Diary of a Drywaller: Chapter 18

Doug Bellamy / July 2019

My Day in Court, 1979

There are so many stories that occurred during this period that I need to tell. I had several court dates. I want to tell you about one particular court appearance that trumps all the rest. Margaret, a close friend of my wife’s and one who helped us through those early days, remains a dear friend at the time of this writing. She took me back and forth to each court appearance, with one exception. These were all minor issues but issues that had grown into major problems. Legal problems. They needed to be dealt with. Slowly but surely, I worked through the labyrinth of seemingly endless hearings, paid fines, gave explanations and bore the price of whatever it was that the court felt that I needed to do. I was just about done but had one final day in court, and it was a biggie.
I had to stand before a judge whom I had failed to appear before on three consecutive occasions. He had warned me in the past that if he ever saw me in his court again, I would go straight to jail. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to this final appearance in court. But then it got worse, or at least it seemed to. Margaret said she couldn’t go with us that day. She deeply regretted it but had a critical prior commitment. Instead she searched for someone else who could go in her stead. She called and told me that Bob would be taking us. I didn’t really know much about Bob, although he attended the same church and seemed like an important person. At the time, I viewed him as being extremely rich. He drove a Mercedes-Benz.
Bob pulled up to the campsite that morning alongside our borrowed tent, and we hopped into his Mercedes. I’d never been in one before, and the door closed like a safe. Whsssh! Clunk. It felt solid inside. As we drove toward the court, the closer we got, the more apprehensive I felt. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I would probably be going to jail. I’d stayed up late the night before writing a letter explaining the entire situation and pleading against incarceration. What good would it do? Things were already bad enough. Before long, we arrived. It was a day of reckoning. I pulled open the heavy glass doors with a sense of dread and fear of my unknown fate.
The public defender overheard my name as I checked in. He greeted me with concern, took my letter and told me his strategy. He was going to try to get me into an empty courtroom, if possible. To put it in his words, “the judge would make an example out of me” if many people were present. Before long, I was shuffled into a courtroom that was about half full. It didn’t look that empty. As I sat there listening to the cases before me, the door opened behind us and a voice called for me and someone else to leave that court and come to another courtroom. When I got in that courtroom, it was a little less full but still incriminating. I sat there again wondering what was about to happen. The door opened once more to that courtroom, and I alone was requested to leave. I followed another unknown to the next courtroom.
As I entered the third courtroom, there was one solitary person in front of me. When my case was called, I got up and walked toward the front of an empty courtroom. It wasn’t the judge who had given me that dreadful warning. As it turns out, that judge was on vacation. Lucky me. But it wasn’t luck, it was destiny and divine providence pulling me forward at a rapid pace.
Bob sat quietly in the courtroom behind me. My wife was there as well. The judge looked me squarely in the eyes and asked me if I had anything to say for myself. I mentioned the letter, and he said that he had read it. I didn’t have much more than that to say. Writing had always been a strong point and so putting what I had to say on paper came easy, and I had made certain that I thoroughly expressed myself.
There was silence in the courtroom. In a final effort, I referred to my character witness and told the judge that he had come along to speak on my behalf. I was utterly shocked as the judge said, “I’m an acquaintance of Mr. E (Bob).” Bob then asked the judge to show me mercy since I had genuinely repented. The judge turned to me: “Mr. Bellamy, there is no doubt in my mind that had Mr. E not been here in support of you today, I would’ve sent you straight to jail. You better thank your lucky stars that you have people like that behind you. Case dismissed.” We could hardly believe what had just happened!

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Contact him at doug@altadrywall.com.