"Please rise for the honorable Judge Sanford Cohen."
Entering the courtroom early Friday morning, Sandy couldn't help but glower at the two young adults sitting across from him at the defendants table. Normally, he didn't take cases before noon. Normally, his secretary didn't call him and get him up at some ungodly hour of the morning. And, normally, he didn't accept such cases, but this one had caught his fancy, so, here he was, dressed in his long black robes, and prepared to have a little fun. Although it wasn't a landmark case, he knew enough about the two defendants to know that it would certainly make the paper, and who was he to argue with a little free good press, especially on a re-election year.
Taking his seat, he smacked the gavel slightly harder than normal before ordering, "you may be seated." Without letting his amusement show, he opened the folder before him and quickly read over the few notes prepared for him. The case should be open and shut, quick and painless, but, peering out at the twenty-something man and woman before him, he had a feeling it would be anything but. Sighing, he remarked, "since you've waived your right to a trial by jury, let's move forward. In the case of the state of California vs. Atwood and Cooper, the charges being disorderly conduct and simple assault, how do you plead?"
Their answers came simultaneously, but what they said was oppositely different.
"Guilty," the known real estate developer stated quietly, appearing meek and mild before the court... quite unlike his fellow criminal.
Marissa Cooper, known in Southern California for her PR work with the rich, famous, and unlawful, tilted her chin proudly in the air, met his gaze with her own unwavering, slightly pained one, and stated, "not guilty."
Chaos immediately ensued.
"What the hell do you think you're doing," Ryan Atwood demanded to know of the woman sitting beside him. "The only thing we've agreed on since you attacked me was that we would both plead guilty, accept our punishment, and get this mess of a situation over with as quickly and as painlessly as possible."
"If you call being stuck with you in a jail cell over night painless, then you need more than a few fashion tips, asshole. You need a complete lobotomy. As for everything else you said, I object!"
"To what," Sandy found himself questioning, caught off guard by her use of the standard court terminology. "We haven't even really started yet. No evidence has been presented."
"He said that I attacked him," the blonde woman replied, glaring at her counterpart, "but his opinion is biased, and I want it struck from the record."
"There is no record; there is no stenographer. It's just you, me, Mr. Atwood, the bailiff, and all the crazy currently in the room."
"Oh, well, in that case," Marissa smiled, shrugging her shoulders in a playful manner, "I kind of just wanted to say that, you know? It must be all the Judge Judy I watched growing up. My Mom loved that show."
"I have a soft spot for it myself, Miss Cooper, but you can't go around throwing out law terms in my court without just cause, alright?"
"I'm sorry, Your Honor," she quickly apologized, even looking contrite. "I guess I just get sort of glib when I'm suffering from a hangover."
"If glib is all of a sudden a synonym for being a bitch," Ryan muttered under his breath, "then I'd believe it."
"Mr. Cohen," the public relations expert complained loudly, jumping out of her seat and, immediately, reaching up to hold and steady her obviously throbbing head. "I mean... Your Highness, Sir, or whatever the hell I'm supposed to call you, can someone please get me a couple hundred aspirin and shut him the hell up?"
Wordless, Sandy nodded towards the bailiff, granting him permission to approach the young woman and offer her the pain medication she requested. "Can we please move on now," he requested, offering both defendants a pointed stare. "I want no more sudden outbursts and no more personal attacks from either of you upon each other. This is my courtroom, and, while I'm presiding over it, you will both act with the common decency and respect I know you have hidden away somewhere underneath all your sarcasm and rudeness." Obediently, they both nodded their silent assent to his order. "Alright, as for our next point of business, I've read over the sworn reports of your arresting officers and the witnesses' statements, so I must tell you, Miss Cooper, that this is an open and shut case. You are guilty, and you both will be found guilty and punished appropriately. However, with that said, in order to weigh my opinion on what your appropriate punishment should be, I want to hear each of you give your side of the story. You will take turns, you will not interrupt each other, and, while the other is speaking, you will remain seated and silent the entire time. Do I make myself clear?"
Perfectly timed together, they replied, "yes, Your Honor."
"Very good. Mr. Atwood, if you would please go first, and, remember, even though this is not a trial by jury, you are still under oath, so behave and speak accordingly."
"But that's not fair!"
"What's not fair, Miss Cooper," Sandy asked the disapproving defendant. "Do you want Mr. Atwood to lie?"
"Well, it might help my chances of getting off easier than him if he would, but that's not what I'm objecting to." Explaining herself, she continued. "I don't think it's fair that he gets to go first. Ladies before animals, right?"
"I told him to go first because his name was alphabetically before yours, but, if you had withheld your insult, I would have considered your complaint and perhaps allowed you to have the honors, but, since you didn't, sick back, shut up, and don't annoy me any further."
"I basically told her that same thing about a dozen times last night, Your Honor," Ryan admitted, practically taunting his fellow criminal, "but she didn't listen. I just thought I should warn you."
"And I already warned you, sir, about what would happen if the two of you continued to bait each other. Now, either tell me your side of the story or sit down and shut up as well."
"Of course, Judge Cohen," the young real estate developer quickly agreed. "Anyway, so this is what happened..."
Like most American males, he enjoyed a good game of football just as much as the next guy, but he hated going to the games. He preferred to stay at home in the comfort of his own apartment, drinking his own beer without having to pay an obscene amount of money for it, and sitting back for a few hours of athletic entertainment without having to worry about the guy next to him screaming so loud he did permanent hearing damage or stepping in something unseemly with his new sneakers. However, giving him tickets to all the home San Diego Chargers games was his boss' idea of a great bonus, and, if Ryan Atwood knew anything, it was not to spit in the face of your boss' generosity. After all, that could only lead to one thing: immediate dismissal... without references.
So, here he was, over dressed, miserable, and simply waiting for the game to be over so he could go home and watch the highlights on Sports Center. Because he couldn't really hear anything at the stadium and because, as a spectator, he missed most of the calls and little adjustments by the coaches from behind the scenes, the twenty-eight year old always brought along with him his satellite radio. He could put the headphones in, listen to the game while he watched it, and, hopefully, bleed away and disappear from sight for those around him. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't.
Apparently, today was one of those latter days.
Over the years, he had found that women were the more obnoxious sports fans. They were even more vocal than men, the higher pitches of their voices didn't blend in as well with the overall chanting of the stadiums, and, inevitably, one of them always managed to sit behind him. For this particular game, the woman wasn't even a Charges fan, so he had to listen to her constantly scream at and harass those around her while she cheered, hopelessly, for the Dolphins. And he HATED the Dolphins.
Trying his best to ignore her, Ryan made sure he was facing the game and never once even asked her to lower her volume... though he desperately wanted to. She was obviously tipsy if not already drunk, and it was one thing to mess with a female football fan under normal conditions, but when she was inebriated, well, that was a whole different and completely insane idea. But the woman had other thoughts on the matter.
Catching him off guard, he felt a cup of cold ale come raining down upon him, instantly shorting out his radio and drenching him in the scent of stale beer. Rising to his feet, he turned around to confront of the woman behind him only to find her already involved in a battle of words and wills with an equally intoxicated, male Chargers fan. Too bad for her, he wasn't going to back down, and he most certainly was going to win, because he wasn't the one weaving dangerously on his feet.
"Excuse me," he yelled. When she didn't even glance in his direction, he grabbed her arm to pull her towards him, but, before Ryan could react, she spun around, raised her hand, and knocked him so hard upside the head, he lost his balance and only his seat saved him from falling flat on his ass... or into the lap of the approximately 350 pound, shirtless and hairy man beside him. In that moment, he went from pissed to livid.
"Don't touch me!"
"Well, if you wouldn't have spilled your beer on me, then I wouldn't have even dignified your annoying presence with even a look, but you did spill your beer on me, and, in doing so, you did manage to ruin my very expensive satellite radio. Now, if you don't mind, I would appreciate it if you would pay for what you broke."
"I'm not paying for anything, asshole! Who the hell brings a radio to a football game, and, seeing as how you claim that I spilled beer on you, you would be wrong. This neanderthal beside me, he spilled my beer on you, so quit barking at me and get him to pay you for it."
Squaring off with the young woman, he glowered. "It was your beer, so it'll be your money."
"Why you sexist prick," she accused him, adjusting her body to mirror his position. "Instead of going after the guilty party, you're attacking me simply because I'm a woman. Well, do you know what I have to say to that?"
Without warning, her fist connected with his face.
"The next thing I remember, Your Honor, was waking up in a jail cell. Everything that happened was because of her. I never even once laid a hand on her."
"That's complete bullshit," Marissa exploded, standing up. "In his own words, he admitted that he grabbed my arm, and, if you don't believe either of us, I have the finger bruises to prove it."
"I didn't grab you that hard."
Snidely, she returned, "I bruise easily, jackass."
"Alright, Miss Cooper, that's enough. Please, tell us your version of the events from yesterday."
"Well, it was like this, you see..."
By the time her father died, he had managed to completely waste away their family's entire savings, leaving them penniless and in disgrace. But the one thing he managed to save and not gamble off or pawn was his Chargers' season tickets. Despite being a Dolphins fan, her Dad had gone to all the Chargers' games simply because he loved football, and, in his will, he had left his season pass to her. At the time of his death, football had just been another mindless sport, but, because it was the last connection she had left to her father, she had quickly learned the rules of the games, and, surprising even herself, found more value to it than the sheer fact that many of the players had nice, tight asses that were only emphasized by the uniforms they wore. She became a die-hard, never missing a game, but, when the Dolphins were in town, she was like a woman possessed. She cheered, and she yelled, and she ultimately got drunk both in honor of her father and because it was the one day a year she allowed herself to grieve for him.
Sometimes, for her, the best part of the game was the ambiance of it. She loved standing in a packed stadium next to equally enthusiastic fans, even if they were for the other team, and simply losing herself in the festivities of the day. The beer helped, but no one could or would argue with the fact that, during a professional sporting event, there was a special magic in the air, and that particular game was no different. Yes, the Dolphins were losing, and badly, but it was still fun, especially taunting the other fans, but the one thing raining on her parade was the dud sitting in the seat before her. She tried her hardest to ignore him, even after the man next to her accidentally spilled her beer unto the boring man's head, but, when he grabbed her, when he spun her around to confront her about something she didn't do, when he ruined the one thing she loved the most in the entire world, she lost it. And, when he started foaming at the mouth and spewing sexist garbage at her, she hit him, but it wasn't out of a desire to hurt him; it was the only thing she could do as a woman to teach him a lesson, to show him that a woman had the same right to enjoy a male dominated sport than any man did.
"For my trouble, all I received was a night in jail with his neanderthal, and, on top of that, I'm about to be punished for something he deserved and had coming to him."
"While Mr. Atwood might be one step away from our cavemen ancestors," Sandy sympathized with the young woman, appreciating her plight for he had always been on the side of the little people, the downtrodden, the underdog, "you still broke the law no matter how understandable your actions were."
"Understandable," Ryan exclaimed. "Because she hit me, I fell down, smacked my head against the concrete, and ended up with a slight concussion."
Ignoring him, the judge proclaimed, "I've made my decision. We'll plead these charges down to a misdemeanor, but you both will be forced to pay a fine, you'll both serve sixteen days of probation every Saturday for the next four months, helping out at a youth football camp, and, instead of any more jail time, you're going to be on house arrest for the rest of the weekend. Together."
While Marissa's eyes practically bulged out of her head, the real estate developer argued, "you can't make us do that! I will not allow her to step foot into my home, and I'm sure as hell not going to stay with her."
"And neither of you will be spending any time at the other's residence, Mr. Atwood. Instead, you'll be staying with me, in my pool house. There's food, a bathroom, and even a state of the art entertainment center for the both of you to share, so it won't be too painful, I assure you. If you continue to argue with me, I'll place you in contempt of this court, and the next time we meet, I won't be as lenient. Now," he offered them both one last harsh stare before grinning mischievously. "Case dismissed."