bailiff takes hold of me and leads me from the dock to a spot immediately in front of the judge's bench. He places his hands on my shoulders and turns me so that I am facing towards the public with my back to the judge.
I see my parents' anguish as my father enfolds my mother in an embrace of support and once more my tears flow for them. I have brought so much shame and pain to them and the knowledge that I, their only child, could do this to them wounds me deeply.
By comparison, I see the relieved expressions on the faces of Mr and Mrs Macklin that their son has been treated leniently. And is it my imagination but have they moved apart from my parents in an attempt to distance them from what is to follow? Is their friendship that fickle?
The atmosphere is electric in anticipation of my very public humiliation. Bewildered – and unbelieving – I stand motionless and I don't see the bailiff looking up to the judge for guidance. Nor do I see the judge nod his head but I am aware of the bailiff grabbing hold of my shirt and roughly pulling it up over my head exposing my naked, upper body to view. Quietly and efficiently he unbuttons my trousers and allows them to fall in a crumpled heap around my ankles. Then, in one swift movement he tugs my underpants down over my legs to join my trousers at my ankles.
My re-action is immediate and involuntary. Modestly, I cup my cock and balls in my hands in an attempt to cover my nakedness.
But the judge isn't finished with me and he orders me to step out of my crumpled trousers and underpants. When I have done so, he instructs the bailiff to take charge of my wrist watch and any other personal items. I wait as my watch – a present from my parents on my very recent eighteenth birthday – is removed from my wrist and placed with my clothing now nicely folded and in a neat heap on the bailiff's table.
Next, the judge tells to remove my shoes and socks – the only items of clothing I'm still wearing. To do so means I must uncover myself and use my hands. Quickly, I work out how best to do this. If I bend at the waist then my ass is on full view to the judge and even that most private and intimate part of my body will be opened to his gaze. But if I squat, I can maintain a small degree of dignity. True my ass will still be on show – but less so than if I bend at the waist – and my upper body, bent forward as I untie and remove my shoes and socks, will partly obscure my genitals. I go with the second option.
It is ironic; last night, I had no sense of modesty as I bared my all out of the car window. This morning, I am very conscious of my public nakedness and my shame scorches my body and reddens my face. Within seconds, I am as naked as the day I was born.
The bailiff orders me to my feet and once more I'm made to face the public. Shamefaced, I once more use my cupped hands to cover my cock and balls; as I do so I see my parents avert their eyes from my direction. I know they do this out of their love for me and to save me embarrassment. The same can't be said of the other spectators. I hear their scornful sniggering as the crane forward for a better look at me.
"Stand up straight with your feet together and place your hands on top of your head."
The tone of the judge's words leave me in no doubt that I must obey. Hastily, I assume the position he demanded of me and wait.
Time hangs ominously over me as I wait on the judge. With my back to him, I can't see what he's doing. If I could do so, I would see that alternatively he studies the photo used as evidence against me before peering intently over the top of his rimless glasses at my naked back. He is taking his time and the court waits on him with baited breath. Suddenly, the uncertainty gets the better of me and I begin to tremble. My body is chilled by a cold sweat and my bladder and bowels turn to water. My need to piss overwhelms me and I fight the desire to do so with every fibre of my being. I won't disgrace myself or my parents.
Silence reigns in the courtroom and in the background I hear the loud ticking of a clock counting out the seconds and minutes as we wait on the judge. To my fevered mind each tick is laden with doom. What is to happen to me? Desperately, I hope for the court's mercy.
Surely, the judge has punished me enough by publicly humiliating me in his court. Hopefully, he did this as a salutary lesson to me – and if that was his intention - then he has been successful. My remorse is boundless. Perhaps he'll impose a heavy fine just as he did with Josh and let me leave the court with my parents.
Suddenly, the judge is ready to give his findings and his words are delivered with magisterial precision.
"In my mind, there is no doubt whatsoever that the subject matter in the photograph tendered by the prosecuting police officer as evidence is a true portrayal of the defendant, Matthew Driscoll. Therefore, I find the prosecution's case proved and I find the defendant guilty."
The judge calls for silence as the courtroom erupts into a buzz of conversation. Once order has been restored he turns his attention to my friend Josh.
"Joshua Macklin, I dismiss and you are free to leave the court."
Josh moves quickly out of the dock and into the care of his waiting parents. Without a backward glance Josh and his parents hurry from the courtroom. Suddenly, without Josh's presence, I feel very alone and vulnerable.
"Matthew Driscoll, you have been found guilty of violating a Law of Morality. Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence on you?"
What can I say other that I regret my actions and apologise for them.
"Your Honour! I'm truly sorry for my offensive actions. I really am sorry and I apologise to you, this court, and the officers who arrested me and to the community at large. I apologise to my parents who I have let down very badly." I turn to face my parents and tearfully tell them. "I'm sorry Dad! I'm so sorry Mom! Please forgive me? I have learned my lesson and I will never; never do anything like this again. I promise."
"Your remorse does you credit, young man and I don't doubt that you are sorry for your foolish escapade. But that doesn't in anyway mitigate your guilt. You knew the laws concerning immoral behaviour. Yet, you deliberately chose to ignore those rules and flout convention. You are a corrupting influence in our godly society and in that society there is no place for you. I am about to remove you from the society that you held in contempt and deliver you to a place where perhaps you can consider your foolishness and contribute something back to the society whose laws you so flagrantly disregarded. And you are right when you say that you will never repeat them. The sentence I am about to give you will ensure that you will never do so. It is the maximum that the law allows for your crime. It is harsh – but necessarily so – and it gives me no pleasure in applying it to you. But the law is there to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. I have adjudged you guilty and so I must punish you to the fullest extent of the law."
My heart sinks and I know that I am in trouble. I just know the judge is to send me to prison. There is no doubt in my mind that I am to serve a custodial sentence. The question is for what duration. Will it be three months or six months? I must now wait for the judge to tell me.
"Your Honour! May I speak?"
"And you are?"
"Driscoll, Your Honour! William Driscoll. I am Matthew's father and I ask that you let me speak on his behalf."
"Usually, I don't allow such interruptions to my court's proceedings. But in this instance I'm inclined to let you speak. After all, I am a father of three teenaged boys and my sympathies are with you Mr Driscoll. Although, I should warn you, I'm not of a mind to be persuaded from my findings. But courtesy dictates that I at least listen to what you have to say."
"Thank you, Your Honour! Matthew is guilty of the offence with which he's been charged. We can't dispute that but could I just say that his actions are completely out of character. Matthew is a good boy. Civil and courteous to everyone with whom he comes into contact. I'm sure his teachers and the Minister of our church would vouch for that. He is conscientious and hardworking at school and he's due to start an IT course at university in a few weeks' time. I ask that Your Honour consider these things in deciding Matthew's punishment. Please Your Honour, Matthew is our only child and I throw myself on the mercy of the court and ask that Mathew be punished but not excessively so. A prison term would jeopardise his tertiary studies and ruin his life."
"Mr Driscoll, you argue eloquently on your son's behalf and it does you credit as a father. And it pains me that you have had to do this. But please bear in mind that my options are limited. Your son is guilty of a serious offence and the law dictates that he must be punished. I am merely the instrument of the law and it is my sorrowful duty to deliver judgement on a young man who evidently comes from a good home and loving parents. But let me put your mind at rest. I'm not about to send Matthew to prison."
My heart skips a beat and I am relieved that I'm not being sent to prison. I have read - and heard – many salacious stories of what happens to young first time offenders sent to jail. I am to be spared these horrors. For that I am grateful and all that now remains is for the judge to set my fine and allow me to dress and go home. No matter how large the fine, I promise myself that I will work hard to repay my father. As soon as the New Year's holiday is over, I will look for a part time job.
"Mathew Driscoll! Turn and face the bench!"
I turn and face the judge with more confidence than I'd felt just a few minutes ago. No doubt he'll sternly rebuke me – as he'd done with Josh – set the amount of my fine and dismiss me from his court free to return home with my parents. I know that when we do arrive home that my father will soundly chew my ass. But I don't care as my stupidity warrants his anger. I will take whatever punishment he decides upon. Whatever it is it will be well deserved. And I have learned my lesson.
"Matthew Driscoll, I have listened to your father's heartfelt plea that I treat you leniently. However it is my judgement that you are no longer fit to live in our society and should be removed from the company of decent, law abiding people. Therefore, I bestow upon you the maximum sentence that the law allows for your abominable crime. I hereby sentence you to lifelong servitude as an indentured servant. You will be taken from this court and conveyed to the court appointed dealership where you will be processed into slavery and sold at the next available auction. The clothing and other personal items you wore to the court are forfeited and will be donated to a charity for the poor and destitute. This case is now closed. Bailiff, take the prisoner to the holding cells to await transfer to .... Bailiff, who are the current court appointed agents?"
"Michelson and Hansen, Your Honour. They have the contract to process and sell all court sentenced slaves."
"Very well bailiff. I'll leave the prisoner in your hands."
The consequence of the judgement leaves me numb and I can't comprehend it. Somewhere in the fog of my confusion, I hear my mother's anguished cry of protest.
Two of the court's security guards take hold of my arms and lead me from the court. As I am taken through the door into a passageway leading to the holding cells I turn back and see my parents perhaps for the last time. My father has been stunned into silence. Ashen-faced he holds my sobbing mother in a tight, comforting embrace.
I call out to them.... "MOM! DAD! Help me, please!"
One of the guards slaps my ass and it echoes around the now empty court-room; empty that is except for my grieving parents.
"Shut it boy!" The guard tells me. "They ain't your parents anymore. You're a slave now and slaves don't have family."
Then, as I am lead down the passage way, he condescendingly pats my ass and laughingly tells me.
"Remember boy! This is what got you into trouble last night. You hung it out of a car window for others to see. Well now, as a slave, it will be on permanent display for everyone to look at. I gotta say though it's cute and worth lookin' at."
I am paying a high price for my New Year Eve's prank!