Though we knew we had an extraordinarily long road ahead of us, our team huddled together to celebrate this momentary victory and key milestone. I looked over at the Government table and could see they weren’t enjoying their sour grapes. As they bitterly grumbled between themselves I overheard murmurings of an appeal to the ninth circuit. But that didn’t matter in this moment. We had won the day and it was time to celebrate and take our victory lap.
As I was marched out of the Courtroom by the Marshals they were debating whether to take me back upstairs to my unit or to take me to receiving and release. The older Marshal overruled his younger colleagues who thought I wouldn’t be making the bail release today. He stated in a matter of fact way “I’m betting he walks out of here tonight.”
I asked jokingly if the stakes were donuts. They all laughed as the old timer said “Now Christie, I think you may have us confused with street cops.”
Then he asked me if I had anything to retrieve from my cell. “No, nothing” I responded, “If I never see that place again it will be too soon.”
“R &R it is” was his reply to me. And with that I was escorted to one of the many holding cells in the Receiving and Release department for more waiting. It late Friday afternoon of Labour Day weekend. We were working against the clock to get me home. If the release paperwork stalled I would have to sit the long weekend out in custody.
Unknown to me at the time, there was somebody on my side that wasn’t going to let that happen -- my wife, Nikki Nicoletto-Christie. As I learned from Nikki later, during the proceedings, as she had handed my passport to the Clerk, Nikki asked her “What do I have to do to take my husband home with me?”
The clerk, likely happy to get some help moving the paperwork along, told Nikki, in a women to women manner, “If you hand deliver these forms to each department, I will do everything in my power to send your man home with you.”
For the next several hours everyone got to see the true colors of the woman I trusted and loved -- the qualities that she brought to our marriage and family every day for the last 15 years. With her steadfast commitment, will and sheer determination she raced the clock as she worked her way from department to department.
As I waited the holding cell, time slowed and it seemed like I had been waiting an eternity. Then, in the distance I could hear heavy boots against the cement along with the rhythm of keys, getting louder with each step. It was the moment of truth. My fears crept in and my imagination ran as I heard a second set of footsteps -- ones that were much lighter. My spirits dropped and a wave of panic and disappointment washed over me. “There are two people. That has to mean I'm am going upstairs.”
I immediately checked myself with a curt silent comment "Come on Marine!! What's a couple more days?” I breathed deeply and my calm returned.
The two sets of footsteps stopped at my cell and as I looked up at their owners my spirits soared. Standing next to the Marshal was a young lady I had never seen before and in her hand my ticket to home -- a black ankle bracelet. As the cell was opened she let me know who was in charge.
As she positioned herself in front of me on one knee, she pointed and focused on my left leg. As I extended it she placed the home detention device around my ankle. She was careful to ensure it was not uncomfortable but tight enough so that the only possible way to remove it would be by cutting. A break to the 360° continuity would trigger a battery of bells and whistles at the pre-trial service office who had dedicated resources monitoring and tracking home detentions 24x7x365.
“Okay, listen up I only going to go through this once.” Without looking up she started barking out the rules as she handed me a charging device.
“You will be released soon. You will enter the vessel that will return you home.”
“You will go straight home.”
“If your vehicle stops for food or gas you will remain in the car. I suggest use the bathroom now so there is no confusion.”
“You will enter your domicile and not exit it, that includes the yard. Stay inside -- you have a no exception rule!”
“You will charge every twelve hours -- if you don't charge your bracelet you will receive a tone accompanied by a red light. When this happens, you must stop what you’re doing and charge.”
“If your device is not charged you will be in violation. We will send marshals and they will return you to custody.”
“Monday morning your pre-trial service officer will call you. Make sure you answer your phone.”
“Any questions? I nodded my head.
“No? Okay, good luck.”
With that she rose turned and marched out of the cell leaving me and the young marshal alone. He looked at me with a big smile on his face and said "Jesus Christ Christie, what did you get yourself into?” We both laughed.
After a quick change into my street clothes, I was led to the door that put me into the Courthouse hall and into the arms of my waiting family. A feeling of relief washed over me. At the same time I was almost overwhelmed by the staggering shift of being in a state of heightened alert and trusting no one to being surrounded by those I loved and trusted implicitly.
As a man, as a leader, it is your duty to show strength to your family -- as an example and a foundation for them. In that moment I realized that they were also my foundation -- and there for me to build and renew my strength. Over the next two years I would learn more lessons here - ones that no book can teach.
After our reunion, as we made our way through endless corridors, Nikki filled me on the tale of her afternoon adventure. We walked through the oversized front Courthouse entrance and into the crowded streets of Los Angeles. Anyone that has spent any time behind bars knows what a rush it can be walking out and into freedom -- it’s like you are a child and your birthday and Christmas morning have been rolled into one.
I enjoyed that moment knowing that the drawbacks would come. The world and it’s harsh realities can come at you like a hard wind and I knew this was just the first round in a long hard battle. The Government abandoned their bail appeal. Soon enough we would learn they had taken up a different tactic and set their sights on something much more sinister.