Cecilia I-By Edward Maroncha

She scans the crowd silently. The magistrate has not yet arrived, so the court session is yet to begin. The court clerk is arranging her files. She is a middle-aged lady with a sweet smile for everyone, including rude lawyers. Cecilia’s eyes rest on the old lawyer seated at the back of the courtroom. Today the old man is not seated on the front row, where other lawyers are lined up. Some are chatting with each other, others on their phones while others are just staring anxiously at the magistrate’s door while glancing at their watches.  

The old man is seated on the last row of the middle column. Today he is in court not as a lawyer but as an accused person. As usual, he is wearing a faded suit and shirt that is tattered at the collar. He is pretending to read a newspaper nonchalantly, but Cecilia can tell that he is too nervous to concentrate.

Cecilia knows the old lawyer very well. His name is Maxwell. He must be in his seventies, and has practiced for decades in his old office at the edge of town. He is said to be quite wealthy, but he lives like a pauper. His office is in a dingy building in town. It is a small office divided into two parts. The reception is tiny, and can only accommodate two people; three if you include the receptionist. It is clattered with all manner of things, such as outdated calendars, old notebooks and newspapers, bags and so forth. The receptionist is a young woman with an attitude running from here to Mount Sinai. She is said to be Maxwell’s latest mistress, which is not surprising since it is rumored that Maxwell sleeps with all the women he hires as his secretaries.

This particular secretary doesn’t look like a lawyer’s assistant. Her clothes are cheap and her hair is unkempt. The red lipstick smeared on her lips does more harm than good to her appearance. It is not surprising, since Maxwell is a mean-fisted brute and thus pays peanuts.

Maxwell’s cubicle is just as cluttered as his secretary’s. Files are strewn all over. It is little wonder that he is rarely prepared for hearings. His “desk” is a bench that could have belonged to a carpenter’s workshop. Dust is all over, and on the one occasion that Cecilia visited that office, she could not stop sneezing.

Maxwell is said to be a womanizer, and Cecilia wonders what kind of women would be attracted to him. The man is a slob. The man is overweight, dirty (his faded suits-two in number-all have food stains) and is a chain smoker. He drives a cranky old pickup that seems to stall after every five successful kilometers it covers.

The women are probably after his money. Maxwell is said to have made lots of money through insurance cases. It is said that his clients always get a raw deal. It is not as though he even fights for them. Maxwell is said to know how to scam the system through bribery to get his payments, but that money never gets to his clients.

But that is not the reason Cecilia despises the man. It is a free world, and anybody can associate with anyone. The theft is wrong, but Cecilia hates him because of what she considers a greater sin. She loathes him because he is an alleged pedophile. Cecilia doesn’t even like the word ‘alleged’ because she is convinced that he is indeed a child defiler.

That is the reason Cecilia had gone to his office. He had been reported by a teenage girl for having defiled her. The case landed on Cecilia’s desk, and she took it up with the usual gusto. She is particularly interested in rape and defilement cases, because she sees it as her duty to protect the defenseless against sexual predators. Traditionally it used to be girls and women as victims, but Cecilia is increasingly seeing boys being targeted by sex pests.

The girl who reported Maxwell, Sharon, told Cecilia that she has been involved in an accident and had broken a leg. Maxwell promised to follow up the case on their behalf and that he would inform them when they got paid by the insurance company. Sharon in form one when the accident happened. The following two years saw Sharon’s mother following up on the money to no avail. She was struggling to keep Sharon in school as well as sort out other bills. Maxwell wouldn’t even tell her the status of the case.

When Sharon was in form three, the headteacher finally got tired of her mother’s empty promises and kicked her out over non-payment of fees. Sharon’s mother just cried and said that they would leave it all to God. But Sharon was not satisfied. She wanted to continue with her education. She went and camped at Maxwell’s office for a whole day, demanding to see him. But the secretary would not let her through. Maxwell either did not come to work that day, or he remained locked in his cubicle the whole day. After a full day there, she decided to go to the courts the following day. She found a very helpful clerk who searched her name in the court house’s computers and found the file. He told her that the court had awarded her seven hundred thousand shillings for the broken leg, and advised her to check whether the insurance company had made any payments. He even gave her the name of the company, which had been indicated in the police abstract.

The insurance company did not have a branch in their local town so Sharon purposed to visit their headquarters, even though she had no money. She went to their pastor and explained that she needed some money to go to Nairobi to follow up on insurance payments. The pastor not only promised to pay her fare, but he agreed to take her there. They went to the company’s headquarters, and were informed that the insurance company had paid seven hundred and twenty-two thousand shillings to Maxwell a year before.

The pastor promised to take Sharon to the lawyer’s office the following day. Unfortunately, the pastor’s wife fell sick that night and he had to rush her to hospital, and he ended up staying there the whole night and the following day. Undeterred, Sharon went to Maxwell’s office alone. She found that the secretary had stepped out, but Maxwell’s door was ajar. She went in.

When she confronted him, Maxwell admitted that he had been paid, but he told her that her would only help her if she “scratched his back”. Before Sharon could tell what was happening, he rose and walked to the outer door and locked it. He returned to his cubicle and locked it as well. Then he lowered his trouser and ordered her to suck his manhood. She refused. When he tried to force her, she warned him that she would bite it off if he insisted.

Angrily, Maxwell grabbed her, lifted her dress and lowered her undergarment and forced himself on her right there on the floor. When he was done, he told her to leave his office and never to return. He also warned her not to tell anyone, otherwise she would face the consequences. Sharon left the office crying and ran all the way to the police station.

Fortunately, Cecilia was at the station, chatting with a colleague. When she saw the crying girl, she immediately approached her and asked what was wrong. The girl explained to her what had happened. Cecilia immediately took up the matter. She helped Sharon record her statement and even personally took her to hospital. The medical report showed that indeed she had been defiled. The doctor even managed to get a semen sample.

Cecilia did not waste time.

She and her colleague went to the old lawyer’s office and arrested him. The uproar that followed the arrest surprised Cecilia. The local lawyer’s association went up in arms. They claimed that the government was using the police to harass lawyers. The local chair even told his members not to represent Sharon because she was being used by the government. Cecilia was even singled out by the mob as the agent of evil, but she was undeterred. She believed Sharon was telling the truth, and she was determined to help.

She approached former classmate of hers, a lawyer based in the city, and explained the situation. The lawyer was surprised and confessed that the information that was flowing in lawyers’ WhatsApp groups was skewed. She promised to bring out Sharon’s side of the story to the other lawyers, and even represent her in court. She explained that it is called “watching brief”.

But the drama did not stop. That same night, Sharon’s house was attacked by thugs. Cecilia had imagined that that would happen, and so both of them were not there. They had spent the night at their pastor’s house. The following day, however, Cecilia learned that the prosecutor had made a decision not to prosecute the case. Cecilia was furious, and she complained loudly to her boss. But her boss calmly told her that orders had come from above requiring them to stand down. He told her that it was possible that the prosecutor had received similar orders, and then ordered her to hand over the file to him.

Fortunately, Cecilia had secretly copied the file and handed the copy to her lawyer friend, Cherry. Cherry is just as stubborn as she is, and when she heard that the ODPP did not intend to proceed with the case, she made an application to the court to be allowed to institute private prosecution. The application dragged on for weeks and was eventually declined.

It became obvious that certain forces were protecting the ageing lawyer, and that it would be impossible to win. Cecilia and Cherry decided to at least try to get Sharon back to school. Cherry contacted a blogger friend and convinced him to post Sharon’s story on social media. The idea was to at least shame Maxwell into paying the insurance money. The post went viral at once, and the mainstream media picked it up. It got unexpected results.

In quick succession, tables turned against Maxwell. The LSK national President issued a statement stating that lawyers are only interested in the delivery of justice and that the previous statements of the chapter chairperson do not reflect the views of the Society as a whole. That same day Cecilia was ordered to re-arrest the lawyer, and the following day Maxwell was rearraigned in court. Journalists flocked into the courtroom. A women’s rights NGO offered to pay Cherry’s legal fees. Maxwell was charged with defilement, and he was also charged with obtaining money by false pretenses.

He was released on bond, but the following week he paid the money owed to Sharon. The ODPP withdrew the obtaining money by false pretenses charge, but the defilement charge was kept open. That is why they are in court today. This defilement case has been postponed four times already, but Cecilia hopes it will proceed today. She has all the witnesses in court. Maxwell’s lawyer was warned by the magistrate that last time’s adjournment would be the very last. He really has no way of making the case delay any further.

Or maybe he does.

As soon as the magistrate strides into the room, commotion is heard at the back of the room. Maxwell has collapsed. Cecilia finds herself wondering whether the old man is genuinely ill or whether this is just another delaying tactic.

 (Continued Here.)


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