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If A Judge Told You To Jump Off A Bridge, Would You Do It?

, , , , , , | Legal | January 20, 2022

My dad worked as a cook on freight ships for several years when he was young, in the mid-1960s. He saw a lot of the world and had some interesting adventures in far-off places, like becoming involved in building the city of Brasilia and getting stuck in the Suez Canal because the Six-Day War broke out around him. His most perilous adventure, as he calls it, was, however, in our own home country of the Netherlands.

The ship he was working on had just docked in a Dutch port that evening, and dad decided to go look for a bar and have a beer or two. For whatever reason, he was alone that night. At the first bar he found, he looked in through the window to determine if it was any fun. Suddenly, one of the locals spotted him, jumped up, and started shouting.

Random Local: “That’s him! That’s the scooter thief!”

Dad had no clue whatsoever what this guy was talking about. He had never stolen a scooter, and he had never seen this guy before in his life. This was not his hometown; he was from the other side of the country. But this random guy was apparently completely convinced my dad was guilty, because he and three of his friends burst out of the bar, yelling that they were going to teach my dad a lesson. An important fact here: my dad was: A) alone, and B) sixteen years old, while his four attackers were all adults.

There was absolutely no reasoning with these guys, so Dad did the sensible thing and started hightailing it back to the ship. His four would-be attackers were apparently so h***-bent on violence that they chased after him, and a few streets over, they managed to corner him on a bridge over a canal.

You know how Sun Tzu stressed the importance of knowing your enemy? A prime example here: the four knuckleheads from the bar thought they had cornered a local scooter thief, but instead, they had encountered a former student of both boxing and full-contact karate (a precursor to modern Mixed Martial Arts), and one who’d been in enough scrapes to know how to translate those skills to an actual fight. Dad would have preferred to run and avoid the fight, but if these guys wouldn’t let him go, then so be it; he was not letting them kick his a** for something he didn’t do.

The night ends with the four brawl-happy bar patrons in hospital… and Dad in a cell at the local police station. Apparently, the cops, attracted by the fisticuffs, decided the only person still standing must be the guilty party and hauled him off on assault charges. The risk of getting into a fight somewhere where nobody knows you is that the police are more likely to pick the locals’ side. Dad figured he’d explain to the judge that it was self-defense, and then surely he’d be let go… right? Well, that turned out not to be as easy as he hoped, because after the explanation had been given, the judge delivered this gem of an idea on how Dad could have avoided the fight.

Judge: “You were on a bridge. Why didn’t you just jump off into the water?”

Yes, this judge actually thought THAT was a good idea. My dad never told me how high that bridge was, but even if it was low enough, jumping into unknown water, at night, with no idea how to get out again? Not to mention the first thing that popped into my dad’s head and out of his mouth:

Dad: “In the middle of winter? There was ice floating in it!”

Apparently, the judge agreed that hypothermia was a real danger, but he still seemed rather reluctant to let Dad off the hook. But acquitted he was, and he stayed on board the ship for the rest of their stay in port, which I think is understandable.

I’ve heard my dad tell that story several times. Every time, people are baffled by that judge’s reasoning. Seriously, who thinks throwing yourself off a bridge is a good way to avoid a fight?

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