02-13-2013, 05:42 PM
The weeks went by without furthur incident in North Las Vegas. There was hardly any mention of the proposed demolition in the press or on television during that period. People went about their daily routine as if no threat had been made against their homes or businesses. Father Stefan performed the Mass at the usual times before his congregation undisturbed. The tension of the past month faded; everyone began to relax. Only on the day set for Dimitra's arraingnment did the animosity against SilverStar raise its ugly head once more.
The actual date of the hearing was kept from the press to prevent overzealous Loyals from creating a disturbance around the courthouse, but somehow the information leaked out. Dimitra and Father Stefan found themselves greeted by a band of overly supportive Loyals carrying signs protesting their love for Dimitra and Criss. The minute they spotted Mama Angel and the priest, they burst into cheers, waving their signs high in the air.
"We love you, Dimitra!"
"We won't let them put you in jail!"
"Where's Criss? Isn't he with you?"
"You go, Mama Angel!"
It took four members of the Clark County Sheriff's department to escort the two to their assigned courtroom. Criss, for his part, had to be smuggled into the building through the loading dock for safety's sake. As much as he loved his fans, he realized that there was a time to play celebrity and a time for serious business, and his mother's trial was very serious business indeed. The Clark County Circuit Court seemed to agree with him: it was a closed session, no visitors allowed, and no press was permitted.
Criss sat next to his mother, noting with surprise how serene she was. He had expected her to be shaking like a leaf with nervousness, but there she was, cool as a cucumber, staring calmly at the judge's bench. She had displayed more anxiety whenever he performed one of his demonstrations, often bursting into tears whenever it seemed he had been killed, but now she was in the hot seat herself, and she didn't even flinch. Perhaps it was her conviction that she was in the right, that justice would prevail and she would be vindicated in the end.
"All rise!" intoned the bailiff.
Everyone in the courtroom stood up respectfully for the Honorable Judge Lindsey Gigamoro, a slim blond woman who looked more like a law student than a judge. She commanded everyone to be seated and sat down herself, her shoulders barely rising above the bench.
"The People vs. Stefan Mykolos and Dimitra Sarantakos," she read from the docket, enunciating every syllable of the defendants' names. "Am I pronouncing that correctly?" she asked the defense counsel.
"That is correct, Your Honor," the lawyer replied.
"Good. Are the defendants present?"
Father Stefan and Dimitra stepped forward, heads high in confidence. "We are here, Your Honor," Father Stefan said.
"Raise your right hands."
Father and Dimitra did as they were told. "Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?" the judge intoned.
"I do," they replied.
"Good. The two of you have been charged with 'criminal trespass on private property'. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty, Your Honor," Father Stefan replied.
"And you, Mrs. Sarantakos?"
"Not guilty," Dimitra answered.
The judge read the docket again. "It says here that you were both arrested at Holy Trinity Church a month ago. Mrs. Sarantakos had chained herself to a tree on the property." She turned to Dimitra. "Can you explain why you did that?"
"I was protesting the demolition of Holy Trinity by SilverStar Enterprises," Dimitra answered. "When I was arrested, they said it was owned by SilverStar."
"What was owned by SilverStar?"
"Why, the church property, of course."
"I see. And you, Mr. Mykolos?"
"Father Mykolos, Your Honor," Father Stefan corrected her.
"I'm sorry. Father Mykolos, what is your connection to Mrs. Sarantakos?"
"She attends my church whenever she is in Las Vegas. She has worked hard to help save it from destruction, as did the other members of my congregation. I admit that chaining herself to the tree was a bit extreme, but it did generate a lot of publicity for the cause."
"And SilverStar claims it owns the property?"
"They say they do, but they have no legal claim to it. I did not sell it to them, nor did I take them up on their offer to pay ten thousand dollars for it. They ordered our eviction, just like all the others in the area. They want to destroy the entire neighborhood just to build some big luxury hotel."
"So they charged you with trespassing on your own property?" Judge Gigamoro said incredulously. "Have you filed any appeals?"
"Your Honor," the defense spoke up, "an injunction was served against SilverStar prohibiting them from any action against the church three weeks ago. There are also a series of class action suits against SilverStar filed by the residents of North Las Vegas as well."
"Well, if SilverStar has no legal title to the property, then there's no reason to press charges against the defendants," the judge concluded. "This case is dismissed for lack of evidence. Dismissed."
A bang of the gavel, and it was all over. Criss rushed up to embrace his mother. "I knew they couldn't make it stick, Mom!" he said happily. "I just knew it!"
Criss, Dimitra and Father Stefan left the courtroom in high spirits. In his exultation, Criss took the main entrance out of the courthouse, not realizing that the same mob of Loyals who had greeted Dimitra and Father Stefan earlier were still there despite the best efforts of the authorities to chase them away. Only when they were all over him, squeeling and groping, did he notice their presence. Father Stefan could only stand by, laughing helplessly at Criss's plight. He didn't envy Criss's celebrity one bit; in fact, he couldn't help but pity him. Poor man, he thought, hardly a moment to himself.
"So what happened?" the Loyals demanded.
Criss waved his arms to call for order. "It's okay, everyone!" he shouted over the din. "Mom and Father Stefan here were aquitted. They dropped the charges, so no one's going to jail, okay? So, we're all gonna go home and take it easy. Thanks for your support, and God bless you."
The Loyals cheered at the good news. Criss, Dimitra and Father Stefan were hurried out of the courthouse before more pandemonium could break out. Father Stefan breathed a sigh of relief.
"You have to put up with that every day?" he asked Criss incredulously.
"No, not every day," Criss replied. "Just when I go out in public."