Sunday, October 13, 2013

BUS STORY # 362 (Nolle Prosequi)

Call Gene. by busboy4
Call Gene., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

Four of us are waiting for the Juan Tabo. It is scheduled to arrive at 12:41, but it is now one o’clock and the bus hasn’t come, and there is nothing in sight when we look south at the top of the rise where the street crosses over I-40. I’ve been here since around 12:25, so I know it didn’t come early.

One of the would-be riders goes over to the schedule posted in the shelter.

“Twelve forty-one it was supposed to be here.”

He has a foreign accent. He turns and walks to the curb and looks south.

“How can people work like this?” he asks.

I think “Polish,” but it’s not. Not quite. It’s even further away from Czech. Definitely not German. Russian?

He’s short and stout, with short blond hair where it’s not covered by a black baseball cap. He’s wearing jeans and a black leather vest over a gray T-shirt. Late 40s, maybe. It's hard to tell.

The other two people remain passive, non-committal, looking at the sidewalk. But I am looking at him, and he sees that, and he comes over to where I am standing.

He makes his case against the bus system: Our bus was supposed to be here at 12:41. It is now after one o’clock. The next bus isn’t until 2:05. What happens to people who have to get to work on time? What kind of bus system in a city this size runs only once an hour? Why don’t they make a bus system people can use and can count on? We’re not a poor country. Countries much poorer than we are do so much better. Where are we spending our money instead?

He isn’t ranting, exactly. At least not like a born-and-raised-here American like so many of my fellow riders rant. I can hear the stream of expletives now... No question: my co-rider here hasn’t fully assimilated.

I think he must be from somewhere in Europe where he’s experienced the kind of convenient and dependable public transportation we hear about on this side of the Atlantic. I ask him if he’s gonna be late for work.

No, he isn’t, but if he were going to work now, he would.

There is a pause.

He hasn’t worked in two years now. He can’t get a job.

I ask what he does.

He’s a medical technician. He has a bachelors of science and he can’t get a job.

I ask him what exactly it is he does, or used to do.

He looks at me and tells me he is the guy behind the doctors who take care of the patients. It’s harder than nursing. Nurses just follow orders, just do what they’re told. Anybody can do that. But he has to process the tests that tell the doctors what to tell the nurses to do so the patients get the right treatment.

I’m amused by the grandiosity of his explanation, but then he adds, in a quiet, wistful voice, “I was really good at what I did.” He is looking away from me when he says this.

He goes on to say he won an award for his skill in 2010. Now he can’t even get a job as a janitor. And worse: it’s been so long he is no longer confident of his skills. And who knows what has changed now.

I ask him what happened.

He was accused of a crime, “a felony.” It went before the grand jury who dropped the charges. He says that here in New Mexico, there is nothing about his being convicted of a felony on his record. However, there is a record of his being charged with committing a felony, and that does not go away when the grand jury dismisses the case.

He says that when he applies for work, people see he was charged with committing a felony, and that is the end of that. He’s been without work for two years now.

I ask if he’s seen a lawyer.

Sure he has. For five thousand dollars, the lawyer explained the grand jury dismissal was “nolle prosequi” and cannot be removed from his record.

He does not explain “nolle prosequi,” and I am going to have to wait until I get home to my computer to find out what it is. But what I do notice is that he never denies he did anything, just reiterates the grand jury “dropped the charges.” At one time, I think he almost tells me what the charge was. But he catches himself, and says in its place, a “serious” felony.

I can’t help thinking if he’s from eastern Europe, he might be old enough to have known life on the other side of the Berlin Wall. And that makes me wonder if he is wondering how this has happened to him here, of all places, instead of in his homeland when things like this could happen to someone like him.

The bus finally arrives. The other two people who had been waiting with us are gone. I didn’t see them leave. My new co-rider boards the bus and asks the driver what happened. She tells him the bus broke down. He turns around to look at me and just laughs.

Hours later, back at home, I google “nolle prosequi.” According to, “nolle prosequi” is “Latin for 'we shall no longer prosecute,' which is a declaration made to the judge by a prosecutor in a criminal case... either before or during trial, meaning the case against the defendant is being dropped. The statement is an admission that the charges cannot be proved, that evidence has demonstrated either innocence or a fatal flaw in the prosecution's claim or the district attorney has become convinced the accused is innocent. Understandably, usage of the phrase is rare.”

Two other sites (the 'Lectric Law Library and Wikipedia) add that a nolle prosequi is not an acquittal. This, I conclude, is why the matter is still on his record.

Maybe he committed a serious felony and has gotten away with it -- assuming being rendered unemployable and without income is “getting away with it.” And maybe that’s why he’s subdued, not ranting, when he tells me all this. Another sign of his not being fully assimilated...

But I can’t help wondering: What if he had been wrongly accused?

It all seems a bit Kafkaesque, and I wonder: If he’s actually experienced life in totalitarian eastern Europe, maybe the reason he’s so subdued is because it feels a little nostalgic, as if he’s not really run away from home after all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really interesting story, thanks.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you.

6:02 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home