09 May, 2011

Mama

I, quite proudly, come from a line of extremely strong women. 

Amie read my last post and wrote to me,  "Wasn't Mom amazing?" 

Mama was only thirty-four years old when her brother was arrested in June of 1972 for conspiracy in the commission of the greatest bank burglary in American history.  She immediately flew to California to help him with bondsmen and lawyers.  My father, his brother, and two of their nephews, all part of my father's crew, were arrested while she was out there.  My father and Uncle James were extradited to California, so she had to care for them as well.  To say that she had an incredible amount of responsibility on her young shoulders doesn't even begin to do justice to my mother's situation.

Mama said that the FBI harassed her constantly because they wanted her to testify against my father.  At the time, the law was that a person could not be compelled to testify against a spouse.  Mama said the feds tried "every trick in the book", and even told her that my father had numerous girlfriends.  As much as that must have hurt and infuriated her, my mother remained loyal to my father.

According to my mother, every time she walked out of her rented apartment in Los Angeles, she was slapped with a subpoena to testify in front of the federal grand jury.  Every time she testified, she invoked spousal immunity and her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  In other words, she told the feds nothing.

But that didn't stop the subpoenas.  The last time she was called as a witness before the grand jury, she took on the feds full force. 

She again invoked spousal immunity and "the Fifth".  The grand jury then ordered her to give them her fingerprints.  She asked them why, and they refused to tell her.  Her response was, "Then I'm not giving them to you.  My first husband was in the military, so the government has my fingerprints.  If you want them,  you get them yourselves."

The judge told her she would be held in contempt of court and go to jail if she didn't give her fingerprints.  She told him to do what he had to do.  He recessed for the day and told her to think about it overnight.

When my mother arrived at court the following morning, she was wearing a skirt suit.  One of the feds in the hallway approached her and said, "I see by the way you're dressed that you've decided to give us your fingerprints." 

She replied, "No, I'm just not familiar with proper jail attire."

The judged took the bench and called my mother to the front of the courtroom.  He asked her if she would give her fingerprints as the grand jury ordered her.  Mama told the judge,  "Your Honor, I respectfully refuse."

The federal marshals jumped up and handcuffed her.

Mama's attorney jumped up and asked that she be allowed to remain out on bond until the matter could be appealed.  The judge granted her attorney's request.

My mother beat the feds, won her appeal, and literally changed the law of the land.  For about a year, the law stated that the grand jury could not order a person to give his or her fingerprints without giving the reason the fingerprints were needed.

And it was all because a thirty-four year-old, one hundred-pound woman felt so harassed that she did what most people would be terrified to do:  She took on the entire federal government.

Indeed, Mom was amazing.

8 comments:

  1. You have amazing strong people in your life. What a great tribute to your mom, every time you write here I'm stunned about how your family changed history. Great job.

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  2. They don't make them like her anymore! God bless her!

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  3. I love how kick ass your Mom is! Also? How fricken beautiful!!!!!!

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  4. What an amazing and absolutely STUNNING woman!

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  5. You have a f**king incredible story! So glad you are sharing it! Can't wait until I have time to go and read all your posts!

    -Selena

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  6. WOW! (and she's gorgeous, too!)

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  7. She was indeed, amazing. And she raised a pretty amazing woman too.

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