A Criminal Defense Lawyer Gets Mugged

by Jamison Koehler on May 3, 2016

View from Park AvenueI am hit so hard that my boot flies off as I fall backward. The boot slides across the bricks out onto the street. Our dog scampers after it.  She thinks we are playing.

I should have seen the three young people – two males and a female – standing on the corner in the dark waiting for me.  But I am lost in my thoughts, and they are upon me before I can do anything.  Damn, I think.  I can’t believe this is happening.

Wayne my investigator has told me I should carry a single $20 bill in my pocket.  You hand this to them, he explained, and send them on their way.  I am already regretting that I did not take his advice.

I stay on the ground.  They calm down as soon as it becomes apparent that I am not going to put up a struggle.  It is like putting your hands in plain sight on the steering wheel when pulled over by the police.  The adrenaline is already leaving our bodies.  The dog uses this opportunity to sniff around.

I have represented so many juveniles in crimes exactly like this one that I feel as if I know these kids. Tough talk. A burst of violence. And some swagger. Deep down, however, most of them are really sweet, vulnerable children.

The tall one, the one who hit me, leans in over me. Give it up, bitch, he says.  Resigned, I take out my wallet and open it up, showing him that I am handing him all the cash.  I don’t want to replace the credit cards.  I don’t want to spend another day at the DMV.  He pockets the cash and starts to leave. Then the other male steps up. And the phone, he says.

I collect myself as soon as they run off. A neighbor walking his dog comes over to make sure I am okay. There is swelling on my face, and my body will be sore for a couple of days.  But the only real damage is to my dignity.

Back at the house, using my wife’s phone to call 911, I pick my words carefully. How many times have I replayed one of these calls as a criminal defense attorney looking for any hesitation, any inconsistencies, any weaknesses in the government’s case?

My neighbors are upset when they learn that neither I nor the police used the GPS on my I-Phone to track my assailants’ movements while they were still in the neighborhood.  At the same time, I know this case will never go to trial.  If I have ever questioned the accuracy of eyewitness identifications from a professional standpoint, I now know it from first-hand experience.  There is no way I could ever identify any of the young people who assaulted me.  The police officers who interview me seem to understand this. Cross-racial identifications are particularly problematic.

I am walking the dog again the next morning when I run into our neighbor from a couple of doors down. She has read about the assault on the neighborhood listserv. She uses the GPS location on my stolen phone to track its location.  It is now moving back and forth at an intersection in Baltimore County about 10 miles away. She also hails down a passing police officer and, when he refuses to do anything about it, contacts our recently re-elected councilman to urge action.

A group of three juveniles with the same gender mix have been involved in all sorts of mischief recently in our neighborhood. So I understand the need for police intervention. We need to protect our home values and our safety. I also admire my neighbor’s faith in the criminal justice system. But I know better. Even if the Baltimore City police were able to coordinate with the Baltimore County police and track down whoever is now in possession of my stolen I-Phone, without an identification from me, the most anyone could ever be charged with is the criminal offense of receiving stolen property. The chances are also pretty good that my phone is now in the hands of a third party.

My neighbor continues to track my I-Phone for the rest of the day. The signal goes silent at around 3:00 pm.  She picks up the signal again at around 3:30 and is pleased to see the phone heading down I-83 toward our neighborhood.  Aha, she thinks.  Now we got you. Then she realizes the person she is now tracking is me.

Having spent a couple of hours at the Apple store in Towson, I am happy to have my new I-phone. I am moving on. If there is one thing I have learned from this experience, it is to listen to Wayne. The next time I walk our dog at night, I will stay in open, well-lit areas. I will keep my wits about that me.  That is the cost of living in a city like Baltimore.  I will also carry a single $20 bill.  I will hand it to them.  I will send them on their way.

17 Comments on “A Criminal Defense Lawyer Gets Mugged

  1. Powerful stuff. I suppose there is some value in learning about mugging in real life. Thank you for your insight. I hope you never have this opportunity again!

  2. Hello Kristi!

    Good experience, absolutely. The other thing I wish I could experience is the humiliation of being arrested. It would be very helpful to me professionally if I could understand what my clients have gone through.

  3. Being arrested? I dunno, I think the experience depends on what you’re charged with. I’m in civil practice. One of my most valuable yet most unpleasant experiences was being a named defendant in civil lawsuit. It’s quite different when you’re on the receiving end! But it does help me understand and explain the realities of discovery, depositions and the like to my clients. And I know the frustration of watching my attorneys settle the case when in truth, there was no basis for the original claims.

  4. This is absolutely infuriating. Sorry this happened. Hope the knuckleheads are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  5. James! Yes, knuckleheads is the exact right word.

  6. Ouch! Innercity living at its best. I would just carry two $5. Save yourself $10.

    Hope I never get in that situation.

    Jim Barr

  7. So glad to hear you weren’t seriously hurt but you have really got to stop getting mugged! Isn’t this the second time?

  8. Hi Uncle Jamie! I’m sorry this happened! Thanks for writing about it. I hope all is well otherwise. Love to you and Aunt Susan.

  9. Very sorry to hear this Jamie! Grateful that you are ok and that they didn’t take this further. I wish they were caught because if not, they will probably continue crimes like this if not worse!!

    Liz Bikakis

  10. Jeff Gamso: Thank you for the link. I remember reading that blog entry when it first came out. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of what the victims of some of our clients may feel. For example, my investigator and I may have been a tad dismissive recently over what we believed was a particularly long victim’s impact statement.

    Jim Barr: I don’t remember you having any problems when you were at our house, right? As it is, without a more detailed ID from me, every citizen in Baltimore is now a suspect.

    McPan: How can I not love a person who can remember blog entries written over three years ago? Yes, the first time I was the victim of an attempted robbery in D.C. I had more time to prepare myself in that instance. The boys ran off after I gave them a good scolding.

    Geneva and Liz: Thank you for your expressions of concern!

    RTC: Yes, I am in fact a nimrod.

  11. Experience teacheth us
    That resolution ‘s a sole help at need:
    And this, my lord, our honour teacheth us,
    That we be bold in every enterprise:
    Then since there is no way, but fight or die,
    Be resolute, my lord, for victory.

    -Shakespeare; Locrine, Act III, Scene II

  12. I am so sorry you got mugged – that really sucks. Are you sure you couldn’t identify them with a little help and feedback? J/k.

  13. Noah: Yes, yes. I remember it all now. It is the photo you have your thumb on.

  14. how about defend yourself with a handgun?

  15. Maybe if they get caught you could defend them pro bono,,, lol, u are a fool, be willing to protect yourself and property instead of learning how to be a good victim.

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