I did not find the court room presence of the Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson to be much to write home about. He has a baritone voice that should sound like Joshua's trumpet throughout the land but he mumbled and slurped in a most disconcerting way when he addressed the jury in his protracted and monotonous opening statement. His facts are going to have to be damning to secure a conviction because he won't do it on charm and personality alone.
The defense attorney is a fascinating case unto herself. Catherine Vogel claims almost three decades of experience in the court room and it showed as soon as she stood up to address the jury. She has command presence despite resembling a disheveled Julia Child, and she's the one I'd like to be able to afford to defend me when (or if) I get into trouble. She looked and sounded completely at home in her brief and informative opening statement. She is going to defend Randy, she said, based on the fact there was no intent to commit a felony. My wife the former public defender thought Vogel was going to go with reasonable doubt as a defense. "Interesting," she said when I told her what Vogel's strategy was going to be. Through it all sat Randy, the man I associate with being in charge when he came around my wife's classroom or appeared at any of numerous fund raisers around town. Here he is just a pawn as the lawyers do battle in front of him. Vogel did say she would call him as a witness, later. He put me in mind of the joke one hears around Key West, where dress codes are almost non existent.
Q: "what do you call a guy in a suit?"
A: "The defendant."
Like any good scandal and the trial it engenders, this affair has lots of subtleties most observers don't care to observe. Vogel used to be the top Assistant State Attorney in the ancien regime of Mark Kohl. She either resigned in disgust, in the middle of the parking lot or was simply pushed out depending on who's story you prefer. So she's back in court with a vengeance here to whup Wilson's, and by extension his boss's ass. They don't look whupped- yet.
The prosecution's "star witness" according to Vogel is Kathy Reitzel the District's Finance Director who was the first person to note and report discrepancies in purchase card accounts from Superintendent Acevedo's wife Monique. Unaccountably the School Board is looking to get rid of her despite her whistle blowing, and some say it's because she only reported the fraud after last year's election, as though she delayed it as a deliberate political ploy to support Randy's re-election. A weird notion but as I know Kathy personally it's easy for me to support her as the upright and honest person I know her to be. None of this has been very easy for her.Her testimony yesterday morning was technical in nature, explaining to the prosecution how she noted some discrepancies amid myriad pieces of paper that came through her office. I had been working Tuesday night, the prosecutor was barely audible at the back of the court room and I eventually had to go home and take a nap. I left Kathy on the stand, sitting like a child surrounded by ogres in lawyerly garb:From time to time the lawyers turned from the witness to the judge to argue a point of law and when they went into a huddle it was a good time to sneak out and breathe the fresh air of freedom: Judge Jones has come under fire in the anonymous comments section of the newspaper. He expressed a hope publicly that both sides might reach agreement and settle out of court, which in the ears of some of the more rabid/cynical member of the public sounded like a judge throwing in the towel. As though he didn't have the stomach to see Randy go down, and was somehow secretly favoring the defendant. Such is the paranoia engendered by this trial. I can't imagine sitting up there, listening to endless hours of talk and then getting an earful in the paper on top of all that, and not being in a position to answer back.
Comparing him to the first African American President could have been some sort of a compliment, but it didn't sound like it. It's certainly not the tag that comes into my mind when looking at a picture of a 19th century black judge. From then till now Monroe County seems to have managed not to repeat the experiment and I saw only one African American clerk in the court, two or three jurors ( I couldn't see the jury very clearly) and there was not one black face among the public. Make of that what you will.