A Free Man in Ronkonkoma

The call came in while I was having a beer at the Brickhouse in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., a restaurant attached to the Holiday Inn near the Long Island-Islip airport. A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled I can stay out on bail while my 2006 conviction is appealed.

When I woke up this morning, I saw this item on LA Observed. Then I knew for sure it wasn’t just a jet lag dream. As Kevin puts it, my co-defendant and I can “stay home.”

As I’ve learned over the past few months, getting bail was by no means a certainty. The burden of proof was on me to demonstrate that my appeal had merit. But the appellate panel found that my appeal

raises a ‘substantial question’ of law or fact that is likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, or a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, on all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed.

I’m here in Long Island on business.  It hasn’t really sunk in. This is my first really good legal news since I wandered into this labyrinth nearly three years ago. After a period like that, you start to doubt your grasp of reality. It was exquisite to be able to tell my wife, my son, and my parents what had happened. The waiting has been driving all of us bats. (Except my son, who has been steadfast in his belief that I will eventually win this case. He kept promising me he is psychic, that he knew. Score one for Vinny.)

When I get back to California, I’ll have a lot of celebrating to do.

Obviously, this is not the end of anything. There is still an appeal to win, and despite the extremely encouraging language of the panel’s decision, it does not guarantee the outcome. The appeal process will continue for a year, maybe two. The prosecutors and FBI worked hard on this…accomplishment?…I’m sure that’s what they’d call it…so they’re not about to give up. They’ll fight very hard to protect what they won in district court last year. They fought hard to make sure I would serve all of my sentence before the appeal was decided, which would have rendered the practical effect of a successful appeal moot. (Think about that.)

Okay, time to go to work. A nice normal day awaits. A long meeting here, then a flight to Baltimore; dinner tonight and meetings there tomorrow; a little afternoon time exploring that city, which I’ve never seen; then a long flight home. Where I get to stay, at least for awhile, and according to my allegedly psychic son, a long while. Ah, freedom.

10 thoughts on “A Free Man in Ronkonkoma

  1. Go, John.

    I read your post here in Paris (one of our generation who will get the “free man” reference) and sailed a huzzah! over the Seine.

    You would have loved last night here. Four hundred plein air musical performers all over the city, which, in our neighborhood, meant a rock band every half-block. Even the high school brass bands were playing great Dixieland.

    We’ll celebrate more when we’re both back in L.A.

  2. Pingback: Pineda Consulting » Blog Archive » Villaraigosa, Zahniser and the LA Times

  3. Thanks to everyone. I’m just back from my trip–a five hour flight on a plane full of 8th-graders–but I wanted to make sure to express my gratitude for all these comments. Will have more to say soon.

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