My son, Jacob, is incarcerated in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting sentencing on October 8, 2015. Can you imagine how hard these words are for me to say, even in writing? They do not slide onto the page easily. This simple agonizing statement of fact is the reason I started to write this blog. I wanted to write about my experiences dealing with the police, the courts and now the jail in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I wanted to write about how we felt as the events unfolded and led to Jacob’s current incarceration.
On September 12, 2014 my then-27-year-old son was arrested and charged with sex crimes involving a soon-to-be ex-family member. The charges were corruption of minors, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault. Charges full of emotion and shame. Such accusations and charges make you feel dirty and want to hide. But none of us could hide from this. We must face it head on. People may not believe in Jacob’s innocence—guilty until proven innocent. People may have seen his photo on television and commented that he looked guilty; he looked like someone who would do such heinous things. He was not prepared for that mugshot. He was in his own house playing a video game online with a friend when the knock came at his door. He was wearing an old t-shirt. He had not showered or combed his hair or shaved. He did not expect to be on television. He did not expect such betrayal.
I was on the treadmill when I got a short, cryptic text from Jacob, “police by coop”. What did that mean? I texted back and called… no answer. I walked over to the garage to show my husband, Roy. We were expecting bad things. Why? Because just a few days prior to this text, my son and his wife sat in their living room with her mother and I discussing the problems in their marriage. She and her mother told us she would move out on October 1 but stay in the house until her apartment was ready. She had been telling Jacob all summer that she was leaving and had been looking at apartments. Yet mid-summer she invited her friend to move in without consulting Jacob. This friend had been living in their house for weeks. Now I wonder what Jacob’s wife had really been planning. I had long told my friends the break-up of my son’s marriage would be ugly. I was afraid of this woman, my son’s wife. She was histrionic, melodramatic. My daughter called her a drama queen. She pouted one evening when I visited without Roy. I cajoled her into a better mood so we could have a nice dinner. I walked on eggshells around her always trying to avoid doing something that would come back on Jacob because of something I had said or done. I found out later from texts and Jacob that I had not been successful at that effort. I had displeased her several times. Why did I let this selfish, spoiled woman have this effect on me? I have no answer to that – cowardice, a desire to get along, fear of losing my son to her. I know now I should have let her have it; I should have told her what I thought of her. I should have been afraid not only of her, but her entire family.
My husband asked if I wanted to go to Swissvale to see what was going on. We live 45 minutes away, but there was no answer on Jacob’s phone. We got in the truck and drove to Swissvale. Jacob’s car sat in the driveway; but no one was home, and the door was locked. My daughter-in-law and her car were not there either. I tried the security code for the garage door with no luck. We tried calling his cell phone as we jiggled the doorknobs, eventually setting off the burglar alarm. I wonder why we did not call his wife’s cell phone. Would she have answered our call? I think not. Soon a Swissvale policeman pulled into the driveway. We explained that our son was not home, and we were worried. We told him that Roy’s name was also on the deed to this house. I read the text I had received from Jacob to the officer. He said that meant the police station near the East End Co-op. His face revealed that he knew more than he said. At a later time he would try to elicit something from us using this ‘help’ he had given us. He thought this tiny bit of information he had given us deserved something in return.
We drove to the Allegheny County Police station on Lexington Street. The guard at the gatehouse did not have Jacob’s name on any documents which now seems odd that no record of his entry into this building was recorded. Perhaps there was a record but not one to be shared with parents. We described him, although even that was difficult suddenly. The guard said someone in a t-shirt and scruffy beard had come in and went back out in handcuffs. Those words choke me up. I did not see my son in handcuffs then, but I did see him later in handcuffs. The guard gave us this vague information, and we cannot be sure she is talking about Jacob. We did not know where to turn or who to call. We did not know the procedures for arrests. We had never been in trouble; Jacob had never been in trouble. We did not know the charges. Roy decided to call Jacob’s mother-in-law. I believed she was a reasonable person, and she was the person in charge of the family. We believed this arrest was something between Jacob and his wife, her daughter. I did not want to call this marriage family, but we had no other options. Roy asked if she knew where Jacob was. She sighed I think, as if she did not want to say these words to us (Ha!). She said I guess something happened at the house with …… (the accuser). She said Jacob’s wife was with her. We hung up and returned to Jacob’s house, but we could not get in. We wanted to take two of the three cats home with us, so we called the mother-in-law again to get the garage door opener. She told us to meet her son at the Swissvale Police station. She did not offer to deliver the opener to Jacob’s house only a few blocks away from the Swissvale Police. Were they afraid or ashamed to face us? What had they done to our son? We met Jacob’s brother-in-law outside the Swissvale Police station. After giving Roy the opener, the brother-in-law skulked away down the street looking over his shoulder as we followed him in the truck looking for a place to turn around.
We returned to Jacob’s house to collect the cats. As we got out of the truck, Roy got a blocked phone call. It was Jacob’s father-in-law on the line. This was a man who distanced himself from family matters showing up only on select occasions. This was a man who went to the garage to get away from guests and family. This was a man who had never visited his daughter and son-in-law at the house they had lived in for a year and a half. This was a man though who had warned Roy about his daughter’s difficult personality. Now he told Roy he had always liked us. I did not believe that because I had always felt his dislike for me. I had felt his arrogance towards me on at least two occasions. He did however like Roy. What was it about Roy that he liked? Both men are similar height and build. Both men are shaved bald. Could it be things as superficial as that? Roy is a carpenter, quite skilled with his hands. He lives to hunt with his dogs. He loves the outdoors and can be quite candid to the point of rudeness. Are those the attributes he likes about Roy?
The father-in-law told us that on four occasions Jacob had touched this accuser inappropriately. Roy said, “If this is true, it is a terrible thing; and if it is a lie, then this will ruin a young man’s life.” The father-in-law responded and said that this accuser had no reason to lie. He added that the police had a way of questioning to get the truth. I have heard that phrase ‘no reason to lie’ over and over again in my life. That is opinion, not fact. The fact is that people lie every day when they seem to have no apparent reason to lie. People lie about big things, and they lie about little things. People tell lies that hurt no one, and people tell lies that hurt and destroy people. When we tell this story, people usually ask that question; “Why would this person lie?” It is impossible for me to answer that question. We theorize based on what we know of this accuser’s life and this family. We theorize based on psychology. We theorize that this was not a deliberate and malicious lie. We theorize that this was a delusion or was a dream. We theorize that these accusations came from improper questioning. According to witnesses statements and police statements, days passed between the disclosure made to the mother and family and the statement to the police. These are theories, and we do not know the answer. Then there was the statement by Jacob’s father-in-law about the abilities of the police to get the truth. I have read online that Jacob’s father-in-law had or does have a relationship as a chaplain to the Allegheny County Police. He supports them, and perhaps they support him. The police do not have any special powers in divining the truth. They needed to arrest someone, and they did. We have learned that the truth sometimes does not play a big part in police or court procedures. They heard the truth from Jacob when he told them he did not do these things, yet they arrested and charged him without witnesses, proof, or forensic evidence. His life changed forever that day. Finally, Jacob’s father-in-law tells us if we want to know more we can call the accuser’s mother. Why would we talk to that woman before we talked to our own son? What does she know of the truth? Fortunately, we did not take his advice. We would no doubt have been charged with harassment for that contact with this family.
We returned to the house and collected Spike and Vicious, the most recent cat adoptions. We collected all the things we needed and left. The third cat, Lucky, was left for Jacob’s wife. She had adopted that cat from a friend and planned to take the cat when she moved. Lucky was on her list of possessions to take. We went home to wait for news, for a call, for something. We did not know what else to do but wait. It is a Friday night, and we are naïve.