In 2009, I was a prosecutor in Orange County when I became a defendant in my own criminal case. I was falsely accused of domestic violence, and I was charged with two felony counts even though I was the one who called the police three times that night over my accuser’s behavior.
It was surreal. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be arrested that night, but then I was. Even then, I didn’t think that I’d be charged with a crime, but then I was. Even so, I didn’t believe the case would actually go to trial, but then it did, and from those ashes emerged my firm.
So I learned what it’s like to be a defendant. I lost my job and all my savings. I almost lost my house. I had to borrow money from friends and family. I learned what it’s like to have to explain yourself to them and others, and the shame of not knowing whether they believe you or not—because after all, they did charge you, not her, didn’t they—and how are people supposed to know what to believe, anyway. I learned what it’s like to feel this public shame pollute your daily interactions—or at least your perception of them—and how all of that affects you as a person. I learned what it’s like to have potential jurors look at you the way you figure people look at criminals. I learned what it’s like to watch someone lie right before your eyes in order to bury you and save face. And I learned viscerally why the accused must be entitled to a speedy trial. Because life as you knew it was not the same, and for me, it was the same nightmare every day.
The reality is my case was not unique. These things happen more than we want to believe, and there’s no hashtag or survivors’ group for people when they do.
The experience left me indelibly with the view that it’s every bit as vital to defend the accused as it is to prosecute crime. And so my firm was born.