Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
When I was in sixth grade, I was chosen to be the defense attorney for a classmate. Evelyn was accused of passing an answer to a test question to a fellow student during an exam. She was accused of cheating.
Evelyn was a great student, and she had never been accused of cheating before, but her accuser was none other than the principal of the school, Dr. Gil Beltrán.
As it were, Dr. Beltrán had seen Evelyn pass the note to her friend when, while performing his routine rounds, he glanced through one of the door windows behind the class and saw the allegedly illegal act take place. Upon seeing the exchange of information, Dr. Beltrán opened the back door of the class, signaled to the receiving student to hand over whatever paper Evelyn had just handed him, and opened it.
You could hear a pin drop as Dr. Beltrán stared down at Evelyn and signaled for her to go to his office.
Evelyn cried for hours after that prompting the rest of us to protest about the unfairness of the treatment to which Evelyn was being subjected.
At some point, and I am foggy on the details, Dr. Beltrán offered our class a compromise. We would have a trial, one with witnesses, lawyers, and a judge; the whole deal. I think Dr. Beltrán (may he rest in peace) concluded this would be a great opportunity for us kids to engage in experiential learning. Of course, Evelyn was the defendant, and I was chosen by the principal himself to be her attorney. And to serve as my co-counsel, the principal chose Dagoberto, my best friend in the world.
But the principal also picked himself to serve as the judge, and the trial would take place in his office; in a week.
Dago and I zealously worked to get Evelyn off. First, we learned that what Evelyn had handed to her friend, was not an answer to the test, but a question about what they were going to do after school.
Unfortunately, the principal, Dr. Beltrán, had since thrown away the piece of paper, but we had both the defendant and the recipient attest that the note was not an answer to the test, but a question about after-school plans.
And in a great development for the defense, we were also able to procure the teacher as a witness who was willing to testify that not only did she not see Evelyn pass any piece of paper that day, but that Evelyn was a young lady of impeccable character and would be the last student the teacher would have expected to engage in cheating.
Overall, Dago and I were feeling pretty good about our case. At best, we might be able to get Evelyn off altogether. At worst, she would be found guilty of a lesser offense such as disruptive class behavior. But at least we would save her from a cheating conviction; a felony offense by grade-school standards.
Despite our success at building the case, I recall the many hours Dago and I spent in our late-night, land-line conversations preoccupied with one little point: the accuser was also the judge.
I remember Dago and I worry that we would not be able to bring Dr. Beltrán to the stand because a) he was the principal; and b) he was the judge.
How do you get the judge to serve as a witness? Dago and I asked ourselves.
For the answer to this question, Dago and I would need a classmate's parent who was also an attorney! But try as we did, we couldn't find one.
Our school, La Lúz School, was a small private, Cuban immigrant school where the Cuban National Anthem was played immediately following the American National Anthem every morning while we stood in ranks with our hands on our hearts and where the Cuban flag proudly waived next to the Stars and Stripes.
At that time, most Cubans had not had the time in country to become members of the learned professions.
So, into trial at the principal's office we went with the whole class as our audience.
I'll never forget it! I thought our team performed marvelously. We laid out the facts of the case by calling our witnesses to the stand and having each tell his or her story. We were able to ascertain that the note was not an answer to a test question, that Evelyn had impeccable character, and that no one, except the accuser, ever saw her even pass the paper; a paper no one could produce!
Even still, we lost the case.
Why? Because the judge, who was also the accuser and who was not called to the stand said he knew what he saw, and that Evelyn was guilty.
I can still remember Evelyn tearfully thanking me for helping, but I also remember my disappointment at not being able to get her off.
It wouldn't be until years later, during a high school civics class, that I learned that the judge could not be a witness or a party to the case!!
OMG!!! HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO STUPID??!!!
I needed to move that the judge recuse himself because he was the witness AND the accuser!
To this day, I still beat myself up about that one, my only criminal defense case.
So first, my fondest apologies to Evelyn, if she should read this. In my ignorance, I let you down. I will never let that happen again.
Second, to the reason I'm sharing this story with you. Because it was the first thing that came to mind when I heard of the shenanigans that took place yesterday at General Michael Flynn's Sentencing Hearing.
Let me be clear. I believe that General Flynn lied to the FBI and in so doing broke the law. I also believe he was set up to lie by a manipulative, vindictive, and agenda-driven FBI bent on entrapping the General. What's more, I believe the investigators in this case were the primary reason General Flynn was without an attorney at their meeting of January 24, 2017, and to allow the FBI to get away with that level of disrespect to a defendant's rights is repulsive.
But yesterday, a new offense arose. Yesterday, we learned for the first time, that Judge Emmet Sullivan, the judge assigned to the Flynn case, is horribly and irreparably biased against Flynn, and we know this from the judge's very words.
During the hearing, Judge Sullivan is quoted as saying to General Flynn, "I am not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense." At one point, the judge went on to state that General Flynn, a 33 year Army veteran of war and peace, had betrayed his country and asked whether General Flynn could be accused of treason.
A crime so egregious, so vile, and so disgusting to the Framers that it stands as the only one mentioned by name in the Constitution of the United States and punishable by hanging!! The same crime for which Jane Fonda was not accused when she pranced around in her short shorts in front of the Viet Cong.
This is what Judge Sullivan thinks of General Flynn! I notice that Judge Sullivan never served in our nation's military. Never saw bullets flying nearby while wearing a helmet and shrapnel vest, and never spent months overseas away from his family not knowing if he would ever get back home because he might say hello to an enemy bullet first.
With all due respect to the judge, I will put one year of General Flynn's service to this great country against the judge's whole career any day and easily come out winning.
Admittedly, the judge corrected himself and apologized for his remarks, to which I will respond in kind. I apologize for those last two paragraphs and strike them from the record.
But regardless of how I feel about this case, we still have a very significant problem. We still have a judge who is disgusted by the defendant and holds disdain for him to the point where he would consider employing the word treason around this fallen American hero.
It's like having Dr. Belrtrán try a case all over again, except this time, although I am not General Flynn's attorney, I know better.
Judge Sullivan recuse yourself from this case!
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
Dr. Gonzalez is an orthopedic surgeon and lawyer serving as State Representative for South Sarasota County in Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages