By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
If the defense psychologist was aware of this, however, he didn’t mention it. And so the hearings wore on. Mandla began attempting to make speeches about his right to a speedy trial. “Your honor, may I say something?” he would commence, only to be silenced by Judge Revel, a sharp-featured woman with a beehive hairdo. She also admonished him to stop mouthing “I love you” to his wife in the visitors’ gallery.
The judge had a beef with Lindiwe and her coterie as well. “The last time you were here, the whole court reeked of incense,” she said one morning. “Would you stand in the back of the courtroom so my staff doesn’t get sick?” When Gyamfi asked if the group could sit on the last bench instead, Revel assented. Lindiwe — who was, in fact, wearing an African-style scented oil — resettled herself with her friends. But when the hearing ended, they burst into the hall with a flurry of comments that may be aptly described by the phrase “contempt of court.”
Nine months after the Griffith Park outing, Deputy D.A. Mire indicated to Mandla’s lawyer that she might consider a plea bargain, once her psychiatric expert had weighed in. Shortly afterward, the DCFS dropped its demand that Lindiwe sign a restraining order. But there were further complications. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed an immigration hold on Mandla, citing his expired visa; when the prosecutors finished with him, if he didn’t go to prison, he would be remanded to DHS custody.
Mandla, meanwhile, was pressing Gyamfi to demand a trial date. He had spent 25 days in the “hole,” a two-man punishment cell, for allegedly sassing a guard. He had not held his children in nearly a year. He was at the end of his rope, and he was driving his lawyer toward the end of hers. “Every morning,” Gyamfi said, “I’m waking up thinking about Mandla Dube before I think about getting a glass of water.”
Gyamfi, however, was not sure she could get more by going to trial than by waiting for an offer from Mire. The one academic expert she knew of who could testify convincingly on the cultural aspects of the case was out of the country, and she had not yet found an acceptable replacement. (Mandla’s father was paying his legal fees, and would eventually pour about $7,500 into his son’s defense.) And even if she could win acquittal on attempted murder, there were the child-abuse charges to contend with.
The turning point came on May 16 when the prosecution’s psych report was finally entered into evidence. The report, by Beverly Hills psychologist Hy Malinek, was distinctly unfavorable. Malinek stressed the presence of THC in Mandla’s blood; he suggested that marijuana intoxication, “in combination with sleep deprivation and protracted fast, induced a rather significant and debilitating change in his mental state.” Since that change was caused by voluntary intoxication, the defense of legal unconsciousness did not apply. Moreover, Mandla’s behavior during his interview, and the results of his psychological tests, struck Malinek as evidence of a “paranoid style” that was “part of a long-term and characterological makeup.” Mandla’s very suspicion of those tests, and his complaints against the discrimination he felt he had suffered in South Africa and the United States, counted against him.
After reading the report, Gyamfi conferred with Mire. Then she huddled with Lindiwe in the back of the oak-paneled courtroom. Despite the harshness of Malinek’s comments, Gyamfi said, the prosecution knew that a trial would not be a slam-dunk. Mire had offered to reduce the charges to a single count of felony child endangerment. Mandla would be sentenced to time served, plus five years’ probation. Since the DHS would almost certainly ship him back to South Africa, the terms of his probation would be essentially unenforceable. The conviction was expungeable from the record once probation was completed, which meant Mandla could apply for re-entry to the U.S. without being rejected as a felon. Gyamfi gave Lindiwe a moment to absorb the information.
“It’s on Mandla,” Lindiwe said. “Tell him that whatever decision he makes, I’ll stand by him, but he’s got to make the decision himself.”
That afternoon, Mandla pleaded no contest to child endangerment and answered “yes” to a long list of “do you understands?” — that he was giving up the right to a trial by his peers, that he must undergo drug counseling and parenting classes, that he must keep his probation officer informed of his whereabouts. Then came the hard part. Mire declared that she was issuing a five-year protective order barring Mandla from contact with his sons, and Judge Revel spelled it out for him: “If you come within 100 yards of your children, you will go to prison. If you speak with them on the phone, you will go to prison.”
Although Gyamfi had assured him that the order would be moot once the family left the country, Mandla scratched his beard compulsively as he agreed to the terms. Lindiwe gave a bitter laugh, then went back to staring at nothing, her fists clenched in her lap. When it was over, she and her husband exchanged an agonized glance before he dragged his chains out of the courtroom for the last time. “And so we go,” Lindiwe said. “From one jail to another.”