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Robert Gardner

THE VERDICT --

February 01, 2000

There was once a wealthy lady who lived down on the end of the peninsula.

She was a pillar of the community, except for one unfortunate trait: she

was a periodic drunk, and a noisy one.

Mrs. Smith, as I will call her, would get on the bottle and simply raise

hell to the point that the police would be called. When they arrived, she

carefully stayed on her property and abused the cops something terrible.

At that time, she was immune from police arrest as long as she was on her

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own property. Finally, the City Council had to pass an ordinance

providing that if a person was on his or her property, he or she could

raise all the hell he or she wanted -- unless "it was to the disturbance

or annoyance of others." Then the cops could go on said private property

and arrest him or her.

And so, that was that.

Mrs. Smith got drunk and began raising so much hell that the neighbors

complained. This time, instead of standing in the street and taking

verbal abuse, the cops picked up Mrs. Smith and brought her to the city

jail on Court Street right next to McFadden Place, the big parking place

in the middle of the street at the end of the Newport Pier.

It was Mrs. Smith's first experience with the jail. She didn't enjoy it,

as we soon discovered. When one is booked into jail, the authorities take

from you anything of value. This is to prevent future complaints that you

lost something in jail for which the city is liable.

In the city jail, there was a room with a counter upon which all such

valuables were taken from the prisoners and put in a little envelopes,

pending the prisoner's release.

As I say, Mrs. Smith was in the bucks. Maybe not as much as that Indian

prince whose poor subjects had to bring enough gold and other valuable

items to balance his weight every year. He finally put on so much weight

that his subjects rebelled, but I digress.

Several of us stood around as Mrs. Smith put her jewelry on the counter.

It took quite awhile. Then Mrs. Smith, with no warning whatsoever,

grabbed all that jewelry and threw it through the door. Mrs. Smith had

quite an arm. At the end of her swing, we could hear diamonds clattering

down as far away as McFadden Place.

The chief of police was called and he got out of bed to supervise the

recovery of the jewelry. Every officer was called in to handle this

emergency. You could have robbed the bank or stolen the ferry, and there

would have been no police response.

There was a little patch of sand right in front of the station. We went

through every grain of sand, bringing up some nice diamonds. Others were

on their hands and knees with flashlights, scanning every inch of Court

Street, the vacant lot next to the police station and McFadden Square.

All this time, Mrs. Smith is handing out some pretty profane language to

all the officers.

We finally got everything in neat little envelopes for Mrs. Smith to

sign, which she refused to do. Finally, when she continued to refuse, we

decided to book her.

Mrs. Lace lived across the vacant lot from the Police Department. She was

our matron, as it were. Mrs. Lace was called. She escorted Mrs. Smith,

who was pouring out even more profanity toward the Police Department, to

the room at the back of the jail. From there we heard a loud whack, and

then nothing more until the next morning, when a very subdued Mrs. Smith

signed on for her jewelry.

After her night in jail, we never saw her again.

* ROBERT GARDNER is a Corona del Mar resident and former judge. His

column runs Tuesdays.

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