Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Trial of the Ornithologist-Arms Dealer of Goroka (part 2)

The Trial of the Ornithologist-Arms Dealer of Goroka
by A. Mack (& F. Kafka)

Part 2 of 3.

One day I finally hit the jackpot.  Jeffrey was there.

By now I was not sure these guys would help me sort this out.

Jeffrey told me he had to report my ammunition to the Police and District Attorney.  I told him the Police were in fact helping me prepare the paperwork and that since the ammo was still in his storage, it was not technically imported.

"Oh no, he said.  The police took the ammunition.  It is evidence.  They have it in their storage." 

I wasn't going to be able to nip this one in the bud.  Things were quickly moving beyond my limited sphere of influence.

The paperwork was such that I had to enter a plea, guilty or not guilty, and if I did the later, a date for a hearing would be set.  I was going to need a lawyer, of which there are a fair number in Goroka.   Many are in plywood cubicle offices with "broken phones" and AWOL receptionists.   I asked around and just about everyone told me something different

"go with Praknet and Wingnut."

"Whatever you do, don't use Praknet and Wingnut."

"My cousin works for Griznit and Smith, I'll ask her..... She says Griznet and Smith aren't actually lawyers...."

Eventually I found a guy two people had recommended and no one had said to avoid. 

I carefully wrote out the entire scenario and copied all my documents, my customs declaration, etc. and gave it to my lawyer,  Jacob Dimhuh.  He said his job would be to compile the information into a brief that would be presented to the judge in order to determine if we would need to go to a trial.  I was still optimistic that a cogent explanation to the judge, a rational thinker who understood the law, would result with the charges being dismissed.

By now a few months had already elapsed.   The wheels of justice turn slowly in PNG, if they do indeed turn.  Jacob was going to file the brief on my behalf.  I said I wanted to review it to make sure it was OK.

"Really?  That is rather unusual, I'm the lawyer and you probably won't understand."
"Well, I just want to know what is going on, so please let me see before you file anything."

"It's your money, sure."

I got the document a couple weeks later.  There were grammatical errors and misspellings in just about every sentence.  I counted. A fifth grader could have written this.

I waded in with my red pen and started fixing wrong verb tenses and introduced the author to the concept of a comma.  I wasn't feeling good about this and as I read on it became clear the author, my lawyer, had not really read any of the documentation I had given him.

By the third page it was explaining why I brought the ammunition and guns into PNG.

Guns??!  There were never any guns.  My own lawyer was adding serious charges rather than dismissing trivial ones.

I called Dimhuh and told him he was off the case.  He did not seem surprised.  I got the feeling most his clients fired him.

Back to the search for a lawyer.  Mimi said there was a young guy in town who had been at university with her and that he was pretty smart.  Jeremiah Wissus, but everyone called him Bernie.

Smart.  Smart is good.  I went to meet Bernie and liked him.  There was someone at home, and the lights were on.  Dimhuh had the look of a catatonic on heroin.

Bernie prepared the paperwork.  When I reviewed it I found it to be a pretty concise and cogent summary of the chain of events.  He cited various statutes and clauses.  Unfortunately nowhere in any legal regulations was there any description of how to import ammunition legally.  But since it was confiscated, that seemed to be enough to deem my particular activities illegal.

Some months later the decision came back and we would have to go to trial.
Now I was really getting stewed.  As a US Citizen in PNG, a conviction like this might be sufficient to have my visa revoked.  I could be banned from the country.  All my efforts of about 15 years could be cut short.  The program I had built, the research stations, the mentoring program, the half dozen support staff....  I could be forced to leave it instantly if a trial ruled against me.

Bernie was not particularly concerned, but like a good lawyer, did not put any probabilities on the outcome.  He said "you never know, you get a bad judge, or he doesn't like your looks..."  his voice trailing off.

PNG has its share of bureaucrats, police, and politicians who had reason to be pissed at Australians.  They'd been mistreated in some way...  A lot of Queenslanders, especially, are a bit racist in their former colony.  They were all white.  I am white.  It was not that uncommon for PNGeans to dismiss me for my skin color and only later come to realize I wasn't like the Aussie bastards that had called them stupid wogs.  So far all that had happened was this whole mess seemed to get worse and worse.

1 comment: