Friday, April 28, 2006


Yesterday morning at the federal courthouse, I encountered an elderly couple. They got on the elevator at the same time as I did. They were probably in their mid-70s and impeccably dressed. He was in a old but well cared for, three piece suit. She was wearing a dress and a hat. They looked as if they were going to church on Easter Sunday 1955. He held her elbow as he escorted her. They both just exuded an utterly natural mannerliness that you don’t see anymore. It made me think of and miss my own grandmother, long deceased, for the first time in too long.

I pushed a button, but they looked confused. I asked them if they needed help finding something. They said they needed to find the courtroom, that their grandson had a court appearance. There are courtrooms on many floors of the building, so I invited them to step off while I looked up the case for them. A receptionist handed me the court schedule and after a few moments I found the hearing.

It was not going to be a happy event. The schedule said that it was a criminal sentencing. The prosecutor listed has a caseload of 100 percent serious drugs and guns cases. They’ll be seeing the grandson in an orange jumpsuit, laceless shoes, and chains, and they won’t be allowed to talk to or touch him. And it was before a judge not especially known for his leniency.

I told them where to go, and they thanked me, said goodbye, and walked slowly off to the elevator again, his hand still at her elbow.

I later heard that the sentencing was continued for some reason, so the grandparents will be making one more trip to the courthouse. According to the case paperwork, the grandson is 27 years old. He was selling crack while carrying a 9 mm handgun. He had at least two prior state felony convictions, the latter for selling crack just a couple of years ago. It's all so backwards. The natural order is for grandkids to bring joy into their granparents' lives.

He’s about to find out about that federal sentences can be a whole different ball game. When he gets out of prison, he’ll be in his late-30s. (That's if he’s lucky. Depending on his criminal history, it could be much worse.) I hope the Bureau of Prisons designates him somewhere close, maybe to the nearest federal penitentiary, 140 miles away. Otherwise that sweet old couple is never going to see him again.


That is the story of our lives here in North Minneapolis. All around, good folks, hard working homeowners. Then come the gangbanging nephews, the drug addict grandkids etc. from the broken homes. Who do they end up with? Good old reliable auntie or grandma and grandpa. Pretty soon their well kept home is the site of numerous police calls or in the case of last week, arson.

By Blogger Margaret, at 11:01 AM  

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