Title: Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr
Publisher: Roundfire Books
Date Published: 22nd February 2019.
Genre: Legal Thriller
WINNER OF THREE AWARDS
2019 AMERICAN FICTION AWARD
NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCY AWARD – Best Legal Thriller OF 2019
SILVER MEDAL WINNER 2019 READERS’ FAVORITES AWARDS
Chosen by Wiki.ezvid.com among their list of 10 Gripping and Intelligent Legal Thrillers
The courtroom scenes are wonderfully written…the characters are well described and the author paints a picture of each in the mind of the reader…Strong plot, strong characters and a strong writing style that I really enjoyed. This one is a definite “thumbs-up.” Strongly recommend! I look forward to reading additional works by N. Lombardi, Jr.
Kim M Aalaie, Author’s Den
One of my favorite suspense novels of the year. It will make you question the legal system.
The Eclectic Review
The courtroom action is excellent, trimmed to the most gripping parts of the trial, with plenty of emotional impact…a fairly realistic portrayal of the way small-town US society works…a fast-moving story with plenty of dramatic moments, and a big twist in the final pages.
“When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.
A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase.
Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture.
Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?”
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The city council had no choice but to call an emergency meeting with the mayor. All but one of the council members, despite the late notice, were able to make it. The police chief was summoned, and the head of the Bruntfield Police Union also insisted on being present. They didn’t meet in the public hall, but rather in the private chambers in the back where they sat around an oval walnut table, nearly all of them dressed in white buttoned- down short-sleeve shirts, except for the chief who was dressed in uniform, and one councilman dressed in a suit and tie.
“So now we’re national news,” the mayor announced despondently. He was a short man with a very round body, his features reminding one of a genial uncle in a TV sitcom. He had a buzz cut hairstyle and distended cheeks. Despite his almost comical looks, he was well liked by the people, and now deep in his second term. “Care to tell us how that happened, John?”
John Garson, Chief of Police, Bruntfield Township, squirmed uneasily in his chair. His embarrassment looked incongruous when compared to his reputation and his mien, a well-built man, his chiseled features bearing the epitome of moral integrity, his hair cut in an austere style that radiated a combination of duty and pride; a dedicated officer of the law. “Officers Puente and Fox responded to a call of vandalism and approached a man who fitted the description that was consistent with the 911 call. From what I know at this point, and that may change, is that the suspect resisted arrest.”
“Was he armed?”
“As far as I know he was not, mayor.”
“Were there other officers involved?”
“Yes, backup was requested and two units responded.”
“Is it safe to say”—and now the mayor’s voice took on a mordant tone—”that allegations are going to be made that these men, six officers in total, used excessive force on an unarmed man, considering he’s dead as a result of this confrontation?”
“More than likely, Your Honor.”
“An unarmed homeless man, who just happens to be a goddamned war hero!” exclaimed the mayor, slapping his hand on the table. “Purple Heart, Bronze Star!”
The silence that followed was not surprising.
“A man dies while being apprehended, and we aren’t even sure if he committed this petty act of vandalism. This looks bad. Like hooliganism. A goddamned war hero for Chrissakes! Thank God it wasn’t a black man!”
A chuckling snort was heard from the far side of the table. “You got something to say, Ray?”
Ray Miffler was the leading property developer in Bruntfield, and his inputs into town planning were significant. But he typically contributed next to nothing on any other issue. And he was a smartass too. His angular face opened into a wily smile. “It could have been worse…could have been a woman. Imagine, six burly cops?”
The mayor instantly regretted giving this man any attention and didn’t wait for the idiot to finish before he shouted, “He had a prosthetic foot for God’s sake! No more flippant comments, Ray, or we’ll throw you out of here!”
The mayor then redirected his attention back to Garson. “Do you know these men, John?”
“Of course I’m familiar with them, it’s a small force.”
“Chief Garson,” injected a middle-aged balding man with a bushy red mustache, wearing wire-rimmed spectacles; Brad Wilkinson, also the Superintendent of Bruntfield School District, “have any of these men been implicated in any similar situations, where, I mean, excessive force was suspected?”
“Of course, we checked that first thing, and there had been some complaints against three of the officers. It was quite a while ago, before I came.”
“And what is the status of these men, are they still on the job?”
“As of this moment, yes, but I am considering full suspension pending the outcome of this meeting.”
The police union boss fidgeted in his chair. Bushy salt-and- pepper hair, puffed up in a style dating back to the fifties, jowls that hung like slabs of beef, his tremendous paunch half-hidden beneath the table, he made clear his position. “That wouldn’t be acceptable to us. Paid administrative leave is more what we have in mind. It’s not the first time this has been done pending an investigation…almost standard…remember, innocent until proven guilty.”
“So how else are we going to respond to this!” the mayor demanded.
Abe Norson, small-headed but handsome, with a fashionably trimmed van-dyke, the owner of Bruntfield’s Ford dealership, spoke up. “I think at the very least we should hold an inquiry.”
Wilkinson couldn’t suppress himself. “Inquiry?” he blurted. “A man is dead, I would think a grand jury would be more appropriate.”
The mayor looked directly across from him. “Burns?”
Alexander Burns was the sixty-four-year-old city attorney.
The only councilman wearing a full suit despite the heat wave. His black, thick-framed glasses sat perched upon a hairless rectangular-shaped granite face, his wide mouth horizontal, his little eyes revealing nothing. “I’m afraid I concur with Councilman Wilkinson. We need to demonstrate that we’re on top of this and that we take the matter seriously…a grand jury would serve that purpose.”
The beefy police union rep immediately responded. “We would be vigorously opposed to that.”
“I advise grand jury proceedings,” Burns countered. “But no indictment.”
“Excuse me,” Wilkinson blurted. “How can you say ‘no indictment’? We have to hear the evidence first, or am I off- course here?”
“It’s the DA’s ballgame. Isn’t that right, Louis?”
Louis Pimply, a deputy DA, a wiry man in his early thirties, responded. “Most of the time, yes.”
“Any witnesses, John?” the city attorney asked.
Garson put his head down, signaling an unpleasant reply. “Four. And then there’s a videotape…from the bus depot.”
“Is it in police possession?”
Garson nodded his head affirmatively.
Burns looked at the deputy DA. “Louis?”
“The DA’s office does have the final say as to what evidence can be admitted.”
Miffler spoke up. “What about this homeless guy? Any history of violence? Prior arrests? Minor infractions?”
Garson answered. “He was cited for loitering, sometime last year.”
“Is he of right mind?” Miffler continued, “I mean, you know, these vets sometimes come home a bit looney…was he involved in any treatment for that matter?”
“Ah now, Ray has an excellent point there,” Burns said. ”Let’s look at the supposed victim’s background and see if we can find anything to show he wasn’t just a complacent citizen, but someone whose actions were, say, unbalanced, and therefore threatened the well-being of the responding officers.”
“There were two letters,” Garson disclosed, “that we believe he intended to mail. Stamps were on them, but I guess he forgot to mail them. They were both addressed to the New Hope Trauma Recovery Clinic in Manhattan.”
“That’s a start,” Burns said.
“So, we are aiming at no indictment, precluding a trial?” Wilkinson asked in disbelief, causing a fit of murmuring among the council members.
Burns held both his hands out to grab everyone’s attention. “A trial can last months, even a year or more, do you really want that constant publicity?”
Norson, the car dealer, raised an important point. “Don’t you think that when it’s announced that there’ll be no trial, the public outcry, which no doubt there will be, will cause harm to our standing in the eyes of the people?”
“Of course, there will be a hell of a hullabaloo,” Burns admitted. “But you’ll see, it won’t last long. The public will just get tired of the whole thing and the dust will settle, in less than a year I imagine. But a trial…we’ll be in the headlines continually.”
“Let’s put it to a vote,” the mayor suggested. “Inquiry, or grand jury with no indictment.”
After fifteen minutes of discussion, votes were cast. Grand jury, no indictment, was the final decision. It seemed a sensible decision. But then again, none of them could be expected to have predicted the future.
About N. Lombardi Jr:
N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).
In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
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