Family Court (Part 2)
Then Khadija requested an Arabic speaking
interpreter.… her talk was - in my opinion - deliberately made to
sound like she was much less competent in English than I know her
to be. Furthermore it removed her one more step from direct
questioning by the judge or direct need to participate… one step
removed. As she seems to favor… having other people handle all the
That seemed bad. That seemed contrived and
manipulative to appear to be the “innocent right off the boat.”
Then the judge asked Khadija if she had anything to
add to her request for a restraining order. Khadija (now completely
through her interpreter) said yes there were several dates which
had not been included in her statement which she wanted.
The judge said that was not particularly
important. She wanted to know about immediate details relating to
the request to keep me away. Khadija said yes… she wanted no
contact, no communication… she didn’t want to be subject to attack
or danger and yes she wanted the restraining order. I heard her
quickly… nervously… speaking in Arabic while her interpreter spoke
in English (How ridiculous that exercise was!)
Then the judge gave me my turn. I had sketched a
few points I wanted to include. (I’d spread my papers on the table
before me: my court summons, the 21 page Noam Chomsky speech
delivered at MIT on the Muslim/West world crisis, two letters from
Khadija from 1996 - one saying she wanted to marry me; the other
suggesting my sister marry her neighbor - my permanent restraining
order from Criminal Court, a picture of Khadija in Morocco holding a
letter of mine, blank pages, my sketch for defense and the Quran
which Khadija had left at my apartment.)
So... first I said that this was a great disaster
for both Khadija and me and it had caused me tremendous suffering
(my voice was straining and I occasionally had to stop to regain
my composure) I said I loved her and hoped that somehow we could
find a way to communicate, reconcile and get past this awful
Then I said she and I are from completely
different cultures. She was a devout Muslim and I was a champion
of people like Noam Chomsky and George Orwell. Indeed I had no
idea how deeply rooted her religious beliefs were into her heart
until that night (of October 9th)… and… (I strained so hard to
talk and my voice was extremely hoarse and strained) I had no true
conception how I loved her and deeply she was rooted into my heart
until that night.
The judge asked about the violent events which
caused Khadija to request the restraining order.
So… I first said that everything had changed since
September 11th… the strain on us had become terrific. I had read
the entire Quran but… I had since learned from a Muslim named
Zackariah Twist that the translation I had read had been
particularly hostile… that Muslims themselves had been offended by
this translation and the translator himself was not Muslim.
The judge gently urged me to get to the events.
So I said I had written down quotes which I had
challenged Khadija with and she… seeing that I was directly
challenging the Quran… got very mad.... she… in my opinion… then
decided to strike back as forcefully as she could. (I described
the sequence in the kitchen…) Then she had called the police and
said I had been physically abusive and had caused everything.
I then made a direct condemnation of her sworn
written statement, particularly paragraph eight which I said was:
“a complete reconstruction of what had occurred… a deliberate
falsehood. I was under so much stress [talking in court]…
my heart pounded. My head burned. My voice strained to get my
I asked for a continuance until my criminal trial
was over and a better chance to defend myself.. .I said at the end
(as I held the Quran up) that: “I am sure there is forgiveness in
My request for a continuation was denied. My
wife’s request for the additional restraining order was granted. I
was advised that I could have no contact and no communication,
whatsoever, with my wife. Not in person. Not on the telephone. Not
by any electronic device or through any third party with the
exception of her lawyer. (She didn’t have a lawyer at that time.)
If I violated this court order, I would be subject to one year in
jail for each violation. One phone call was one violation. Two
phone calls were two violations, and so on. I was to stay 100
yards away from her, her work, and her residence. I was told to
remain in the courtroom for an additional ten minutes while Khadija
and her party left the building.
I walked into that courtroom as an innocent. I did
not know the law. I did not have a lawyer. I had heard that anyone
who wasn’t a licensed lawyer and gave me legal advice was
practicing law without a license and breaking the law (which
happened to be made by lawyers). Mr. Shoe, my public defender in
Criminal Court, had told me very clearly and directly to say
nothing. “They will only find anything you say in Civil Court and
use it against you in trial in Criminal Court.”
But what I didn’t grasp was that Civil Court was
only going to concern itself with one thing: Did I pull Khadija
fist-first into kitchen window? Did I or didn’t I? Did I become
violent as she said?
At the hearing I did not focus on the narrow
specific legal question. I made the very common mistake of
focusing on something more important to me. I focused on the fact
that I felt I had committed a serious offense against Khadija
according to her religious beliefs. I hadn’t broken American law
at all. To rescue her trust in me and her love, I wanted to say in
open court and under oath that I loved her and apologize because,
when I had read quotes from the Quran and made critical
observations about those quotes, I didn’t know the seriousness of
my remarks about her religion. I wanted to ask her to forgive me.
Not legal things at all.
When I walked into the court and said how sorry I
was, it must have looked (to the judge) like the next best thing
to a confession. Why would I be sorry if I hadn’t pushed her into
the window? How could she not grant my wife’s request if I
couldn’t come up with solid evidence that I was innocent?
Judge Charlotte Woolard read the filed papers,
listened to a few brief minutes of testimony, held our situation
up to what she considered was probably true in a typical case, in
an average “he said, she said” standoff, and imposed the second
restraining order upon me. That essentially ended my marriage.
Ended the chance to rescue the marriage. Destroyed all avenues to
talk. Memorialized my wife’s accusations against me for all the
people in coming years who would have use for or interest in them.
It branded me as guilty of what I had been accused of. No trial,
no evidence, no testimony other then seven minutes each. No
continuation and then a judgment. Snap crackle pop.
On the other floor, a court could spend months and
months discussing a couple sentences in a letter to decide if they
were injurious to someone’s ego, but my courtroom could devote 25
minutes to a marriage I had invested years of my life in. I was
beginning to understand Civil Court better.
The moment I walked out of the courtroom, the
clock started ticking, marking my allotted time to have the matter
reconsidered. My chance to reverse the judgment was quickly
I needed a lawyer but I put it off. Then in late
November, a month after the hearing, my wife served me with
divorce papers, and I decided I had to get a lawyer. A good
lawyer. I wanted a lawyer who could help me in both Criminal Court
and Civil Court.
No such animal.
Lawyers have clearly defined specialties.
I opened the phone book. I called a few places. I
needed reduced fees because I had so little money.
I was referred to Bay Area Legal Aid. Intended for
low-income cases involving employment, disability, family matters
and a few other things. I had to call several times over several
days to get an attorney who would consider if I was suitable. I
told him that my wife had conducted a fake domestic violence
incident and I needed help. He said he doubted me. What? He said
in the years he’d been working on cases, many men had told him
they were innocent when actually they were guilty. I told him,
“Look, I don’t know you but you weren’t there and I was. I know
“We do not accept any applicant who has a
restraining order against them.”
“But that is just what I’m saying. The restraining
order was unjustly obtained. I need legal help to sort it out.”
“You won’t get it here. We do not accept cases
“Doesn’t matter? No questions asked? I’m just
“In my experience, you probably are.”
“But you’ve never handled a case like mine because
you never accept them?”
“I’ve said what I have to say. We can’t help you.
I suggest you call the Bar referral number that can refer you to a
“Thanks. I will.”
[To be continued]