Saturday, March 16, 2024

Jury Duty Littered with Sex: My Life This Past Week -- Part 2


The FBI agent the case centered around was interesting. She was obviously trying to look stone faced during the trial, but that resulted in her having an unusual look on her face. She had received special training to work cases like this, and she was unflappable on the stand. The prosecution, of course, lobbed her softballs to lay the foundation for the case. She did a great job in explaining everything in a clear fashion. The jury was, however, bored to death at the overkill the prosecution used to go over the defense exhibits. 

Once the defense got its chance, it was clear that their objective was to make the FBI agent appear not only inaccurate in her work, but also selective in sharing information, implying that she didn't keep records of conversations that would help exonerate the defendant. Additionally, they pointed out some photos of legs of the adult FBI agent that, according to them, could not be mistaken for the legs of a 13-year-old girl. Finally, the defense pointed to conversations at all hours of the days and some other interactions that should have tipped off the defendant that he was not speaking to a young girl. Although he did not speak at the trial, the jurors had the impression that the defendant was not particularly bright.

I believe that everyone in the courtroom had a good idea of how things would end. The defense seemed to have everything stacked against them and appeared to be grasping at straws. Their only defense, aside  from what I mentioned previously, was to question a sex expert whom they imported. The alternate theory was that the defendant and the girl were involved in DDLG (Daddy Dom/Little Girl) role playing and that the defendant was aware the the girl was really a woman. However, DDLG was only mentioned once in 700 pages of chat (unless there was more and the defense missed it, but I doubt that), and several things the defendant had written made it abundantly clear that he really believed that he was talking to a young girl.

It was heart wrenching to see the defendant's parents, and especially his mother, in the back of the courtroom, listening to the sexual chat their son was aiming at an eighth grader and seeing pictures and videos of their son's penis and him masturbating. At one point, the mother could not take it anymore and left the room. I couldn't even imagine my own mother (R.I.P.) having to sit through such a scene, or my wife listening and watching the same scene with our son as the defendant.

We knew virtually nothing about the defendant, and he seemed more of a pathetic person than anything. There is absolutely no excuse for what he attempted to do, but I think that, aside from the elicit sex he was hoping to have, that he actually might have fallen in love with this fake persona. He came from a small town and had never even flown on an airplane before his trip to Phoenix. I didn't see any reason why he couldn't have used common phone apps to find someone closer to his own age.

The court case concluded with instructions from the judge late Thursday afternoon. We were excused a little early and instructed to begin jury deliberations at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. In my mind there was no doubt that he was guilty as charged of the first two charges, but the third dealt with "obscene" material, and I knew there would be no quick decisions on the third charge.

We began our deliberations on time. I had originally thought that I'd like to be the foreperson, but knowing that we had several people who liked to talk a lot, I decided instead that I would make my role one of trying to bring the group to a final decision if we were stuck.

We decided upon the first two charges rather quickly: guilty on both. The third charge, however, would be difficult. The judge's instructions (including the Miller test) seemed to contradict the basic charge. Everyone had a different idea of what was obscene. We were supposed to leave our own beliefs aside. We finally took a vote on each of the nine items we were to consider as being obscene. A few items had 9-3 votes. Most were closer to 7-5. One was 11-1. We sent a note to the judge asking for a clarification on seemingly conflicting information and took our lunch break. when we returned, we received the response from the judge. It was basically "figure it out yourselves."

We were discussed many things but but were moving very slowly to a conclusion. I threw out two logical ways we could end the stalemate: 1) If the one holdout who said one video was not obscene  would change her answer to yes, we could vote not guilty on the others and guilty on only that one; and 2) The fact that we discussed  the issue for several hours and could not come to a consensus on what materials were obscene (Can anyone really decide what is obscene?), that likely means that the bar for "reasonable doubt" was met. Since the defendant was already going to prison for the first two charges, we decided that our lack of agreement justified a not guilty verdict on the third charge. It was a decision that we all could live with. We took our final break, then informed the court officer that we had reached our verdicts.

The final part of court went very quickly. The court officer read the verdicts and we were excused from the court. The judge asked us to return to the jury room as he wanted to speak to us for a few minutes. We went back to the jury room and the judge came in a few minutes later. He thanked us for our service and attention, especially since we had to deal with an unpleasant topic and pictures and videos that we would rather not have seen. He advised us not to feel guilty for what we had decided as the crimes committed were solely the decision of the defendant. We only did our duty in determining the facts of the case.

I was thinking that some of us might stick around to talk for a bit, but everyone seemed to scurry away and begin their weekend a little early. Maybe they felt as I did -- that it had been a long week and they wanted to rid themselves of the muck we were living in the past several days. I headed home.

It is less than 24 hours after the case ended and I still feel very strange. It's a feeling I can't accurately explain. I detested the boredom of the testimony that laid the foundation of the case. I liked my fellow jurors and appreciated that we all had different opinions. I was happy that the defendant never harmed a real little girl, but I felt some sympathy for his just being a pathetic person and especially for his parents. It was awkward seeing the pictures, videos and sex objects publicly with so many people, but I felt some degree of desensitization with it all.

I get to take the rest of today to physically, mentally and emotionally recover from the trial. Tomorrow (Sunday), I will see the band Toto for the first time, and then Monday morning, I head to Las Vegas for a much needed three night stay. A little time with Las Vegas poker and some of my poker friends will hopefully help me get back to feeling normal again. I look forward to that.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Jury Duty Littered with Sex: My Life This Past Week -- Part 1

This past week, I have had most of my daytime hours wrapped up in jury service. I was originally scheduled to serve in January, but my brother-in-law had already scheduled a week-long visit to Arizona then, so I asked that my service be deferred. Strangely enough, a different brother-in-law (and his wife) scheduled a visit for this week, thinking that I likely wouldn't serve on a jury. Ha!

My jury week started on Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. After waking and showering, I git dressed and headed from just outside the north side of Phoenix to downtown. There is nothing like running into that morning commute traffic. I had never been to the district court house and had trouble finding the parking garage jurors were to use. Instead of being at the jury meeting room promptly at 8:00 a.m., I slithered in seven minutes late. Fortunately, several more came in after me, and there some delays and problems with video equipment meant that we sat around for an extended time. When the judge for our case was ready for us, we lined up and headed to a court room. There were 37 of us, from whom a jury pool of 13 (12 plus one alternate) would be chosen. I figured that I would probably be one of those excused.

Once the judge began asking us questions, it was apparent that there were several kooks in the group. One guy talked about what a sacrifice it was for him to be there, how he should be excused, and anything else he could say in a negative fashion to make sure that he was excused. After making a total ass of himself, I guess he figured that he needed a little icing on the cake, and explained that he didn't trust the government. Dork. We were alerted that there was a significant sexual component to the trial, as it dealt with an adult who was attempting to have sex with a young girl. Several of the jury pool claimed to be so triggered that they could not be impartial. Some even related their own brief personal stories of being molested when young. There seemed to be a lot of pain in the group.

I had one thing going for me and one against, depending on whether it was from the perspective of the prosecutors or the defense. I had to divulge that my oldest brother was a sheriff in the state for 17 years. However, a point for the other side was scored when I related that I had served on a previous jury  where the defendant was found not guilty. We broke for lunch at noon and were told to report back at 1:00 p.m. Thirteen would be selected for the jury and the rest would be excused and considered to have fulfilled their obligation. I was thinking that my chances were about 50/50 since some people had already been excused and some others were pretty obviously not going to be selected. From the group of 37, I had been juror #2. Therefore, after lunch, the wait was short when the jurors were announced. "The following jurors will be staying: #2, ..." I was now officially juror #1 for the trial. The selected jurors were all seated and sworn in, and the case began immediately. The judge was a former marine and ran a taut courtroom, which we all appreciated.

The prosecution laid out the basic story: a 48-year-old man connected with a 13-year-old girl on Instagram and traveled to Phoenix from another state to have sex with her. There was a chat log of about 700 pages and several pictures and videos that man had sent to the girl -- pictures/videos of his erect penis, of him masturbating, of women performing oral sex on other women, and of women pleasuring themselves. We would see much more of the defendant that we would ever want to see. However, there was one fatal flaw in the man's plan: the 13-year-old girl was actually an adult female FBI agent who had used an age regression app for her photos so that she looked much younger -- like maybe about 13 years old. The defendant was apprehended after he arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport with condoms, vibrators, and other sex articles. A court order stated the following: 

"Defendant is charged with three counts, each of which relate to his attempt to engage in sexual acts with an individual who he believed was a 13-year-old girl: (i) attempted coercion and enticement of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a
maximum sentence of life; (ii) travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b) and (f), which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years;
and (iii) attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1470,
which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years."

The defense said in its opening statement that we should keep in mind the following saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. It was clear that they had a strategy to discredit the work of the undercover FBI agent. The prosecution had a few minor witnesses, like someone employed by Meta (Instagram) and a cell phone data extraction expert. But the whole case revolved around the FBI agent who posed as a 13-year-old girl. She was the one who chatted the defendant up and developed almost the entire case. She was on the stand for more than a day.

To be continued ...

Thanks for reading. Part 2 coming soon.

Friday, March 01, 2024

Yeah - I'm Still Around. Poker Nonsense and Upcoming Las Vegas Trips


It has been almost two months since my most recent blog post. The results with life, as often with poker, have been mixed. Years ago (almost 18 now!) I started this blog to write about poker, so away we go.

My last Las Vegas trip (January 4-8, 2024) started out great, notwithstanding the travel error I mentioned in my last post. Even though I missed out on several hours I had planned to be in Las Vegas, I decided that I would hit up MGM Grand when I got into town late Friday night. I started my trip with a nice profit, got some sleep, then had two successful sessions the next day at Bellagio. I seem to remember spotting Chris Abramski and Flynn & Ollie in the afternoon session, and after a nice dinner with NormInVegas, having a fun session with Norm. One woman whom I abused time and time again (in a poker way, of course!) told me that she did not like me. My response: "I have this habit of making beautiful women angry with me." I mean, seriously -- how could she respond? I had been on a heater for several weeks and then did the dumbest thing in the world: I tweeted about it. I guess I was just asking to get bitch slapped. I got what I was asking for.

I decided that after finishing at Bellagio, I wasn't quite ready to go to bed. I hit up one of my old favorite spots: Horseshoe. I got into a game with a group that had been playing several hours, so I was the odd man out. I was hanging in with a loss of chips until I  thought that I was way ahead in a hand and attempted to bluff a flopped two pair. Yuck. But wait -- that was only the beginning.

I headed back to my sweet, sweet home (Excalibur), ready to sleep and resume my "success" the next day. I decided to play at Wynn. I built up a nice stack at a table of relatively quiet, sour players. I was ready to lock up my winnings and get dinner when I stoopidly stayed for a few more orbits. I then made a monumental mistake in not properly betting a player off his flush draw. I didn't believe that he had it and payed the ultimate price. I was livid with myself and felt like I had embarrassed myself in front of the table with my play. I decided to leave at that point, but I was pretty sure that Mr Runbad Tilt would be following me. Unfortunately, I was correct. I dusted off a buy-in at Caesars when I jammed my dwindling stack all in with my pair of 7s on a board that was 8 high. A player with A-8 called me. Meh. Time to call it a night.

On Sunday, I played in a poker tournament at The Poker Oasis. I was at a table with Norm (thanks for driving, sir), Luke Johnston and @bigfokkerdog. Flynn was at at other table. The game was likely memorable for others, but not for me. Things just didn't go right and my frustration continued. I was harassing Luke for catching cards and playing well  and blasting music in addition to what was being played, and bigfokkerdog got pissed at me and threatened to throw me in the pool outside. As Harry Caray would say while broadcasting Cubbies games, "You can't beat fun at the ol' ballpark" -- or poker table. Thanks to Joseph and Toni for hosting.

After Norm busted, he drove me back to the Strip. I ended the trip torching off money at MGM. Frankly, I was so numb by that point that I don't even remember how I lost money there. It was time to shut down poker for the trip. 

I look back, and I see that I could have played so much better in the sessions where I lost money. Before I retired, I was known in my professional job as someone who NEVER makes mistakes. Therefore, it is difficult for me to accept that I make mistakes in poker. Frankly, sometimes it is quite maddening. I guess this is one of the reasons why so many of us love the game. It can take you to great heights, then suddenly show you that constant success is an illusion.

Meanwhile, back at home, the carnage continued. After starting out with a win at what used to be my "home poker room," Talking Stick Resort, I played sparingly and lost four sessions in a row. Over the course of four weeks, I took some horrendous river beats when I had gotten it all in while ahead. Additionally, I had a dispute with the Stick floor people over a ruling that I thought was exceeding unfair. I've been whining enough here already, so you'll have to ask me in person in Las Vegas why I got my panties in a bunch. The floor was pretty tolerant of my language since I did not direct my F-bombs toward anyone in particular (including those who made the decision against me). I decided to back away from Talking Stick for a time and play at the local place where I didn't win much in previous years, Desert Diamond. Of course, poker is such a quirky game that one night when I went specifically for  Wednesday night's Rise of the Phoenix promotion, I won two promos in one night: $200 for a straight flush, and $1,200 for quad deuces. In fact, I've played seven sessions at Desert Diamond in 2024 and have won at all of them! Go figure.


My brother-in-law, Philip, came to visit us in Arizona for the first time. He had not taken a vacation in many years, so we served up a great trip for him. He got to do the number one thing he wanted to do while here -- visit Alice Cooper's house. My wife threatened him with his life if he rang the doorbell out at the entrance. I took him to the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, and we surprised him by taking him to the Eagles and Steeley Dan concert at the Footprint Center. Yep - it was a great trip!

Three days after he left, our youngest daughter, Erin, came to visit. Plenty of mom's home cooking was consumed, and I took my daughter to a special store with mega Japanese products and out for one of our favorites: Banh Mi sandwiches and bubble tea.

Finally, a former co-worker, Dennis, and his husband, Joel, visited us before February ended. We had a great Mediterranean dinner followed by Italian ice and ice cream. Dennis and Joel have visited us each year we have been out in Arizona. It's great to have friends who don't forget you once you have moved away.


Two months after my last blog post and I am still dealing with/helping out Eva. She got on a hospice program, then went off it. She is currently in a local rehabilitation facility, hoping that she can learn to walk again, which would solve many of her problems. I am guessing that her walking days are behind her. She is a stubborn survivor and continues to live despite end stage renal failure and going weeks without dialysis. Who would have ever guessed that my "normal" day would consist of things like talking with the funeral director and visiting a Jewish cemetery?


I will be heading back to Las Vegas March 18-21. Former poker blogger AgSweep will be there that week, so we will likely be hitting up a few of the Strip poker rooms.

Former poker blogger and Aussie Koala Pete will be arriving back in Las Vegas on June 4. I will be heading out to Las Vegas June 9-14. Most likely, Pete will ride back to Arizona with me at the end of the week to visit for a few days, as he did his last trip to the US.

Thanks for reading. I am looking forward to soon beginning year 19 of this blog!