Casey and the Big check…

Casey and the Big check…
June 12, 2018 Kevin Brusett
   I’m sitting before a lifeless fireplace in a lovely summer house in Flagstaff, Arizona. It belongs to my brother and sister in law, Dan and Ricci Wright. They graciously gave the three of us free access in support of Casey’s steps towards freedom. Casey and Samantha Elie are still dozing in their respective rooms after gorging on pizza and watching a movie on the Yakusa, called ” The Outsider “, last night. In a few hours we will need to check in with Jesse at Breakout Bail Bonds, letting him know that his client, Casey Street, is still safely in our care. For now, the house is silent except for the air blowing through the heating vents. The miracle is in full swing…
   Samantha and I left Portland, OR last monday, a little after 1 pm, headed to Redding. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid was loaded down with everrything we thought we might need IF we could facilitate getting our friend, Casey Street, out of the Mohave County Jail where he had spent almost 7 months. Samantha is an amazing travel companion. We have known each other all her life,  she went to Heartlife Imagineering ( a home school co-op ) that geared itself to asking ” who are you becoming and why ” questions and, she’s travelled all over the world. Plus, she manages her hydration in such a way that we don’t need to ever make stops except to get gas and in a car that gets 44 mpg, thats not very often.
   The miles rolled by, effortlessly, and we quickly fell into a grace of dialogue, agreeing to create an open framework ( any question is ok ) and the answer is never obligated or forced. In other words, ask what you want and answer what you choose, without feeling pressured. It was important to create that scenario because I had been Samantha’s youth pastor, school director and family friend…and I didn’t want any lingering sense of perceived power to exist between us…it had to be as equals, although I wanted to do the driving:-) We settled into a refreshing banter, combining wit and insight with depth and thoughtfulness. I offended her once, she called me on it…and instead of disappearing within ourselves, we took the moment, the intention, the language, the triggers…and we parced it out until we had understanding. It was a glorious moment.
   The talk turned towards Casey. 7 months ago, Casey was arrested for allegedly shoplifting and in the ensuing discovery process, other alleged crimes were attached. Bail was set at $20K, and because of Casey’s ongoing wrestling with substance abuse, no one was willing to take the risk to get him out…me included. Casey was given a court appointed attorney and the process started to unfold. Deals were proffered and rejected. Alleged crimes were deleted, combined or reconfigured. All this time, Casey was getting his county jail experience feet wet and the idea of spending his twenties in prison was heartbreaking. Then the past showed up.
   About a year ago, Casey was crossing a street in Portland, at a crosswalk…two cars stopped and a pickup didn’t. That truck sent Casey to the hospital with a broken leg. Through countless procedings, Casey’s settlement check finally showed up while he was waiting in the Mohave jail. Now, if he could cash that check, he would have funds to post bond, pay for an attorney, pay off some debts and have a little cigarette money. The question being, how do you cash a check when you’re in jail?
   First,  we had to find a way for Casey to sign it or get a power of attorney. Since the check had been mailed to Casey’s Oregon address, we decided to try and get it deposited into an account for him there. Christina Schelske, friend and surrogate mom on occasion, agreed to take on his power of attorney. It took some time to make the arrangements in jail to get the papers signed, but eventually the stars aligned and the paperwork was sent from Arizona to Portland. Notarized paperwork in hand, Christina started working with the banks she used in her personal life to deposit Casey’s settlement. Two problems came into play. First, it was an insurance company issued check. I thought that made it like pure gold. However, I’ve learned that insurance claim checks can have claims made against them for up to three years and the banks don’t want to get involved with those potential adjustments. Secondly, because of some of Casey’s alleged crimes, his name appeared on a national list of bank fraud abusers and that made the banks anxious as well. Day after day slipped by, Casey hoping to hear that he might be able to get out while his case was being decided and every time it was hope dispersed into thin air.
   During time confined you hear lots of stories about how to work through the legal system. Names of attorneys, bail bondsmen, judges all shift through the dialogue as you are prepping for your own experience. In this manner, two attorneys names came to the forefront. I checked them out on the internet and gave both of them a call, figuring whoever answered first would get the first chance at serving Casey. Lee was the first to respond. I explained our situation and after  some consideration, he agreed to have the check mailed to him and he would get it cashed in Kingman. With check in hand, it still didn’t work… the roadblocks continued, frustrating all involved.
   And so it is that Samantha and I are on the road on a Monday, heading to Kingman AZ via Redding and Vegas to see if we can make this process unfold in a way that benefits Casey. The first night my parents put us up, Samantha in the guest room and myself on the living room floor. My parents moved here from Helena, Montana a little over a year ago. They were looking for an easier climate and a chance to spend some quality time with their youngest grandson. My mom always cooks up a storm and this time was no different. Also, her and Samantha have a long history as well, her being so connected to my family. Up early, after breakfast, we head out through the Lassen National Park. The miles continue to roll by, like time has become visual. Mountains slip into foothills which fall away to high desert…like the ticking of the clock…and every mile diminishes our chances, as the phone calls I’ve made to shift the opportunity for Casey to get into rehab continue to ring out empty. I had asked my dad to pray for Casey and he gathered us on the driveway, taking a moment to invoke the God he loves so much to intercede on our behalf. Every call was a swing and a miss. Not what I expected.
   Samantha makes hotel arrangements while we pretend to be low flying aircraft…80 mph, hovering on the pavement, until Vegas signs start to emerge. We strum up conversations, living room musicians, swapping stories like searching for the right key to sing to life with. It’s darkish as we pull into the hotel, 5 miles past Vegas. The key machine is down, so we get escorted to our rooms. 30 minutes later we’re calling Jacqui Kennemer cause she used to live here and we wanted to know how to get to the right part of downtown to have some dinner. Parked and watching the water works, we head across the street to a french restaurant that overlooks the strip. Dinner is a bit subdued…long day  driving, ok food, nice waiter…and tomorrow we have problems to solve or failure to embrace.
   We get to Kingman by 8:50 am, striving to be on time for a 9 am meeting with an attorney that isn’t quite sure what to do with us. He’s holding a $41k check that doesn’t seem cashable and he’s worried that if he takes the case before the check is cashed that he’ll be stuck with it and not get the $10k he’s been promised. Real problems, a lot of money  is at stake, and to be honest, we’re not that concerned. I had left him a phone message asking about his intentions and sharing ours…if you can’t help us, let us know where to turn. He called back, letting me know he didn’t like my tone. I was kind, but forward thinking. Here is our predicament and can you help? In the meeting, all neggative interactions were shoved aside. We were given the check, told that he still wanted to be Casey’s attorney and suggested a bailbondsman to work with. We had an hour to kill before we could visit with Casey so we went looking for the best coffee in walking distance. We misunderstood the directions we were given cause the first place we went was a beer joint that didn’t want to take our money till 11 am, which seemed a little early for both Samantha and I. Then we spotted it, across the street, a bank turned into coffee shop. They had a whiskey barrel brewed coffee with no alchohol that knocked our socks off. The breakfast sandwich was a life changer as well. The day was starting good and still no way to get Casey out of jail.
   You get 20 minutes of screen time when you visit the Mohave County Jail. They check you in to a numbered monitor and you wait until the inmate is viewable and picks up their phone, then you pick up yours…then the countdown begins. I give Smanatha the first shift. She hasn’t seen Casey in over a year. I sit in the lobby, on the cold plastic chairs, wondering how it’s going to work out. I feel like we’re doing the right thing by being here. No one else is going to come for him, all those bridges have burned. I check my phone, look over facebook and my emails…all just time wasters as I’m waiting for my dialogue. About 10 minutes later, Samantha and I trade places. He looks good, hopeful. He gives us the name of a bail bondsman that he had started talking to…it happens to be the same one that the lawyer had mentioned. When the times up, that’s our next stop.
    It looks like it would be a great paintball fort, square and stucco on the edge of a fast food parking lot. Breakout BailBonds seems a conundrum of a name…if you break out, don’t you lose your bailbond? We park in front. I’m wearing my nicest button down, long sleeve shirt { I’ll wear it to church the following week } and jeans. There is no one at the front desk, but off to one side is a white haired older woman, working at a computer, with a young man working at the desk next to her. He’s the young man I spoke with earlier, Chris, and the woman was his grandmother. He informed me that his folks would be in within the hour and I could wait if I wanted. I had no place to go so I sat down and started talking to his grandma. ” HI, I’m Pastor Kevin from Portland, OR. ” I don’t use that intro much, but I was looking to make connection.
   I’d never been in a Bailbonds office before. There’s a manniquin to my left, a lovely young woman, wearing the Breakout Bailbonds t-shirt. She’s a blonde. The four desks I can see are littered with paperwork amidst computer screens, information kept like the haphazard lives of the clients they serve. Grandma and I keep up the pitterpat of small talk…home, faith and journey…and then the the muscle arrives, husband and wife, Jesse and Kelly Dobbins. He is dynamite on a slow fuse, sputtering, spitting fire and she is the calm before the storm…a backdrop of accomodation to his highs and lows. We greet, sit and after some inner office banter, we tell our story…kid in jail, $41k check, what can we do now. Jesse listens, turns to his mother and says, ” What do you think, ma? ” Her reply was an uncertain ” I don’t know. ” Then Kelly made the call to the insurance company, researching the viability  of the check, and then a call to their bank to verify they will cash it. All was good. And then an hour of hashing out the details of what information was needed to cash it. Drug addicts don’t do well keeping ID handy. It gets left in flop houses, backseats, bathrooms… where ever a high can be had or sleep can be found.
   And so we find ourselves driving to Havasu City to meet with Casey’s mom, Dayna. It’s an hour of desert scenery and dialogue, working out the details of sharing information. We pull into the small parking lot of Dayna’s office, park and step out of the car to be braced by the heat. Up the stairs and into the cramped waiting room, we wait…she has a client. Business taken care of, she moves past the furniture to greet us. Dayna and Casey have a strained relationship, built on love and dissappointment. Dayna gracefully shares with us all the ID information she has…recent mail, birth certificate, social security card. She talks about how difficult it is to keep ID current with a son on the streets. Once their high, they can’t keep track of the details of their life. And who do they call when they need a new one…mom….and it’s one way for her to know that he’s safe. As we get ready to head out to our accomodations, she even goes so far as to take us to her home, offering refreshment as she pulls out a couple of bags of clothing she had bought for Casey in case he got out.
   We thank her and head out to Loughlin, Nevada where we’ve found  $15 a night lodging. We get our two rooms and agree to meet in half an hour to get dinner. I’ve never been on this part of the river before. It’s a mini Vegas. Half a dozen casino’s and all the glitz and glitter you need to disrupt the natural twilight. Old folks and tourists litter the playing fields while the speakers hash out music to inspire much loss and the mere illusion of winning. Feels a little like bad church. We had a mediocre meal, tired conversation and left feeling full and hoping tomorrow would bring a little freedom to our friend Casey.
   We arrive at the Pawnbroker Fortress a few minutes early. Jesse and Kelly show up and the game is on. We go over the ID info we have, Jesse calls the jail and we give Jesse the check as collateral and for safe keeping. It’s a $41k check and he has a gun. It takes about an hour for all the processing. We head over to the jail parking lot and wait, Jesse, Kelly, Samantha and I. When the redhead starts walking away from the jail, looking like he’s in shock, Samantha takes off a running. She hits him full stride, falling deep into his hug…and I smile. That’s why she’s here, to help him feel loved. And then it’s the three of us hugging, introductions to Jesse and Kelly and then back to the office. There’s paperwork, stories to tell, plans to outline, signatures given and then we are of to the MVD ( Motor Vehicles Division ) to get Casey’s Arizona ID with a picture. All goes without a hitch and then off to the bank…the last frontier.
   It looks like any other bank, seemingly harmless and ready to serve. However, walking through the door felt more like heading to an execution rather than winning the lottery. Casey has been slow to unthaw. In jail, everything is measured and controlled. This freedom is taking some getting used to and it flies or dies right here, right now. Kelly, Samantha and I sit in the lobby chairs while Casey and Jesse go talk to the teller. Initially, it looks like everything is good. People are nodding, smiling, making small talk. And then came the pause. For some reason, Jesse’s banker hadn’t realized that it was an insurance check. After she lets him know that they can’t cash it, Jesse turns to Casey and says, ” Guess I’m taking you back to jail! ” The lady pauses and then heads off to talk to someone higher up. In a moment she’s back and the check cashing is back on. Casey is out on bail, a lawyer is hired and we have him for five days, wearing tracking devices. It’s a good start. We stop for lunch on the way back to the office, a little mexican place, taking the food back to the office. The final paperwork is done, the post jail threats/conversations are had and we are off to Kingman, reuniting Casey and his mom.
   
Over the next five days, Casey has a chance to live a normal life. After seeing his mom, we head to Flagstaff. We hike, we cook, we watch a little TV…and we talk about life before, during and after jail. We go to the wild animal park in Verde where Samantha and Casey do the zipling course over the open animal cages. We eat ice cream and Samantha shows Casey how to feed a giraffe by holding the branch in her mouth. The 18 inches of tongue wrap around the branch, washing her face while deftly acquiring a snack. Grossed out and mesmerized, we laugh. Then down to Phoenix for a couple of days, meeting people that Casey can connect with while in rehab. there is shopping for some new threads, calling Jesse  every day and letting him know what we were up to…lots of great food, friendship expanded and the pale glow of hope on the horizon.  We head home to Flagstaff…and then, Casey is dropped off at rehab, back in Kingman… and the next phase of his life.
   It’s been almost 60 days. He’s still clean. He’s gotten a job. He goes to court in July. Until then, it’s one day at a time.