Your honor, I plead no contest to the charge. I admit to carrying an open container in a brown bag. It was seven in the evening. I’d taken one sip when six officers in a van stopped me two blocks from my home, asked for an ID and issued the summons that’s brought me before your court. I didn’t at all mind the chuckle from the three sitting in back when I stated my disbelief that a date before a judge was in my future. I deserved it. No doubt. It’s a quality of life matter, one said. Of course I am aware of Mayor Guiliani’s policy. I should have known better, not opened the bottle of Brooklyn Lager in the bodega and instead waited until I was in my kitchen. Sure the $75 fine would be better spent on something else: books, dinner. But you do the crime, you get caught, you deserve to pay the fine. Please put my check to a cause that will improve this great city a little more.

Your honor, before I go I’d like to say a few words if you’ll allow. Thanks so much for giving me this moment. I see there are many more here that need to come before you, so I’ll be brief. Your honor, it’s evident I’m middle aged, five foot eight, a hundred forty pounds, graying hair. I try to beat back the inexorable impact time has on flesh by staying in shape. When the incident I’m guilty of happened I was walking home from the Y after running six miles on the treadmill. I made a stop at The Garden and bought the two bags of food I was carrying when the officer in the passenger’s seat asked me to come to the van. He was respectful. He called me mister. Though by then I wished I’d stopped at five miles. But I stayed on the machine to sweat off a few more fat cells. When it was over I was thirsty. I went for water. At the fountain someone was in line behind me and I didn’t want to take a lot of time quenching my own need. She also wanted to drink. I should have gone back when she finished. But I went straight to my sweats, put them on and left, my body still desiring fluid.

Your honor, the rest you know about. I bought a beer at a bodega, the cap on the bottle met the opener by the door, I sipped as I was walking home…

Your honor, I’m glad to be able to come clean and say my action on that fateful day disrupted the quality of life in Brooklyn. Now, thanks to the Mayor and his subordinates, it’s all going swell in New York. There are no more unregistered guns or dangerous drugs. No more illegal dumping, needy homeless people, or unsafe buildings. Subways are clean. Classrooms without disruption. Senior citizens no longer the vulnerable targets of corrupt scams. It’s safe to go out at any hour. To cross avenues when the walk light changes without fear of being run down. To feel we’re a society of laws administered to everyone no matter who they are and what areas of the city they live in. Tax paying citizens should feel secure knowing these six officers were doing their job when their eyes fell on me and my bagged bottle of beer.

Your honor, my appearance in your court proves the life around us is better. Much better. I vow not to break the law again. Ever.

Thank you.

– complaint copied from an old notebook


– more recently I was fined $180 for proceeding through a red light on my bike at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning when there was no traffic approaching in either direction, except for the police car coming up behind me