washingtonpost.com  > Education > Virginia

Courthouse Clerk Blows Off Steam on the Football Field

By Ian Shapira
Sunday, August 29, 2004; Page C04

Glenn Cannon occasionally goes to work at the Prince William County Judicial Center limping. Some days, the 23-year-old deputy clerk in the Circuit Court's criminal division walks in with a sprained ankle, and other days, he sports a welt on an arm or a bruise on his forehead.

By day, Cannon is a bespectacled, low-voiced clerk who fulfills an array of the courthouse's most unsung yet essential duties. His chief task is entering all of a defendant's charges and biographical information into the Circuit Court's computer records once the case gets certified from the General District Court. In other moments, he copies case files for attorneys (and pesky reporters).

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But after work and on the weekends, the Centreville High School graduate plays semi-professional football for the Virginia Mutiny, one of 16 teams from Western Maryland to North Carolina in the Mason-Dixon Football League. Cannon, a former high school player who helped the Centreville Wildcats advance to the state semifinals his senior year, said playing football helps him relive the glory days and gives him a sense of family.

Most important, he said, it relieves his workday stress.

During the season, which lasts from summer to early winter for the national championship, Cannon practices at Conner Field, just past Manassas's Osbourn Park High School, on Tuesdays and Thursdays and plays games on Saturdays. Usually, the home games are played at Manassas Park High School, but because the field is being irrigated, most of their games this season are away.

"It's always about leverage," said Cannon, who at 5-foot-9 is small for a football player but deceptively effective on the offensive line. "I can get lower than my opponent -- whoever gets the lowest can move the other person backward."

To be sure, Cannon does not fit the demographic mold for courthouse clerks.

"We baby Glenn," said Michelle Jones, the assistant court administrator and criminal division supervisor. "He's the only male in the section. He's the youngest. We look out for him. We bring him Band-Aids when we see [his] bruises and cuts."

Cannon keeps busy on the third floor of the Manassas courthouse, which over the years has gotten its share of notorious criminal defendants, including Lorena Bobbitt and John Allen Muhammad.

Aside from entering crucial information into the Circuit Court's computer system, Cannon accepts a convicted person's court fine, takes in an attorney's motion or helps a poor soul sift through cases on the public computer using the system's esoteric key functions.

"The most annoying thing is when [people] want copies of the whole file or confidential information" in sealed envelopes, said Cannon, who is pursuing a criminal justice associate's degree. "We usually take the file away from them at that point."

With more than three years of experience in the office, Cannon's fingers move fluidly across the keyboard while typing in defendants' charges, Social Security numbers and codes denoting various court decisions. He knows, for instance, what CAFSB means -- it means the defendant has been released on bond. (CAFSJ means the opposite.)

On a recent day, when he was transferring a defendant's information from the arrest warrant and criminal complaint into the Circuit Court's computer, the phone rang.

"Circuit Court?" he said in a low tone. "All right, you'll have to hold on."

Some attorney. He wants to check Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr.'s schedule for a free sentencing date, so Cannon gets up from his chair and grabs the judge's schedule.

"Any month in particular?" Cannon asks. "November. The fourth and the nineteenth. October he has the first, the fourteenth and the twenty-ninth."

Just as he is about to finish, he remembers a phone call he has to make, so he dials quickly.

"Hi, ma'am. This is Glenn from the Circuit Court criminal division. I was told to instruct you about your daughter's charge. . . ."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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