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Confessions of a Talented & Gifted Dropout: False Accusations and Their Outcomes

False Accusations

I’ve been falsely accused of things I didn’t do several times in my life, that were detrimental to my life.

These are some things I’ve been falsely accused of:

1994 – Sexual Molestation of a Child (based on a mis-heard word)

I was accused of molesting my 7-year old cousin because one day in day care she said the word “peanuts” and the young teacher assistant misheard her and thought she said “penis” and decided to order an investigation based on something as flimsy as that. Since I was living with my aunt at the time and I was the only male (besides her older brother) living in the apartment with the family at the time, I was the one who was questioned. It was a rather dry, though intrusive affair, and in the end they found out that there was no wrongdoing on my part.

My aunt was like my second mother and when my mom no longer had anything to teach me and my dad was not around, my aunt took me in. My aunt and I were both enrolled at the same community college, though she was a few decades older. So, it made sense for me to live with her as I’d never really had to live on my own yet, so roommates was the closest to being truly independent and self sufficient at the stage of my life.

I loved my aunt and we had a great relationship and I loved my cousins. My aunt didn’t believe this accusation had any truth to it. And of course nobody realized or thought to ask if my six-year-old cousin was exposed to sexually explicit content, and she was because — hello? HBO. All the time. Sex, sex, sex. My aunt loved her kids, but she also had her moral failings. Having not been raised on the Word of God, neither my aunt nor I believed in the old-fashioned mores and morality of not letting children watch programming with sexual content. We both felt that was prudish, and neither of us knew better because even the education system at that time was sending mixed messages about teaching kids sex ed at earlier and earlier ages. Now, I understand that is the work of the devil, as he works through corrupting children in public and private education both, as well as through TV, movies, and other electronic media.

The worst part of it though is that to attempt to “prove” their accusation they had to violate my cousin’s private parts, which if I recall correctly, my aunt approved.

In the end, I was exonerated. I think it was the Department of Human services in Waterloo, Iowa who were housed at the old Schoitz Hospital building, next to McKinstry Elementary, who investigated the complaint of the teacher’s assistant at the day care and after weeks I think, finally agreed that there was nothing to the accusation and I was “exonerated”.

In those days (1994-ish) all teachers were considered “mandatory reporters” for child abuse. That meant if they even suspected that a child in their class had been abused (physically or sexually) they were required by Iowa law to report their suspicions to law enforcement. Thankfully, I was never arrested over that rush-to-judgement by the teacher. But, I resented her as evil and stupid, to launch an investigation on a word that she could easily have asked the child for clarification. But, I have since forgiven her and realize she did what she thought was best.

1994 – Chasing A Girl in My Truck

1979 Ford Courier pickup truck (source: https://lookatthecar.org/ford-courier-1979/)
1979 Ford Courier pickup truck (source: https://lookatthecar.org/ford-courier-1979/)

During my first year as a freshman in the Electronics Engineering Technology (EET) program at Hawkeye Community College (HCC) I was living with my aunt. One night near the beginning of the 2nd semester, I arrived home and my aunt said the cops called for me and said there was a complaint that I had been harassing some girl I used to know and would she ask me to turn myself in for questioning. I was tired because I didn’t get home until about 2 AM or so as I had been in the computer lab studying and doing programming homework.

The computer lab at Hawkeye was open 24×7 to allow students who didn’t have computers (this was in the days of Windows 3.1 and NT) to be able to do their homework. A few middle class people began to afford cell phones and none of them had texting yet. Texting came about when somebody got the bright idea of combining the message typing function from a pager device with a cell phone. I remember Ericsson introducing the first “smartphone” around 1996 or 1997 a few years later.

But, anyway. Back to our story.

So, the next day, I think it was, I drove down to the police station to see what the charge was about.

Now, here is some necessary background. Around 1990, when I was 14 — the summer before starting my freshman year of high school — I met two girls at a church meeting my uncle took me to where he was the youth group leader. These girls, lets call them Prissy and Donna had just turned 12 and took and took and instant liking to me and I to them. Though I was sexually attracted to them both, I didn’t know anything about dating or girls for that matter because I didn’t have any sisters and just never had that much exposure to any females beside my mom, grandma, and her four sisters, who were also moms. My mom was very abusive, both physically and emotionally, so I was left stunted in understanding how courting worked so I had to figure it out on my own.

We exchanged numbers after the meeting and I didn’t think anything would come of it. But, some time either shortly before or shortly after I started my freshman year at high school, these girls started calling me. Prissy would call excitedly and say “Hold on. I’m going to put Donna on two-way”. Then we would all three be on a sort of “conference call”.

They started calling and I thought they would ask me to meet them somewhere and we would all have sex together. I was freshly pubescent and my loins ached to the know female comfort. But, I was still a virgin except with myself (that means I masturbated, but never had sex with a person yet). But, that never happened. Even so, we developed an interesting relationship that existed exclusively over the phone. Since I was genius-level (but really didn’t understand how rare that quality was), looking back, I think I fascinated them because I just talked for hours and hours about science, God (from an atheist perspective), and other intellectual type things.

Truly, I tell you: These many decades older and wiser I have very little recollection of what we could have been talking about for so many hours every night. But, I will reiterate that the talk was strangely never about sex.

So, throughout all four years of high school, these girls would call me every day after school. I NEVER called them. One or the other or both would call me and we’d talk about everything but sex. It really seems like a ridiculous waste of my time, in retrospect. But, at the time I loved the feeling of being admired and that all this time talking to these girls might end in sex some day and I would finally not be a virgin any more.

But, it never did. Let me tell you what did happen.

Every so often I would try to arrange my schedule so we could meet together but something always fell through for one reason or another. I never realized I was being played, but looking back I know that if a girl wants to meet a boy bad enough, she will get a ride from somebody.

After I graduated high school, Prissy moved out of town and stopped calling but Donna didn’t. One day, I think Donna was 15 or 16 now, I called her and asked her out on a date. She said yes. We went to the local skating rink and I thought we had a pretty good time. We started making out after about an hour of skating and eating nachos, which was cool. But, when I went to put my hands down her pants, which I knew was the next step toward sex because I’d pleasured many girls with the finger by that time, though still a virgin, she stopped me. I think that was sort of the last straw because both of these girls had been leading me on for four years, and I didn’t really know that at the time. So, I realized the only thing I wanted out of her was sex, if I could get it. She was a bit cross-eyed, not that attractive, and had started to grow a light mustache like certain old ladies and Italian women. I was polite and we finished the date until her mom or brother came to pick her up. Whoever dropped her off there picked her up and after she left I left and then I never called her again. BTW: By that time I was driving a maroon Monte Carlo.

Now, you have the background for this bizarre scene I’m about to explore with you.

So, when I reported to the police station the very next morning I was booked and it was interesting how polite the officers were, but nobody would explain the charges in detail until after I was already booked.

It turned out that Donna (who was 17 or 18 at this point) told her mom that I was “chasing her around in my white truck”, which, if true would amount to stalking and harassment charges.

Now, up until this point in my life (I was around 21 or 22 years old), I had believed that those who were arrested were usually guilty, that cops, lawyers, and judges were the good guys, and in the rare case where somebody was falsely accused of something justice would prevail and they would be exonerated and vindicated.

This one instance changed my whole stance on whether or not law enforcement were the good guys for at least 20 years.

I showed up at court on the appointed date, naïve and inexperienced in courtrooms period. Donna and her mom, whom I never met showed as the only witnesses for the state. This was a criminal charge (I think it was “stalking”) and we were in criminal court. I sat down by my lawyer whom I’d never met, only talked to briefly on the phone, before that day. I asked him to explain to me what to expect. He said something like “Well, the judge is going to come out and call the court to order. When the bailiff says ‘all rise’ everyone stands up and we don’t sit down until he says ‘be seated’. Then the plaintiff will plead their case first and after that we will have a chance for rebuttal. The judge will make the final decision in this matter as this isn’t a jury trial.”

Judge Joseph P. Wapner from the People's Court (source: MentalFloss.com)
Judge Joseph P. Wapner from the People’s Court (source: MentalFloss.com)

I was a little insulted by his answer and thought it very pedestrian. I knew that much already from watching “The People’s Court” with Judge Wapner. I wanted him to explain their case in detail and what our defense would be to assure me that he knew what he was doing. But, just then the judge entered, a younger man in his mid-thirties, so I didn’t get to ask any more questions of my “legal counsel”.

I didn’t have a good feeling about the whole thing, and I had no idea (and still don’t) why she accused me of something I didn’t do. At that point in my life, I hadn’t seen much courtroom drama movies, though I had seen “People’s Court” and “Matlock”. That was about as far as my experience with the legal system and specifically the court, had been up to that point.

I listened as Donna and her mom plead their cases. Donna claimed that one night she was just minding her business riding around town with friends in a car when all of sudden, I came out of nowhere in my “white truck” and was chasing her all around town.

Well, firstly, in the night in question I was at school in the computer lab. Nobody else was in there who could vouch for me and there were no security cameras or anything. I was in the computer lab every night until the early AM because I didn’t have (couldn’t afford) my own computer, so I was one of the “disadvantaged students” who need to avail myself of those computers. So while I was being accused of driving around town after some girl in my truck, I was in reality, working my ASS OFF studying!!

I was infuriated that this accusation was even given any credence.

Second, this girl had never seen my “white truck”. She only knew I had a white truck because I told her that in one of our phone conversations a few years earlier. But, unless she had been stalking me or surveilling my house, she had never seen my white truck. For the record it was a Ford courier, basically the same as a Mazda B2000. A small pickup 4-cylinder pickup truck. But, as I mentioned, by the time of the alleged incident I had an entirely different vehicle. In fact I had been through several different vehicles.

Further, Donna didn’t provide a license plate number and the truck she described was a much bigger 1.5 ton like a Ford F-150.

Then her mother testified that I had left threating messages on her answer machine (before most phone companies offered free digital voice mail services). But, her mother had NEVER even met me. Ever. How would she know it was me? Well, she didn’t and it wasn’t. And she didn’t produce the referenced tape and claimed she taped over it already.

So, I started to ask my lawyer why he wasn’t objecting. He wasn’t a young guy fresh off the block. He was in his mid to late thirties also, so presumably has some experience and understanding of how to win cases. I thought. I didn’t pick him. He was a public defender assigned to my case because I couldn’t afford my own attorney.

He just said something like “We’ll get our chance when they are done”. I was disappointed and still confused on why he wasn’t objecting to what obviously were unsubstantiated claims with no evidence.

But, our chance to rebut never did come. When I saw that the judge’s demeanor and questions appeared to be taking the plaintiff’s testimony as fact, I became outraged. I started to believe that my lawyer was incompetent and if I didn’t say something in my own behalf, it would be my fault for not speaking up and providing my evidence to exonerate myself.

I told my lawyer “Object!” But, he said something like “Just let me do my job”.

I was furious. It was obvious to me that this mom and daughter team concocted this lie about me for some bizarre reason which I still don’t understand what their motive was to this day. My lawyer failing to object was the last straw. I stood straight up and addressed the judge directly. I said “Your Honor, these are lies! I did not chase this girl! I was at school in the computer lab when they claim this happened”. He said “Do you have anyone who can vouch for your whereabouts?” I said “No sir, but that doesn’t make it untrue.”

Then he said something else like “Sir, I’m going to need you sit down so they can finish their testimony.” Or something that seemed dismissive like that. I replied “Judge, you seem to be believing everything they say, but they have no proof because it isn’t true and I should NOT be in trouble for something I didn’t do!”, I exclaimed.

Then he said something — starting to show his true colors angry — like “Sir, I’m going to need you to sit down and listen to the advice of your counsel”. Wherein I said “Alright, but just answer me this one thing first: Do YOU believe I’m guilty?” And he just stared at me angrily. So, I repeated my question, except this time more demanding. “DO YOU BELIEVE I’M GUILTY?” I’ll never forget what he said next. “Yes!” He shouted, trying to keep his composure. “Yes, I believe YOU are GUILTY!” Everything after that was blur. The judge subsequently convicted me of harassment in some degree and told me that it would go away (be expunged) on condition that I didn’t get into any other legal trouble in the next year. Unfortunately for me, the next year was when I had to make a choice whether or not to “take the rap” for a family member, or to let that person go down for their own deeds. I chose to be a willing sacrifice and be a hero for the family, so the harassment charge was never expunged.

I began to mistrust all police and the entire legal system after this.

(1995) – Dealing Marijuana

Black Hawk County Courthouse, Waterloo, IA (source: Flickr)
Black Hawk County Courthouse, Waterloo, IA (source: Flickr)

This was tricky. Technically, I was arrested and falsely accused of possessing over 40 lbs of marijuana with intent to deliver in Iowa. But it was a little more complicated than that.

I was living at a relative’s house while he was visiting down south for a season.  We’ll call him Tater. Another male relative was also living there, and he was aged over sixty years. Let’s call him Uncle Duckie. I had what I thought was a great relationship with Uncle Duckie and I looked up to and admired him greatly.

Some time during the summer of 1995, while I was visiting Tater at his downstate residence, he revealed that he had harvested low-grade cannabis (commonly called “ditchweed”) and stashed it up in the crawlspace to dry. He imparted to me that I needed to “get rid of it” secretly so that I didn’t end up being arrested for possession. Well, this was the first I had heard of it and it came as quite a shock given Tater’s upstanding character.

Well, I tried to get rid of it in secret in the middle of the night, but Uncle Duckie was sleeping light and woke when he heard me moving around in the crawlspace.

When he inquired gently what I was doing, I told him everything. He and I sat at the tiny 4×4 foot dining room table across from each other as I burned some of one of the dried cannabis (marijuana) leaves in an ashtray. I was curious. And I trusted Duckie completely. I had no reason not to. He was family.

I told him I was doing my best to dispose of the plants in secret, but that it was difficult to find the time with all my studying. I really didn’t think it was a big deal.

Imagine my great surprise when after a great, but long day of attending technical electronics engineering courses, I arrive home to police at my house.

As I pulled up an officer in blue walked over to my window and I rolled down the window to try to find out what was going on. The officer asked “Are you Eric Hepperle?” I replied what my dad had always taught me if questioned by the police “What is this about?” He again asked if I was Eric and I think I just said yes because I needed to know if somebody was hurt.

He said “I need you to step out of your vehicle. I’m placing you under arrest.”

“For what”, I asked incredulously.

“Possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.”

At that very instant I saw Duckie come out the front door and throw Tater’s record player on the ground, smashing it to bits. He mumbled and yelled something about “Satanic devil-music!” while he was in the midst of destroying Tater’s property.

I consulted with Tater on the issue one day and he advised me to tell my lawyer that the marijuana was his, but that our legal strategy should be to make them prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was mine (which it wasn’t). Now there is a phrase that “possession is 9/10ths of the law”. Notwithstanding that, I didn’t understand that I accepted the risk of ALL the consequences that Tater would have gotten. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I had faith that Tater could guide me through it safely.

In the end, the sentencing judge had leniency on me and gave me two years probation on a 15 years prison sentence. I fulfilled all the probation requirements and had a good relationship with my officer and thus was discharged within 2 years I think.

So, this was an instance where I accepted the risk of punishment for someone else’s sin. I wasn’t a believer at the time and I didn’t make a Christian connection at all. The irony was that Duckie was studying to be a lay-preacher.

Well, there you have some of my deepest secrets confessed. Hence the title “Confessions of a Talented & Gifted Dropout”.

But, I’m ready to release these stories from my heart, release resentment, own my decisions, forgive those who wronged me, and set the burdens of these false accusations at God’s feet in this magical year of transformation in Twenty Twenty-Won.

Hallelujah! God is Absolutely Good!!

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