Friday, August 6, 2010

Ted, Where the Hell Have You Been?

So just what could it have been that kept me away from racing for over a week and this spot for virtually two? A kid. What else could it have been? I normally don’t get into any really personal stuff here but aside from the stress of it all, I think it’s pretty interesting from an unbiased bystander perspective. Up front I apologize about the length.
On Friday, July 16, I received news from my ex-wife in Nevada: a police report was being filed on my 14-year old for threatening to shoot another teenager. Turns out our son was allegedly chatting on MySpace at 1 AM the evening before and the talk turned ugly. Next thing you know, one kid is telling the other that he better not step foot onto the high school grounds or he and his brother are going to get “shot up” with his “deuce, deuce”. Turns out the kid’s dad is a baseball coach at the new high school our son will be attending so administrators as well as police were called.
That evening there was a summer league baseball game at that High School and the NLVPD were out in force with squad cars, plain clothes and uniformed officers everywhere. The crowd was unusually large for a non-descript summer league game because word passed rapidly of the fight that was going to take place there that evening. Parents were asking the principal about the safety of the event and the scope of the actions the night before were starting to become apparent.
As the day moved along, the picture did not become any clearer. Of course I immediately spoke to my son who, after admitting that he had a MySpace page against the explicit wishes of his mother and I, also was adamant that whoever did it, it was not him. He, in fact, insisted upon taking a lie detector test. He’s been a yahoo in the past, sure – what kid hasn’t – but this was certainly beyond his scope and I knew it. Yet there was nothing I could do about it.
It turns out that a friend of his (we’ll call him “Bill” for the sake of the story) set up the account against the wishes of his father so he offered it up to our son. Like a goofball, he took it and proceeded to make the page his own complete with a picture and started adding friends.
That afternoon the police came a calling and they did it with a vengeance.
“We know you did it and when we trace the address to this house we’re coming back AND YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL!!!”
To his credit, he sat, listened and simply said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I did not do this.”
A meeting was set up in the principal’s office of his new High School first thing Monday morning (he is set to be a freshman this fall) and we had to make some fast decisions. Flights to Las Vegas were out of the question. Last minute they were $600 a ticket plus a rental car. If my wife was to accompany me then flying was out. We have family in Colorado Springs and while we knew it was a long day, we figured we could get there in a day if we drove. Then it was a mere 12 hours to Las Vegas from the Springs and plenty of time to nap before the meeting. I was fortunate to be able to get a free room for a few nights while there (it does pay to be in gaming from time to time) so we did laundry, packed and set off at 6 AM the next morning.
The entire trip down was nerve-wracking. The weather was gorgeous and you couldn’t ask for better driving conditions, but the thought of my son in prison was horrifying. Every possible what if scenario was played out in the car. A part of me was hopeful that whatever happened, he would come to live with me in Minnesota but the first order of business was to get him off the hook.
My wife showed her ultimate love for her step-son by calling her ex-husband who was a retired police officer and detective to outline for us what we could expect. Apparently any amount of lying and storytelling was going to take place to get us to believe just about anything so our son would confess. There was more, but that’s what I took away.
We were up early and at the school a half hour before the meeting. I could hardly keep still. My son arrived with his mom and step-dad and I hugged him like he just came back from Iraq. We all talked about various scenarios but went into it thinking that for the short term anyway, he would be suspended from football practice pending the investigation.
Well, we were right about the outcome, but spent two hours listening to the principal tell us how she was sure that all the evidence pointed to our boy and how she spoke with Bill and other kids and absolutely believes what they said. She also held up the picture from the website and it was pretty damning as well – at least to anyone over the age of 30. He had shorts pulled down to his hips, boxers showing, wife beater t-shirt and baseball hat turned sideways. Nice.
We left the meeting feeling like we were doomed – except for our son. He was polite and respectful to the principal and quietly insisted that he didn’t do anything wrong and he will be cleared. At one point during the meeting his freshman football coach came into the meeting and his first pronouncement was that our son needed to fix his “character” and change whatever behaviors got him into the principal’s office. Another one – guilty until proven innocent: and at this point he didn’t know a damn thing about why anyone was even there.
The rest of Monday and most of Tuesday went by uneventfully, though tense with the “what could bes” running through all the adults’ heads. He came back to the hotel with us on Monday and we worked out in the hotel gym and we did the same on Tuesday before visiting some friends we had left behind in Las Vegas after we had moved. On the way home that afternoon my ex called and said the police wanted to talk and she thought that I should call them back and handle it. We were close to the hotel so I said I would call him when we arrived in the room. My hope was that when I called he would tell me that our son was exonerated and that this entire nightmare was over.
I was soon proven very wrong.
The detective’s first words to me after exchanging greetings was “Let me tell you how your son is already lying to you.” OK, this is FAR from over. He went on to tell me that having the My Space account was against our rules and that was lie one. The next lie was that Bill had told him that our son talked to him the day after the incident and said it was a just a joke and that he was only playing around. Of course the detective believed Bill. When I explained that our son was with his mom and stepdad the entire day and evening and that no phone calls were made he quickly pointed out that kids sneak out of their house all the time and that a liar like our son probably did just that.
I was able to keep my composure through gigantic effort and asked whether or not the IP addresses had been tracked at all. The answer came back, “That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t prove who was behind the keyboard.”
I nearly lost my mind but calmly responded, “How is that possible? For argument’s sake let’s say that you tracked the IP address to Bill’s house. Wouldn’t that make Bill more of a suspect than my son?”
“No. That really doesn’t prove anything.”
I was incredulous. He then asked to speak to my son and I told him that at this point that didn’t seem advisable. I got the canned response, “Well if he’s really innocent he has nothing to hide, does he?”
My response, “Everyone has presumed he is guilty already and that I don’t think that anything positive could come of it.”
He said I could be there with our son while he answered some questions and we could stop at any time. I put him on hold and asked our son what he wanted to do. He said, “Dad, I am telling the truth and have no reason to worry.”
I put him on speaker and the detective began asking him questions. I tried to keep in mind my wife’s ex-husband’s advice which we had already told our son about so he knew what to expect. He answered respectfully and calmly, always finishing his sentences with ‘sir’: “No, sir”; “I don’t know, sir”; and my personal favorite, when asked why Bill would lie about the conversation, “I don’t know, sir. You would have to ask him.”
As the detective wound up, he outlined for our son what he felt had happened. He was convinced that our son was guilty, that it got out of hand and when it all blew up he was lying about it and now couldn’t stop.
“No sir. I’m sorry but that’s not what happened.”
The detective tried to outline his evidence: “It was YOUR account; YOUR picture; YOUR user name; YOUR password. It all points to you!!”
I stepped in.
“Detective, he is NOT the only person that knew that user name and password. It was never changed. Bill of course knew it. So did several other people.”
The detective wrapped up and I asked him what was next. He said that if there was no resolution he would go back to the parents, let them know what he found out and they could decide whether or not to take it to the District Attorney. I then asked if the boy could go with us to Minnesota as scheduled for a few weeks and he said that was fine.
I got off the phone and started speaking to the boy in measured, angry tones: “If I EVER hear you use the words “Bill” and “friend” in the same sentence again I will lose my mind. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!!???”
Then I lost my mind. It was as if four days of anxiety and frustration just exploded out of me. I nearly burst into tears and my speech was a raging river. My wife managed to get me to go to the lobby and walk around until I was calm.
He asked her after I left: “Why did he yell at ME? I didn’t do anything.”
She explained that I wasn’t yelling AT him, I was just yelling out of anger and frustration as to what a so-called friend was doing to him.
While downstairs I spoke to my ex-wife. We were both devastated because it seemed as if the worst case scenario was coming true: no resolution and it was to be a completely circumstantial event with our son looking the worst for it. The decision was made that if there was no resolution he would move to Minnesota and start High School up here. There was no reason for him to start there with this stigma attached to him with no resolution in sight.
We decided to leave early the next morning. I wanted to get him out of Nevada and up to Minnesota as quickly as possible so he could relax and not have any of this swirling around him. An hour and a half out or Las Vegas my ex-wife calls. The detective wants to talk again.
Now what?
I dialed the number as I pulled off the highway before we lost reception.
After exchanging greetings the detective said, “Did you hear anything last night?”
“Bill broke down. He admitted everything. Your son wasn’t involved in anything at all. I’m sorry I had to come down so hard on him, but by yesterday afternoon it became apparent that this all could have only come from your son and Bill and some pushing was what was going to break this. Apparently he and a friend thought it would be funny to play a joke on this other boy and when it went all sideways they figured they would frame your boy since it was his name on the account. Your son had the same story throughout and was a gentleman through this entire ordeal. Can I speak with him?”
The detective spoke to my son and said the same to him. So did Bill’s father and Bill as well. Bill Sr. was mortified. We’d known him for years – since the boys were both 5 and in kindergarten. It was horrifying that Bill Jr. could have set up a long time friend like this and his dad was on the verge of tears. I had no real words for him. I felt for him, I could imagine what he was feeling, but throughout the ordeal I knew our son was innocent. I never would have imagined that Bill would have done this to him and obviously neither did his dad.
As we got out of the car to grab coffee and some breakfast I hugged the stuffing out of my son and told him that I was never prouder of him. He remained calm and respectful to adults in authority and simply told the truth. He handled himself like a champ. I could have ran all the way to Colorado I felt so good.
The principal called the next day to also apologize after my ex wrote her a note that passively outlined how wrong she was and how innocent our son was. I also dropped a line to the football coach letting him know that the boy was cleared and was working hard to be in great shape come August 9th camp. No word at all from him.
The list of lessons here is long:
Careful what you put on-line;
Careful about the image you want to portray;
Choose your friends carefully;
Never share passwords with anyone;
Listen to you parents (my fave).
The list goes on. I think our son learned a ton from this experience and I hope that others will, too.
Among other things this period ALSO included a good friend coming down with serious heart issues at only 54 (and a woman!); my mother-in-law needing emergency eye surgery and the piece de resistance – my wife developing a severe case of strep throat on the way home which kept us in Colorado a day and a half longer than expected.
So THIS is why I’ve been away from so long missing the Claiming Crown, updates, races and Diplo’s claim. I think I’m finally caught up from this nightmare and I can get back to racing. Sorry for the absence, but I think you can understand and I hope you don’t mind me sharing.


Sandra Warren said...

Wow, Ted, what a story. Thank God that Bill cracked. How terrible it would have been for your son if Bill had continued to deny, deny, deny. I hope all of the kids involved will take some great lessons out of this.

I, a straight-A student, was accused of cheating on a test in high school, when 4 girls seated in a row next to me where all busted. One girl was caught and held after class, and then named all of the other girls, but inexplicably included me. We were all in a row so perhaps she thought I was involved. We were questioned, lectured, excoriated, and then assigned term papers over the Christmas holiday. I did my term paper even though I maintained my innocence. I was astonished to learn after Xmas that I was the ONLY one who did do me paper. The other girls all blew it off, and there was apparently no further consequence. I wrote a long and impassioned paragraph at the end of my paper explaining why I did the paper even though I was innocent. The teacher never responded to me in any way, but I did get an A at the end of the term. He never apologized and never mentioned it again, and frankly looked darned uncomfortable every time he crossed my path for two more years. If only HE'D had the character to express doubt that I was guilty, I wuld have felt so much better. I still remember the outrage. Good for your son. And this was one of the more interesting blogs I've read in the last year. :)

CL said...

Ted, the bottom line on all this is that truth did win out. That and the fact that you, the wife, the ex-wife, etc., raised this son together. His truthfulness is the direct result of you. Congratulations.

Frank said...

Yikes, Ted. This is quite a story. So happy for you and your family that the truth finally was uncovered, but what an ordeal to get there. Good for you guys for hanging in there.

David M. Miller said...


As painful as it was for you to share this experience with us, it provides a valuable lesson for parents and their kids.

I am so happy that things did work out for the best in an understandably stressful situation for you and Theri.

Lloyd said...

The answer to the question is: Handling my bizness!

Matt said...

Wow, first off, you really an excellent way of telling an engaging story, even one as personal as this.

From an outsider's perspective, I have to say that I was honestly surprised by the outcome. I am 32, and I grew up as a teen on the internet, just like your son is on My Space, and i was in the chatrooms. This was pre-columbine of course, and nobody really understood or took terroristic threats seriously.

My initial impression was that if I were your son, and I was guilty, I would know in my heart I was not serious and just talking about of my behind.. and that the gravity of the situation would be far beyond what I imagined it could come to be when the police were involved.

At that point, I would probably have shutdown internally, and convinced myself that this was so blown out of proportion, that while I knew it happened, I had to be of the mindset that the accusations were so serious compared to the true intent, that they were not true. I would rationalize that the other child KNEW it wasn't going to happen, and he was simply trying to get back at me by burying me with felony charges.

At that point, as wrong as it is, I think I probably would have acted exactly as your son did upon being questioned, and as hard as it might be, go along with my story to my parents, who I love, but I would feel justified in the ends. A lesson would be learned already, why would I have to also go to juvenile detention and have my life flipped upside down over a joke?

So as an innocent bystander, I was prepared to tell you, that your duty as a father would of course leave you in the role where you had to take your son's word at his innocence, but as a third party, that I'd be inclined to believe there was a good chance he was in fact guilty.

It's a great ending that the boy did break down and confess.. and while the detective's actions could probably be considered deplorable, perhaps they are ultimately necessary to get to the bottom of the truth, and are effective.

Hope things go well for you in life and at the track, and I think this is probably going to be a good thing all in all. A bonding experience for sure, even if it was scary and stressful.

Ted Grevelis said...

Thank you all. It is surprising the depth of people's responses to this post both here, on Facebook and in various e-mails. I wish my horse posts would generate as much passion!

We were very fortunate in this situation and I'm thankful things turned out the way they did. I'm glad others feel it may be useful as well.

Hard as it is to believe, I actually left out some things in the interest of brevity! I wish I could write a "Movie of the Week" (I just dated myself!). I think it would be a hit!

Thanks to everyone again, I appreciate it you reading and, especially, taking the time to comment and send me notes.