This is not an upbeat posting. I apologize in advance but I need to get this off my chest. Please bear with me as this will probably be quite long.
Approximately 2 1/2 years ago my 46 year old "partner" was accused by a female co-worker of fondling her chest while squeezing past her in the "break room" in a tiny area filled with vending machines. He was choosing coffee and she scooted, sideways, between him and the coffee vending machine. No muss, no fuss. On Friday of that week (two days later), he was called into his managers office and told that there was a lawsuit being filed and that his company and my partner were being named as defendants. He was accused of groping, bra snapping, and sexual remarks and threats.
He was put on suspension without pay. A week later, the police showed up at our home and took him in to be booked. He spent the day in jail until I could arrange the $50,000 bail ($5,000 actual money with the remaining in collateral). When I brought him home that evening, he was in shock, as was I. We secured a lawyer and we appeared in court 3 days later. He was charged with 4 separate charges totalling a max. of 18 years in jail plus lifetime sex offender registration. He denied any misconduct and had an exemplary record with the company for the 15 years and 3 months he had worked there. Now, everything was crazy!
For 20 months, we dilligently went to his court appointments every other Monday as scheduled. The prosecution, judge, defense attorney, all had reasons for continuing the case without actually doing anything. Months lagged on without any progress...only lawyer bills. When the trial finally began (he fought it for the entire 20 months he was on bail) something we hadn't even thought of turned into a major "negative" in the eyes of the prosecution. Mind you, there was no evidence and one of the vending machines covered up a security cameras ability to see below the "victim's" neck level. No DNA, no witnesses, no "making a scene" at the time of the alleged offenses...NOTHING. Everyone continued with their lunch break.
My partner and I are a happily gay couple and have lived together for 22 years. I believed him at the time when he said that nothing happened. He has no sexual feelings for the opposite sex. However, when a detective arrived at our home shortly after the arrest, he noted that there were some Disney characters in a display case in our living room. When I was called as a character witness, I was blindsided by the prosecution alleging that he was a closeted sexual deviant who liked to collect childrens toys. I innocently told the jury that we did not have any childrens toys in our home. The prosecution called me a liar and tried to get me to admit that the sculptures of "cartoon characters" were on display in our house as a lure for small children. I didn't know how to answer. I tried to explain that we occasionally collected Disney collectables and are proud to have them on display in our home. I told her that we were Disneyland fans and that we have a love for the park. We even met there almost 25 years ago and consider Disneyland a very special place in our personal history. Then the plot thickened. I was asked how many times we have visited the park. I answered "probably a couple hundred times since we met". Then the prosecution came out and said "That's not normal". The prosecution requested a 72 hour recess so they could collect some additional information. Three days later, the additional information was presented, with myself on the stand. "We have investigated your attendance record as passholders to Disneyland. We also had Disneyland document your attendance record for the past 24 months prior to the alleged offenses. The record indicates you visited the Disneyland Resort 15 times during that period while Mr. ??? visited only 10 times. Just why do you visit a place that is essentially for children, so often. It just doesn't seem like something that somebody with normal social skills would bother themselves with. After all, you have no children of your own. Is that correct?" I told her that visiting the park was a normal thing for us to do, either together or with other friends. I mentioned that I have been a passholder ever since they started offering them. To that, her response was (I am copying this from the court record verbatim) "Maybe we should keep an eye on you as well". My heart sank. My love of Disney was being used to paint my partner, and by association, myself as immoral sexual deviants who go to theme parks because we are acting on some perverse motive. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
About 3 months after the charges were filed, the prosecution offered him a "plea deal" of three years if he pled guilty. If he refused, and took it to a trial, the prosecutor would fight for the maximum sentence of 18 years! He insisted that he was innocent and rejected the agreement. He and I had more than a couple of comversations concerning whether or not he should just give up and plead guilty just to get it over with. The prime sticking point was, if he pled or was found guilty, he would have to register as a sexual offender for life. On this we could not waver. He was innocent and they were going to have to prove him otherwise! The prosecutor told his lawyer that the case was a "slam dunk" and that soon, there was going to be one less predator (they love to use that word) on the streets. He was in for a heck of a fight for his life, name, and reputation.
Our love of Disney has always been a shining beacon in a world that has thrown some seriously difficult situations our way and our love of the parks has never wavered. In fact, we valued it as a giver of strength during trying times. We go there to recharge our batteries when the "real world" gets rather oppressive. Now it was being turned on us. He sat beside his lawyer getting madder and madder as the prosecutor continued this line of questioning. If I answered with more than a couple of words I was admonished to refrain from talking and just answer "yes" or "no". The questions were horrible and provocative. Full of innuendo and supposition. He was not charged with any sort of a crime on a child but the prosecution made it sound as though he had. He was facing 18 years and he just had to sit there and watch as others fought for his life. I endured almost 2 hours of questioning regarding my/our "interest" in Disney. It was awful and completely off topic. I did my best to let the jury know that our appreciation for Disney didn't have any other motives behind it (not that it mattered to the prosecution). The trial went on for 6 days. The "victim", age 36 at the time, refused to come to the courtroom and testified via closed circuit camera from another town.
My partner's lawyer had discovered that she had claimed that she was a victim on three previous occasions and had sued both the companies and the various defendants in each case. My partner was the only one who fought the charges throughout. His was the only case that made it to the trial phase. She had received three settlements from her previous employers and all three of the previous "agressors" had been bullied into pleading "no contest" in exchange for just a couple of years on charges that they were convinced, in the current predators-around-every-corner atmosphere this country is so wound up in right now. Our lawer contacted each of the convicted men and all three proclaimed their innocence. They were all defended by public defenders and told to take a "plea" in exchange for a shorter sentence.
Upon cross examination from "our" defense attorney it was determined that she was living off the settlements and seemed to be following an established pattern where she would move on to another sucker when funds started running low. It also came out in court that she had no idea that he was gay and that he had been in a long term relationship with myself. She thought he was "single". Our lives were fine until she came along. It all came crashing down on her but she never admitted that she was a scammer. The case went to the jury at 11:00 in the morning. A verdict was reached by 12:30 and a "not guilty" finding was read at 1:05. Afterward, while my partner and I sat in the downstairs lobby waiting for some final papers to be signed, the prosecuting attorney walked by us and said "I hope you have fun with the children at Disneyland" and continued to the back exit.
We are now attempting to return to what used to be a happy life. The verdict was read in early February and he still has not returned to DL. I went there for the final performance of The Electrical Parade but he said he just couldn't do it. While I was there, I felt a huge loss of innocence. I was aware that what I was looking at could, under the right circumstances, be falsly used against me, or anyone who frequents the park. World of Color is set to open soon but he is too "shell shocked" and wants to avoid DL for the forseeable future. His pass lapsed over a year ago while he was out on bail and he feels no need to renew. He now views, as do I, Disneyland as a place that can get you stigmatized if you are a frequent visitor. We were forced to justify our love for this place and slapped down because of it. I will probably never visit again with the sense of belonging that it gave us. Disneyland was "normal" to us, until he was placed between the cross-hairs and his love of Disney was used as a bludgeon on him/us. There were many many other accusations made along this train of thought that the prosecutor subjected him to. I got off lucky compared to what he was accused of. I was not allowed in the courtroom at any time other than when I was called to the stand because I was a "witness" and therefore not allowed to attend unsequestered. So, after this long diatribe...
Has your love of Disney ever been used against you? Has your love of this clean, happy place ever made you the subject of ridicule, judgment, suspicion, or accusations? If so, how did you handle it? We could really use some advice here. I would love to be able to walk down Main Street U.S.A. with my partner and just have the memories of what happened be washed away and come away cleansed and rejuvinated.
He just recently began working for his company again (at another branch office though) and still occasionally cries when he mentions what he went through, and what he was facing. He physically leaves the room when a Disneyland commercial comes on the TV or talks continuously through it. Our lives could have turned out so much worse if that blasted prosecutor had had her way. We have lost our faith in a system that uses Disney as a leveraging devise to get someone put into jail who was innocent all along. In her eyes, just having a pass made you suspect. Visiting as adults (without children) makes you suspect. His thinking now is that it looks bad for him to go. He says he probably will never be able to enjoy the parks ever again (although he occasionally does get a little dramatic). I can't fully understand what he went through but I do understand just where his mindset is coming from. He now feels he has to stay away from DL in order to protect himself from further accusations. He did NOTHING WRONG yet his mind now thinks this way. I miss how he used to be. Our relationship is still strong and we lean on one another for strength but I don't know if I will ever be able to experience IASW, POTC, Fantasmic!, or any of the other rides and attractions that he so dearly loves ever again. He's THAT scared. He even tried to talk me out of going for the final DEP. He says he is just protecting me but I feel that things have been twisted around. I always felt protected AT Disneyland. He feels utterly vulnerable there.
Just wondering if anyone else can identify with this horror story...or knows of someone that has had their Disney interest used to mark them as a less than savory character. He has also packed up the Disney figurines that were in the display case and has put them in taped boxes for storage in the garage.
As for the um, lady, she now works for her father in San Francisco. No reprocussions ever came from her accusations, as far as I know. She settled with the company for an undisclosed amount and she dropped the charges against them. The only reason I know where she lives/works is because the defense lawyer called us up and told us to avoid a certain business in San Francisco should we ever go up there for any reason. We have no plans to make the 420 mile trek. Now we have another reason not to go.
Thanks for bearing with us.