From the keyboard of a freshly-convicted felon…
Okay, so the word is out. That was fast. I suppose I should weigh in.
First off, I have no complaints about my lawyer: Doug Mullkoff did a great job. He blew the guards’ testimony out of the water at every turn, highlighted the appropriate contradictions (e.g., Beaudry claims he charged in because he saw the handcuffs in Behrendt’s hand while Behrendt herself said “I never got to the point of trying to handcuff him”; Behrendt on the stand claims she told me to get away from the car while her written report to ICE makes no mention of that; numerous other inconsistencies between the testimony of the various guards, and between their spoken vs. written claims). The whole ludicrous claim that I “choked” Beaudry ended up a complete nonstarter. Even the “aggressive” and “assaultive” stance I was accused of adopting, upon cross, turned out to be me just standing there with my hands open at my sides, not making any moves whatsoever. Doug caught it all, and shone a light on it.
Nor do I have any complaints about the Prosecutor. She seems like a nice person, and while she tried her best to nail me to the wall she never went over the line (beyond a certain fondness for hyperbole, which I gather is part of the game). She did her job; she obviously did it well enough; and under other circumstances I could see myself having drinks and swapping arguments with the lady.
I have no complaints about the judge, a seventysomething Irish dude with a fondness for St Patrick’s Day who drives a blood-red ‘vette. He was polite, he kept things as light-hearted as could reasonably be expected, and (most importantly) he appeared impartial.
I don’t even have complaints about all of the border guards. Behrendt started the ball rolling and Beaudry channeled Eric Cartman to a degree I’d not have thought possible for a live-action character, but I get the sense the others just got caught up in the turbulence.
Finally, I have no complaints about the jury. The fact that it took them so bloody long to deliberate suggests to me that they took their job seriously. Based on what little I could tell during the selection process, they seemed like decent folks. And while I profoundly disagree with their verdict, I can certainly see how they arrived at it, given the constraints of the statute.
The statute itself? Now that I have complaints about.
The press has frequently characterized the charge against me as “assaulting a federal officer”. The alleged (and discredited) “choking” episode has been repeated ad nauseum. Here at the Sarnia Best Western I don’t have the actual statute in front of me but it includes a lengthy grab-bag of actions, things like “assault”, “resist”, “impede”, “threaten”, “obstruct” — hell, “contradict” might be in there for all I know. And under “obstruct” is “failure to comply with a lawful order”, and it’s explicitly stated that violence on the part of the perp is not necessary for a conviction. Basically, everything from asking “Why?” right up to chain-saw attack falls under the same charge. And it’s all a felony.
What constitutes “failure to comply with a lawful command” is open to interpretation. The Prosecution cited several moments within the melee which she claimed constituted “resisting”, but by her own admission I wasn’t charged with any of those things. I was charged only with resisting Beaudry, the guard I’d “choked”. My passenger of that day put the lie to that claim in short order, and the Prosecution wasn’t able to shake that. The Defense pointed out that I wasn’t charged with anything regarding anyone else, and the Prosecution had to concede that too. So what it came down to, ultimately, was those moments after I was repeatedly struck in the face by Beaudry (an event not in dispute, incidentally). After Beaudry had finished whaling on me in the car, and stepped outside, and ordered me out of the vehicle; after I’d complied with that, and was standing motionless beside the car, and Beaudry told me to get on the ground — I just stood there, saying “What is the problem?”, just before Beaudry maced me.
And that, said the Prosecutor in her final remarks — that, right there, was failure to comply. That was enough to convict.
I do not know what the jury said amongst themselves. But a question they sent out to the court yesterday afternoon — “Is failure to comply sufficient for conviction?” — strongly suggests that this was the lynchpin event. (Certainly Defense had demolished every other, and the Prosecution had conceded as much.) If that is the case, I cannot begrudge the jury their verdict. Their job is not to rewrite laws, or ignore stupid ones; their job is to decide whether a given act violates the law as written. And when you strip away all the other bullshit — the verbal jousting, the conflicting testimony, the inconsistent reports — the law doesn’t proscribe noncompliance “unless you’re dazed and confused from being hit in the face”. It simply proscribes noncompliance, period. And we all agree that in those few seconds between Beaudry’s command and the unleashing of his pepper spray, I just stood there asking what the problem was.
Whether that’s actual noncompliance or simply slow compliance is, I suspect, what the jury had to decide. That’s what they did, and while I think they made the wrong decision I’m obviously not the most impartial attendee at this party. I still maintain I did nothing wrong; but as far as I can tell the trial was fair, and I will abide by its outcome.
Now I am going to drive home, and continue writing e-mails to those of you I haven’t thanked yet. The tone will be somewhat more somber than those I sent out before the trial, but my appreciation for your support is no less heartfelt.