The wedding(prison) bell blues
Here is a story from today's Post. What an odd way to meet your spouse. I wish Cynthia Rivera and Jay Keller well. They paid their debt to society, now may they both together fly the straight and narrow. Remember what Auntie Mame said- "Marriage is a great institution but who wants to live in a institution?"
Open Post- Bullwinkle Blog, Jo's Cafe,
STUART — Cynthia Rivera crosses shackled ankles under blue jail scrubs as she leans over her chair in a Martin County courtroom.
She is about to speak when a voice from the other side of the room interrupts her thought.
"Sweetie... Cynthia? Do you want to invite your grandmother?" Jay Keller asks her.
Soon he walks over to her, moving slowly as deputies watch him closely. He wears the same outfit as his fiancee, except his is a different color. His legs are shackled, too.
It seems an odd place and terrible circumstance under which to be planning a wedding on a Friday morning. But the love story of Rivera, 21, and Keller, 22, likely never would have begun had they not both had run-ins with the law that landed them in jail at the same time last year.
Next week, the judge assigned to both their criminal cases will preside over a hearing of a different kind: their wedding.
Martin Circuit Judge Larry Schack agreed to marry the two after Keller sent a letter to the judge asking him to perform the ceremony.
"I think he was really touched by the letter, so he said yes," Keller said.
The couple said the ceremony will solidify a relationship that started in jail, blossomed after they were released, and endured through their rearrests.
Keller and Rivera were on work details as inmates at the Martin County Jail early last year — grand theft for him, fraudulent use of a credit card for her — when their eyes locked across the room.
"It was love at first sight," Keller said. "We fell in love before we even got to hold hands."
She thought he was cute. He liked the pride she took in working the detail and the way he seemed to be able to talk to her about anything. They kept in touch by sending letters to each other. Because of restrictions on inmates' mail to each other, each would send letters through a grandparent on the outside.
Rivera was sentenced to two years probation a few months later and released. She visited Keller in jail once, and the two reunited shortly after Keller was sentenced to two years probation on his charges. Both have prior theft charges, and Keller's priors also include grand theft auto, leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license.
In the months when both were free, the couple grew close quickly. Soon Keller asked Rivera to be his wife.
Rivera blushed Friday when she tried to tell the story of Keller's proposal.
"It was kind of... it was weird," Rivera said, smiling. "It was different."
They were in bed one morning, Keller said, and he chose to lay down next to her instead of getting down on one knee. He told her he loved her and couldn't see himself with anyone but her. Instead of a ring, Keller presented his fiancée with a grill of gold teeth. They sealed the engagement by getting tattoos of each other's initials on their necks.
In February, soon after the engagement, Keller was arrested again and charged with leaving Martin County, a violation of his probation. Rivera was arrested on her own probation violation a short time later, and the couple found themselves again on the wrong side of the law.
But Keller, who never seemed to stop smiling, said the love for Rivera and his grandparents makes him want to turn his life around.
"She's the only one I trust," he said.
Rivera said Keller inspires her to do better as well. She recently took her GED in jail, she said, and awaits her results.
"He's one of a kind," she said of Keller. "I've never met anyone like him."
Schack on Friday called clerks from family services into the courtroom to help the couple fill out the necessary paperwork for a marriage license. They can wed once one of their grandparents pays the fee for the marriage license and the state-mandated three-day waiting period is over.
Schack said he will marry them in his courtroom on the third floor of the Martin County courthouse. He was quiet about the specifics of the ceremony, but said it would be done in a way to respect the young couple's dignity.
For Schack, who has performed 15 to 20 weddings in the 16 years he's been on the bench, the wedding wasn't a special favor. He said he's performing the ceremony simply because Keller asked.