Cal Pen Code § 207. Kidnapping defined:
(a) Every person who forcibly, or by any other means of instilling fear, steals or takes, or holds, detains, or arrests any person in this state, and carries the person into another country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county, is guilty of kidnapping.
One day I was sitting in my office on a late, sunny afternoon when I received a call from a young Vietnamese man. For the sake of this story, I will call him Wayne. Wayne told me that he needed help because the sheriffs were looking for him.
Just to let you know, whenever I receive a call from someone saying that “the cops are looking for me,” it turns into a really bad guessing game with me trying to figure out why the police are hunting for somebody. Most of the time people exaggerate. Or, they assume the police are looking for them because they did something bad.
So, naturally, I asked, “Why are the sheriffs looking for you?”
“I tied my girlfriend up and put her in the trunk of my car,” he replied. “Then I drove her to my house, and I went up to my room to get a gun so I could kill myself in front of her. But she got free and ran away, and I guess that she called the sheriffs and now they are looking for me.”
This was the first time in my career I actually got a helpful answer to that question.
Just to be sure, I asked, “How do you know it’s the sheriffs and not some other police agency?” Wayne said the sheriffs had visited his uncle and gave him their card in case the uncle saw Wayne.
After we spoke for a couple of minutes, I figured out that there was no way a 19-year-old kid could afford to hire me. However, since the day that I sat in my criminal procedure class in law school, one fact was tattooed on my brain.
“Everybody knows if the police have to come and get you, they’re bringin’ an ass kickin’ with them.” -Chris Rock – How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police
If the police are going to commit misconduct and hurt or kill a suspect, the best time for that to happen is when the suspect is being arrested. I have handled numerous police misconduct cases where officers shot suspects, committed illegal arrests, used excessive force, and conspired with private citizens to commit false arrests. Given my experience, I found myself in a moral dilemma.
Wayne hadn’t really thought things through enough to know he needed a lawyer – and needed one badly. He just wanted me to tell him what he should tell the cops about why he kidnapped his girlfriend – probably ex-girlfriend now. He was desperate and on his way to making a huge mistake.
However, Wayne still had the right under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remain silent and not incriminate himself.
So, I called the uncle for some follow-up questions, Wayne’s uncle told me that the sheriff’s deputies had come back again to ask about Wayne. The uncle had told the Sheriffs that Wayne wasn’t there but gave Wayne their card so he could call them.
For those of you who don’t know me, the best and worst thing about me is I can’t avoid making someone else’s problem my problem.
Wayne’s problem was now my problem.
I was pretty sure the sheriff’s deputies would not see Wayne’s behavior as a selfless act of love. I was betting that they were thinking more along the lines of a botched murder-suicide. And, worst of all, they knew he had a gun.
My mind was already anticipating the worst.
Headline: “ARMED SUSPECT SHOT AND KILLED BY ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES WHILE RESISTING ARREST!”
Now, my biggest worry was that the sheriffs would find Wayne before he had a chance to turn himself in. Yes, it may surprise you, but I wanted him to place himself in custody. Otherwise, his life was in serious danger.
The best way to prevent a specific act of police violence is to keep everybody honest. That is why I always tell investigating officers that they don’t have to hunt my client down and arrest him. If they show me an arrest warrant, then I will arrange to hand my client over to the police myself. Nobody gets hurt that way, and my client can start the process of defending himself with his dignity intact instead of his ribs broken or his skull blown out by a bullet.
But I digress.
I told Wayne I was very afraid for his safety and that I thought it would be best if he let me help him surrender to the sheriff’s deputies. He agreed and accepted my help.
I gave him my address and told him to come over ASAP. After I was sure that he was nearly at my office, I called the sheriff’s deputy, whose name was on the card, and informed him that I had Wayne at my office and wanted to peacefully surrender him so that nobody got hurt. The deputy sounded skeptical, but he agreed.
Here Is Where The Story Starts To Get Weird.
Another one of Wayne’s uncles called me and told me that Wayne wanted Uncle Number Two to be at my office when the deputies arrived. I wasn’t thrilled but I was now committed. The deputies were on their way, and I had to make sure that Wayne was handed over safely. So, I agreed.
A few minutes later, Wayne and his uncle arrived. The uncle was there to take over and demanded to know what was going to happen next.
Just when it looked things were going to get messy, I remembered that my assistant was on her way back to the office after some errands. I called her and told her what was happening and said that she shouldn’t come back because things could be potentially dangerous. Instead of taking my advice, she insisted that she was coming back to the office because it “sounded exciting.”
Uncle Number Two was not calming down, and I finally had to tell him to stop talking and not interfere.
The Story Zooms Right Past Weird And Enters Surreal
Within a few minutes, at least 15 of Wayne’s other relatives that I didn’t know started walking into my office. One of my new visitors was carrying a large to-go container of seafood alfredo from a nearby restaurant. “Alfredo Guy” invited himself into my conference room and handed the food to Wayne.
Wayne nodded his head, opened the container, and quietly ate his pasta when I got a call from the lead sheriff’s deputy to tell me they had arrived. The deputies parked their cars on the street in front of my office, and I went down to bring them up.
I met the deputies downstairs and walked them up to the second floor. As we walked down the hall, I tried to explain that they were walking into a pretty tight space because of all the sudden guests, but the deputy waved me off like I was a moron.
Now it’s about 5:30 in the afternoon, and I was already regretting my good deed. I was used to taking a coffee break in the afternoon and treating myself to a pastry and some alone time. Now, instead of a relaxing pastry and coffee, I had a conference room filled with 16 self-entitled strangers, 3 cops with smug attitudes, my assistant, and 1 would-be kidnapper/suicide victim.
When I followed the cops into my office, I literally had to squeeze by all of the relatives so I could get to Wayne and tell him to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Luckily, he did exactly what I told him to do. The cops then told him to go ahead and finish his food.
So, there we all were, about 23 people watching Wayne eat seafood alfredo.
Suddenly, Wayne’s mother, a slender middle-aged lady, walked through the crowd and looked down at Wayne and his pasta and yelled, “I can’t believe you did this over a girl.”
Wayne said, “I know, mom.”
I felt like someone had just shot me with a taser. I threw my right arm down straight at Wayne, pointed my index finger at his head, and yelled, “Remain silent!”
I took his mother into my private office and told her that she had just done what the cops couldn’t legally do now that I had Wayne take the 5th. Mom got her son to confess to a crime. I didn’t know why, but she seemed totally unfazed.
Wayne finished his food, and the cops told everyone to back out of the conference room. They put Wayne in cuffs, and I walked next to Wayne as they led him out to the car. I reminded him to remain silent. His mom, however, walked up to the lead deputy and promptly hugged him and thanked him for helping her get through the last two days. Did I just get ambushed? By now, I was too shocked to be shocked. I headed back up to my office.
The next morning, Wayne’s mom called me to ask what my fee would be to represent Wayne. I quoted a figure. She told me that was too much and hung up.
Whatever happened to Wayne? I never followed up. I had done my good deed and was looking forward to my coffee and pastry.