It’s probably safe to say that as an inmate, Michael Lake didn’t lie in his Cobb County jail cell for more than a year dreaming about spending his first full day as a free man cooped up in the Cobb County courthouse.
But after nineteen months of incarceration without bond, the mentally ill former Smyrna resident finally got his day in court yesterday—to contest the renewal of the 2011 protective order he allegedly violated that landed him in jail in the first place. And from the witness stand, Lake—who has been diagnosed with a form of OCD called “overvalued ideation”—confronted the woman with whom he has been obsessed since junior high in Maine.
“She used to be my best friend,” said Lake, identifying Leslie at the behest of her attorney, Alex Manning. “Over the years it ended…I have never received closure.”
Leslie’s tears and sobs from her seat behind the complainant’s table indicated otherwise. And over the forty-minute testimony, Manning and co-counsel Holly Hughes worked to show that there was never any friendship and that for the past twenty years, Lake has harassed Leslie and her family through the Internet. “You broke my heart, Leslie,” said Lake, reading from the email that spurred the initial protection order. “Therefore you are charged with putting it back together.”
Despite the brief courtroom drama, most of the action occurred behind the scenes as the two sides spent almost ten hours—until just before 7 p.m.—trying to hash out a consent order. The tall, lanky Lake, whose old navy pinstripe suit hung from a body that has lost forty pounds in jail, paced the marble hallways as his attorney, Cynthia Counts, fought for an agreement that would keep the two apart while protecting Lake’s freedom of speech and acknowledging that Lake has done nothing legally wrong. The indictment that put him in jail for aggravated stalking based on mailing Leslie a service copy of his appeal of the initial protective was thrown out by a Cobb County judge in June; the remaining warrants against him were dismissed by prosecutors on Monday. “There’s no reason his freedom should be restricted,” says Counts.
But to Leslie’s lawyers, Lake has still shown an unnatural pattern of obsession and is a potential threat to their client. “We don’t know what he’s going to do,” says Hughes. “But the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”
Since no agreement was reached, Superior Court Judge George Kreeger continued the hearing until July 30.
Meanwhile, Lake’s mother, Mary, and his sister, Michele, who spent the entire day sequestered on hallway benches as potential witnesses, lunching on vending machine peanuts and cookies, finally got to take Michael home to Maine, where he will prepare for the next hearing and his mother is “going to fatten him up.”