It's over! It's over! It's OVERRRR!!! After 6 months of dealing with this bullshit, I can FINALLY put it all behind me.
I was literally shaking and crying FROM.MY.SOUL. on Tuesday when I found out I was being subpoenaed ... so the fact that he ACTUALLY accepted the plea is the most INSANE thing ever.
Hold on ... need a song ...
On Thursday January 26, 2012 at around 6pm I left the house to get a "nerd cup" and printed playbills for our first live show which was going to be held the following evening. (Our next stage show is August 3rd!!!!) I hopped on the bus and headed over to Kinkos first, followed by a walk to Ross for the cup, hoping to end up at Meltdown Comics at 8 for a storytelling show of theirs that I was curious to see.
Got to print out the playbills ... no problem.
Then walked to Ross (which is a solid 15 min walk) ... no problem.
Got the nerd cup at Ross ... no problem.
I was then walking back from Ross en route to Meltdown at 7:30 and as I got to Poinsettia and Sunset (across from Rock and Roll Ralphs) - I passed a guy that I could barely see, and then a nanosecond later I felt my own brain hit my skull and suddenly instead of walking forward like my brain and body thought I was doing I involuntarily began crashing towards the ground.
I don't know how long I was on the ground for, or how I even ended up there in the first place. The next thing I knew I could feel someone grab the back of my hoodie and pull me up. As my body was again involuntarily being moved, my producer brain kicked in and I realized holy shit something happened. I then grab with my left hand the playbills and the Star Wars nerd cup tumbler with my right hand. I didn't know where I was going or where I was being dragged to, but I KNEW I needed those two items for our stage show - so I'd have to figure the rest out later.
I then get pulled inside a hair salon and I am COMPLETELY disoriented.
Let's get him - I hear vaguely from some of the people in the salon.
I then begin crying wondering what happened and why I am here.
I try to talk, but realize I can't.
I call my friend only able to get out the word "Ralphs" (as I could see clear as day the sign for Ralphs from where I was seated in the salon).
My friend arrives moments later as I sit in the salon chair confused.
I reach over to feel my headphones (which are Beats By Dre, and STILL on my head - how was this NOT a robbery!!) and as I placed my hand to my head I see blood.
I then look in the mirror and see all the blood matting my hair.
This is not good ... this is not good ... this is not good ...
The police arrive moments later and to my surprise I was able to give them my name and address. I was COMPLETELY shocked I knew that, btw. I had no idea what day it was, where I was going - I only knew to call my friend because it was saved in my smartphone and two quick clicks. Absolutely EVERYTHING was confusing me.
I am then told to go to the hospital to which my friend drives. As I get in her jeep I am SILENT as I stare down at twitter and notice the avatars talking back to me.
Everything had this .... movement to it ... and everything felt like a really surreal dream.
Scared that I might even be dead and this is what this "new reality" is like - I decided to stay quiet. I knew that I was hurt but I had no idea what happened, why, or anything in between.
I turned off twitter, but by the time we got to the hospital - I checked in on Foursquare indicating to my twitter friends that something really bad had happened.
I knew in my SOUL that I needed to stay conscious and while I couldn't tell if my twitter feed was ACTUALLY talking back to me - I knew that it was a valuable tool right now and I needed to utilize it to document as much of my experience as possible for later examination.
I was then taken immediately into the ER where I laid down on a bed. I then called my parents realizing I needed to tell them what happened and not let it be found out via my twitter and Facebook updates.
My parents were both sleeping at the time, but obviously incredibly shocked. I explained to them in a very calm manner that I was being taken care of, but that I needed to let them know what was happening in case they were checking my social sites.
I'll be okay, I kept reassuring them. I'm not at all sure what happened, but I know I'll be okay.
I stayed in the hospital for over an hour. I was given three shots and four staples to my head. I was then instructed that I could go home but that I needed to be woken up every few hours to make sure I was ok.
Not a problem.
I then got home and my roomie (who had heard what had happened) made sure to keep an eye on me all throughout the night, followed by a series of calls from my parents in the early morning (they are on east coast time).
When I got up the next morning, I had HANDS DOWN the worst headache of my life. My body was still charged with adrenaline so I quickly checked out the YouTube video I had made before I went to bed to double check if I was slurring or incoherent.
We then successfully put on our first stage show, and I was COMPLETELY humbled and overjoyed with all of the love you guys showed for us.
Even taking those first few steps outside on Friday was SO DIFFICULT but having something so positive to focus on DEFINITELY got me through it.
The next few weeks were EXTREMELY shaky. I had MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR mood swings, I would sleep for literally days at a time. I could barely write, barely work, barely breathe. I didn't want to leave the house, I didn't want to see people - I just wanted to stay in my little room.
I missed my family, and while I KNEW I wasn't going to change my lifestyle (this could not have been more random - it was ABSOLUTELY not indicative of needing a lifestyle change) - I wasn't sure how to actually move on from something like this.
Then, on February 14th (Valentines day), I was called into court for the first hearing. At this point he had been in custody since the night of the incident but the DA needed to prove to the judge that they had enough to keep him, and that The People had enough evidence to go through with the trial.
I didn't speak to the DA, I only let the bailiff know that I was present as a witness.
My case is then called right before lunch, and the SEECCOOONNDDDD they brought my attacker in I started crying.
These aren't even like normal tears either - these are the ones that come STRAIGHT from your soul and have that involuntary gut shaking as you take in each breath. I was ABSOLUTELY hysterical, but little did I know the worst hadn't even begun.
A few minutes after he arrives and gets seated, the DA indicates to the judge that there is a witness present.
I would like to call Jennifer Friel to the stand, she replies.
I then look over at the Victim's advocate (who was seated next to me) COMPLETELY shocked.
TESTIFY?!?!! I think. TESTIFY>!>>!>!>!>!!>>!! I haven't even talked ot this woman, WHAT THE FUCK!!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!!?
I then stand up in my slightly short skirt, and fix my hoodie as I walk up to the stand attempting to make myself more presentable.
I then testified for about 20 minutes (read more here) and afterwards I was a total wreck. I've said this before, I'll say it again, having to testify in court is HANDS DOWN the worst part of being a victim. You not only have to be so vulnerable on an emotional and physical level recounting ALLLLLLLLLL of the details of the attack, but you then get cross examined and everything you KNOW to be your truth is then ripped apart. It's stressful, nerve wracking, and HANDS DOWN the worst life experience I have ever had. I'd rather get hit in the head 100 more times than EVVEERRRR have to testify.
It took literally an entire month for my concussion to clear up, but as the winter became spring everything about my old life started to come back.
I talked to the DA's office every few weeks inquiring about the case, and making sure I sent them all of my medical bills. (I was covered by the state's victim program for up to 65K of my medical expenses.)
Other than that, everything else was pretty kosher ... until this Tuesday.
I had been SUPER busy all day so I hadn't checked my phone, but right before trivia as I was kicking it with my buddy Amanda - I noticed that I had a voicemail notification. It was from an unknown number, but I figured I'd take a listen either way.
I press play ...
Hi Jennifer, this is XXX with the DA's office. I was calling to check in on the status of your subpoena can you please give me a call back at XXX-XXX-XXXX.
The SEEEECOOOONNNNDDDDD I heard the message I started crying.
No! I screamed.
I can't testify again. I can't do it!!!!!!! This is my WORST nightmare!!! And what I've been PRAYING to not happen for the last 6 months.
I put on a brave face while we played trivia, but by the time I got home I couldn't help but just sob sob and sob. It was so loud actually that some of the peeps that were crashing on the couch came and asked if I was okay.
I can't hold this in anymore, I thought as I opened my bedroom door. I then sobbed in my buddy John's arms as I said over and over that I wouldn't wish this life experience on any of them.
Yes, this is telling a great story for the website, I said, but people don't understand that this is MY REAL LIFE and I DON'T WANT TO FUCKING DO THIS - I sobbed hysterically.
I then cried myself to sleep and at 9 am yesterday morning, I got a call from the DA's office.
Did you get the subpoena, he asked?
No, I said. When did you guys send it?
Last week, he said. And someone came to your door Friday.
Friday? I was at Comic Con, I said. (This story only gets nerdier by the SECOND.)
When is the court date?
It's today, he said. It started at 8:30, are you not there?
CLEARLY, I thought!!!!!
I need the address, I'll leave now, I say RUSHING out of bed. Please tell the victim's advocate that I am on my way and ask them if they can hold our proceedings.
Thankfully, because John was crashing on the couch (if peeps drink while playing trivia with us, we ask them not to drive home), I asked him if I could grab a ride over to court on his way out of town.
Sure he said, gathering his things.
We then popped on over in his mini-cooper and FLLLLYYYY over to the courthouse. I was dressed rather inappropriately still in my Nike+, soccer shorts, and bright yellow hoodie - but my attire had to be placed aside. I wasn't going to let this guy get off on some technicality because I wasn't there, NOR did I even want to be placed in contempt because I failed to show up for a subpoena.
I then sat in court talking to the DA who informed me when I first got there that they were trying to get him on a plea.
We've got him down to 19 years she said. (He was initially going to get 25-life for my attack.) We think he is going to accept the plea today.
The second she told me the sentence I started sobbing. I couldn't BELIEVE he was going to get that much time ... wow.
I then sat in court all morning seeing case after case of mentally ill people who were using drugs to self medicate. They had committed robberies, assaults, anything they had to do to keep their addiction alive - but you could clearly see that it was from needing to self medicate. They were all "off" for lack of a better word. I INSTANTLY felt so compassionate for all of them. Having suffered myself with anxiety and depression, it would have been EXTREMELY easy for me to have gone down that path as well.
I then thought about my attacker who was also CLEARLY mentally disabled. He's been in and our of jail since 1984 (the year I was born). This guy clearly doesn't know how to have a healthy relationship after being in and out of jail for most of his life. Does he even have a family? Did he ever? I'm not at ALL any better than him, I just made different life choices and had a more socially acceptable disability that I was SO fortunately able to overcome.
Gratitude then struck me from head to toe. Here I am with an AMAZING family, friends, and even a whole community cheering me on while I'm sitting here in court ... these people have no one. They were no doubt dealt shitty decks as a kid via a chemical imbalance and with a series of small choices in an effort to self medicate, they ended up with a life of crime. No kid is born wanting to be an addict or wanting to be a criminal. Where did all of this go awry, I wondered?
The court was then sent into recess for lunch, and the DA offered to take me to lunch.
Are you sure, I asked?
Absolutely!! She said. You've been sitting here all morning, it's the least I could do.
I then went to CPK with her and her colleague and I got an inside scoop on the legal system. They not only prepped me for everything that was going to go down in the afternoon, but we talked about sex crimes and their lives as DAs.
When my daughter is going out on a date I make sure I get the guy's first and last name along with his date of birth.
With Facebook now, all we really need is their first and last name the other DA chuckled.
I laughed to myself thinking having a corporate lawyer as a father was bad (he used to threaten that he would offer all the guys that wanted to date me a glass of water when they were over at the house so he could get their DNA), but having a DA for a mother and access to the databases that they have access to ... WHEW! Did I get off easy!!!
We then went back to the courthouse, and the DA took me under her wing for the day. I got to shadow her all around and the entire experience was reminiscent of the "bring your daughter to work days" I went to with my dad growing up.
I was having a truly lovely day, which considering the circumstances surprised me greatly.
At 3:30 we were called back to court, and my attacker entered in shackles.
I had prepared myself for crying upon seeing him, so I made sure to sit in the back.
As he entered the court room instead of crying, I just started praying. This man is pushing 60 and he's about to get sentenced to 19 years. If he survives state prison, he will be a very old man when he gets out.
I expressed gratitude to the universe for the plea, for not having to testify, and for him FINALLY admitting guilt - but then I immediately went back to praying for him. May he live out his days in a safe manner, I kept saying over and over. He's not well, but may he finally receive the medication he needs, I kept chanting to myself.
I do not wish you ill, I kept thinking. Please be well, be well, be well.
He never made eye contact with me, and the process lasted over a half an hour. They have to go through line by line everything he is agreeing to.
He admitted the guilt, he acknowledged that should he get convicted of ANYTHING in the future he will be immediately sentenced to life as this is his third strike.
Over and over and over he kept saying, yes, as the DA made sure he understood what he was agreeing to and that he was of sound mind at the time.
He then waived his right to be present at all future hearings (I still have to go in and seek restitution for the state and the medical bills they covered.).
The bailiff then went to collect my attacker, and as I saw him go off into the holding cell I realized it was all over.
Done, I thought.
While I did have to spend all day in court, I didn't have to testify. This is all finally over.
The DA approached me asking how I felt.
Great, I said. I smiled when I heard him say that he was guilty, but otherwise, I felt genuinely so sorry for the guy. Where does one's life go so wrong that being in prison is all you have? He's been in and out of jail for literally my entire life.
I know, she said. We grapple with this everyday and if I think about it for too long it upsets me. He's going to get the help he needs, and that's about all we can do.
We then walked to the elevator and as she pushed up, I pushed down.
Would you like a ride back? she offered.
What? I said?! Genuinely shocked. As if her generosity of hosting me all day and even taking me to lunch wasn't nice enough.
Sure, she said. You live right by me - you shouldn't have to take the bus after what you went through today.
ANNNNNDDD just like that ... I got a ride home in the DA's corvette.
In the end, I can't say I'm grateful for this life experience - but I can say that I can literally feel the compassion pouring from my heart even in writing this. There really is no "justice" in life. I still suffered tremendous emotional, and physical pain - but punishing this man isn't really going to take any of that away. He's a very ill man who will now be very old when he sees the light of day. May we all take this experience and appreciate our own freedom both on a physical and psychological level. I can't imagine what the voices in his head tell him to do, I am just grateful he is finally getting the help he needs.
Be well dude. Be really really well.
(Thanks again so so much everyone for all the support yesterday while in court. I ABSOLUTELY would not have been able to do that without you guys. thank you thank you thank you!!)