Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Small Town Freemasonry — Part Three: A Day in the Life of a Junior Warden
If you have not read Parts One and Two of "Small Town Freemasonry," please do so before you read the following. You'll find links on those articles to return to this one.
Click here for Part One: Bucket of Rattlesnakes
Click here for Part Two: Masonic Ambush
The following report was written on June 18, 2005, about an hour after the incidents described took place, to document the experience before I might forget any details.
A Day in the Life of a Junior Warden
One of the responsibilities of the Junior Warden is to "superintend the brethren during the hours of refreshment." Another responsibility is that of being the officer who prefers charges against a Brother Mason when necessary.
A few months ago, I was instructed by my Lodge to prefer charges against a Brother who had been charged by the State in a court of law with "Sexual Exploitation of a Child" for having had sex with a girl 16 years of age. A second charge of "Sexual Exploitation of a Child" for the act of possessing a videotape of the act was dropped.
The Brother pleaded guilty to the first charge, and received a sentence of probation.
The Brother has been a Mason for four or five years. His father, a well-known and successful businessman in our town of 7,000 (county population of 20,000), recently received his 50-year Masonic award and is a Past Master, having sat in the East in our Lodge perhaps 40 years ago, but has not been active in Masonry for many years. I have never seen him or the Accused at any Lodge function other than the father one time, to receive his award.
After the secular courts accepted the guilty plea and pronounced sentence, I was instructed by my Lodge to draw up and prefer charges. In March, 2005 I went to the county courthouse, found the original indictment, and repeated the indictments, including the one that was dropped by the government court, changing the court's name to that of the Lodge, signed the paper on behalf of the lodge in my position of Junior Warden, and submitted it to the Lodge Secretary. The Secretary read the charges aloud, the Lodge accepted the charges by unanimous vote, and the process of planning for a Masonic trial began.
On Saturday, June 18, 2005 a pre-trial conference was held at the Lodge. Two Brethren representing the 9th Masonic District of Georgia's Trial Commission conducted the pre-trial conference, which was open only to members of our lodge and to attorneys for the charged Brother.
The Lodge's only evidence was the plea of guilty. No one had witnessed any acts or crimes by the Accused Brother, nor seen the videotape.
The Accused Brother was represented by two attorneys, one of whom was a Mason from a nearby lodge in the 9th District, appointed by the Masonic Trial Commission. The other attorney was a well-known local attorney, who had acted as the Accused Brother's attorney throughout his secular hearings and trial.
This was a pre-trial hearing, not a trial. The Accused's attorneys gave no defense prior to the Accused being given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. A plea of not guilty would have set the wheels turning for an August 20, 2005 trial date.
The Accused pleaded guilty to both charges. His attorneys were given the opportunity to make opening statements as well as closing statements. As Junior Warden, I sat in as "Prosecutor" since no one had told the Secretary that we were supposed to contact the Trial Commission's Prosecutor as well as the Trial Commission's Judges. The Accused's attorneys did not want to make opening statements, only closing statements, and urged the Judge to make the decision regarding punishment. I was given the floor to speak. Being put on the spot, not knowing I would be in the Prosecutor's seat, I simply stated for the record that we were saddened that the matter had come to this point, but, from a Masonic standpoint, it was the right thing to do. I was asked if I wanted the Judge or a jury of Masonic peers to decide on the punishment. After conferring with our Lodge's Worshipful Master, I said we would prefer the matter taken care of today, and that we would appreciate and abide by the Judge's decision.
The Accused's non-Masonic attorney then stood up, and put on what appeared to be an act of not understanding a Masonic trial and of not being "comfortable" being in a room of Masons. He noted that the meeting had opened with a prayer, and said he “assumed” we believed in honesty. He delivered a sad story of how 16-year old girls can be the aggressor in a sexual relationship, and how the Accused was just following human nature, and how in years past the age of sexual consent in Georgia had been only 14 years of age. He said that the Accused having pleaded guilty not only in a court of law but in this Masonic conference, proved that the Accused was an honest man, worthy of a second chance.
At the end of his talk, the non-Masonic attorney asked permission to leave the room, citing his discomfort and saying he didn't want to be around during Masonic discussion. To me, it was obvious he was “playing to the jury,” only there was no jury.
The Masonic attorney then put on his act, eloquently telling us how non-eloquent he was at public speaking. He directed all his comments at the assembled Brethren, not the Judge, even though it was the Judge who would make the decision regarding punishment. He invoked Masonic compassion and charity, and repeatedly tried to sway the Brethren, as if we were to make the decision regarding punishment.
As he closed his talk, the Masonic attorney several times tried to convince the Judge that the matter of punishment should be left to the assembled Brethren rather than to the Judge himself, either by taking a vote or having the Brethren speak openly.
When the second attorney completed his talk, the Accused was given an opportunity to speak. He spoke only few words, repeating several times "I'm sorry" and "I apologize" but only twice did he say for what he was apologizing -- once "for embarrassing the Lodge" and once "for embarrassing my father." He sobbed once, and wiped his eyes a few times.
The Masonic attorney once again asked if he and the Accused could leave the room so that the assembled Brethren could discuss the punishment. The Judge conferred with his associate (the more experienced former Judge for the 9th District Trial Commission), and said that no, they would not be allowed to leave the room. Instead, the Judge and his associate would leave the room to confer.
The Masonic attorney once again requested that the Brethren be allowed to speak. It was obvious that he wanted the Accused's father, who was present, to speak before his fellow Brethren, many of whom he had probably known for dozens of years.
The Judge granted the attorney's request, and the Accused's father immediately stood to speak. The father repeated several times "that's my son and I love him no matter what." He thanked one Brother who had spoken to him before the conference began that "this doesn't reflect on you [the father]."
The Secretary then stood and told the story of how Jesus forgave the prostitute, and how there were probably sins in all our lives we would wish to keep secret.
No other Brethren spoke.
The Judge called the meeting to ease and he and his associate left the room to confer.
It was approximately 15 minutes later when they reconvened the meeting. Saying that after much thought, consideration and prayer, and that not only were the eyes of our Lodge and the lodges of the 9th District upon this decision, but the eyes of every Mason in Georgia, he pronounced the sentence of expulsion, and wished the Accused well.
Within 30 seconds of the meeting being adjourned, the father of the Accused (whom I had never met before), a Past Master of the Lodge, approached me, and with malice in his voice and anger in his eyes, shouted “I hope you're happy!” I replied that I was simply doing my job as Junior Warden. He continued to talk, and attempted to block my path, but I said, “I'm not going to discuss it with you” and walked around him, carrying chairs that we had used in the proceeding back to the dining hall.
I returned to pick up more chairs, and the father approached me again, saying the same thing. I brushed past him to pick up more chairs. The Judge and his associate, as well as several Brethren, approached me and told me they had seen the father's actions and heard his words. The Judge told me to let him know if anything further happened, that what they had just witnessed itself was gross un-Masonic conduct by the father.
I took another set of chairs to the dining hall, and began cleaning up and turning off coffee machines, etc. After I was done with that responsibility, I stopped in the vestibule and spoke with a Brother and with the Worshipful Master. Several Brethren, along with the Expelled, his father, and his non-Masonic attorney, were standing outside the doors talking.
As soon as I walked out the door, the Expelled began pointing his finger at me, yelling "I'm gonna get you!" "You just wait!" "If I wasn't on probation...." "You want a piece of me?!" "You just better hope you're never in a legal situation!" and other taunts and threats. Two Brethren stood between us. I said "I have nothing to say to you." The Expelled continued to point and yell and threaten me. No one said a word until his father took him by the arm and led him away, saying, "You said you wouldn't do this" (which to me indicates pre-meditation). The Expelled continued to yell as he was led away. As he was walking away, the father was mumbling something about how I had violated my obligations to a Brother, apparently by bringing charges in the first place. It apparently didn't register with him that he and his son were the ones violating obligations this day, threatening me with bodily harm and legal action.
The situation was witnessed by our Lodge's Worshipful Master, Senior Warden, Secretary, two other Brethren, as well as the Expelled's father and his non-Masonic attorney.
And it wasn't even noon yet, on this, another day of superintending the Brethren during the hours of refreshment.
— Widow's Son
Read Small Town Freemasonry — Part 4: Masonic Coverups, Collusion and Cronyism
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