DVD Extras and Director Commentary

…In Seven Parts

1. The Jury

A couple of the jurors have spoken out, both on the Times-Herald site and on this newscrawl. In both cases their comments tend to be obscured in the blizzard of less-informed commentary surrounding them, so I reprint them in their entirety here:

From the Times-Herald site:

“As a member of the jury that convicted Mr. Watts today, I have a few comments to make. The jury’s task was not to decide who we liked better. The job of the jury was to decide whether Mr. Watts “obstructed/resisted” the custom officials. Assault was not one of the charges. What it boiled down to was Mr. Watts did not follow the instructions of the customs agents. Period. He was not violent, he was not intimidating, he was not stopping them from searching his car. He did, however, refuse to follow the commands by his non compliance. He’s not a bad man by any stretch of the imagination. The customs agents escalated the situation with sarcasm and miscommunication. Unfortunately, we were not asked to convict those agents with a crime, although, in my opinion, they did commit offenses against Mr. Watts. Two wrongs don’t make a right, so we had to follow the instructions as set forth to us by the judge.”

From yesterday’s ‘crawl posting:

” Peter, I believe your description of the trial and deliberations is more accurate than you could know. As a non-conformist and “libertarian” (who has had some experiences not unlike yours) I was not comfortable with my vote, but felt deep inside that it was consistent with the oath we took as jurors. I believe nearly all the jurors searched for a legitimate reason to vote differently. In the end it came down to the question “Was the law broken?”. While I would much rather have a beer and discussion with you than Officer B. I never the less felt obligated to vote my conscience. I also believe most, if not all, the jurors sincerely hope that you are handled with a great degree of leniency, we, unfortunately have no say in that matter.”

A few jurors also approached Doug after the trial and told him pretty much the same thing. One of the jurors has also kindly written directly to me. My understanding from all of these sources is that the jury pretty much felt trapped by the wording of the statute, that none of them consider me a “felon” or deserving of jail time.

I am also heartened by the knowledge that none of the jury bought Beaudry’s somehow I ended up in the car line.
 

2. The Coverage

The Times-Herald reporter sat in the courtroom throughout the case. She knows there was no assault. She knows the choking incident never occurred. She knows that the only violence was committed by the border guards. These facts are no longer in dispute.

And yet, the Times-Herald continues to report that I was found guilty of “assault”, and continues to repeat Beaudry’s allegation that I “choked” him without mentioning that an independent witness utterly discredited his testimony. Unfortunately, while the story has been picked up by numerous other newspapers, most of them simply seem to have cut-and-pasted the Times-Herald reportage. I find this discouraging. As does at least one juror, who opined:

“The Times Herald continues to print that Mr. Watts was found guilty of assault. HE WAS NOT!!! He was found guilty of obstructing/resisting, and that was due to the time that transpired between him being ordered to do something and him actually complying with the order. We were forced to decide what was a reasonable amount of time for him to comply with an order. Mr. Watts, in my opinion, was treated unfairly by Customs and Border Protection. But, unfortunately, they were not on trial.”

I also had to smile at the Toronto Star report that “several” of you had pitched in to help with my legal costs. In fact, somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 of you did that (I can’t be more precise yet because some of you sent more than one notification). That’s why I’m still only halfway through the thank yous.
 

3. The Rap Sheet

There’s been a lot of recent murmling, both here and abroad, about my so-called “Criminal record”, my “previous Felony Conviction” in Canada, and my potential “habitual offender” status. I don’t want to go into too much detail because evidently — and contrary to my initial understanding — this is still an active issue. But I can state this much unequivocally: I do not have a criminal record in Canada. I have never been convicted of anything in Canada; those of you who want to find evidence to the contrary, knock yourselves out and good luck. These latest allegations have their roots in a 1991 incident so dick-ass that the official records themselves have long since been destroyed. It was invoked by the Prosecution very early in the proceedings (as an intimidation tactic, I suspect), probably due to an interjurisdictional misunderstanding (i.e., the same legal term has a different meaning in Canada than it does in the US). I’m not surprised the trolls are dragging it out; after all, they’re trolls. I am a little disappointed to see the Prosecutor talking about it, though. Based on her own statements at the end of the trial, my understanding was that even she didn’t think it was especially relevant at this point.
 

4. The Statute

Apparently the statute under which I was convicted is somewhat controversial. I chatted with an immigration attorney while the jury was out; she expects the ACLU or some other group to sue this law out of existence before too long, since it seems pretty explicitly designed to give the cops carte blanche to charge anyone for virtually anything.

She also told me that these “exit searches” have only been going on for a few months. They started down in Arizona, as part of a bilateral agreement with Mexico to try and stem the flow of guns heading south from the US in the course of the drug wars. Of course, the problem with instituting new policies at one international border is that they tend to diffuse out to others — but in any case, assuming this information to be correct, Beaudry’s testimony that he had been doing exit searches throughout his six-year career is, shall we say, factually-impaired.
 

5. The Motive

Some have wondered why I’d ask what was going on in the first place, and why I would have to leave the vehicle to do that. After all, wasn’t it obvious what was going on? I answered these questions on the stand but the reportage seems a bit deficient in that area (the Times-Herald simply claimed that I felt that “the officers were required to answer my questions”), so I’ll get it out here:

There were two seriously weird things about this stop. Firstly, we were being pulled over while trying to leave the US, which in my experience was unprecedented (usually you expect to be stopped by officials from the country you’re entering). Secondly, the search began without my knowledge, without anyone asking me to “pop the trunk” so to speak. This was absolutely contrary to official protocols. Ron Smith, a spokesperson for the Port Huron detachment, confirmed this when commenting about this very case: “Of course they would have told the driver beforehand” (“Canadians Don’t Forfeit Right to Privacy at the Border”, C. Clarke, pA5 of the Dec 14 ’09 edition of The Globe and Mail). But they did not. The first I knew of it was when I turned to see guards at every door, already going through our stuff.

I turned back to ask Behrendt what was going on, but she had moved away from the car and was talking to someone else at a distance. So I got out to ask what was going on; that was when everything went pear-shaped.

The point is, this was not a routine border check. In my experience, it was extremely unusual.
 

6. The Troops

First off, I don’t know who “Luminous Dust” and “Alistair01″ are; unlike stalwarts such as Dave and Cory and Squeak, I have never met either of them. But in those brief moments when I can hold my breath and dive into the Times-Herald comment stream, I see such yeoman service on my behalf that I have to thank both of you in public. That place is not a friendly house for Team Squid — I mean, when even the postings of an actual juror get shouted down, you know you’re fighting rearguard — and I really appreciate your willingness to shovel sand against that tide. If we ever meet (and assuming I’m not in shackles) the beers are on me. I also thank “Chris in NY”, who showed up in court on his own initiative to offer moral support.

Secondly, there seems to be some misapprehension regarding the video. It was shown, without resistance. The Prosecution originally wanted to show their own version (slowed down and with the timestamp edited out), but we ended up all agreeing to show the raw data instead. It was useful for establishing entrances and exits — and we had a PI on the stand who’d developed a forensic timeline, establishing that I was out of the car for less than 20 seconds total (things started getting physical at around the 10-12 second mark). But the footage was grainy and distant and frequently blocked by intervening semis passing through. It was not definitive.

There has been much talk of appeal, and of jury nullification. My understanding is that appeals are only considered on procedural grounds. I don’t know much about jury nullification, and the conflicting opinions I’ve seen here don’t leave me much the wiser. I’ll bring it up with my lawyer, but if it were an option I’m pretty sure he’d have brought it up with me.

There has also been much talk of countersuit; certainly, members of the jury seem to think that offenses were committed against me. Unfortunately, any chance of success hinged on an acquittal, and that ship had sailed. My passenger would have a much stronger case; he was treated abominably and never charged with anything. I would gladly put whatever’s left of the kibble fund towards that end if he wishes to go down this avenue, and he knows this.

I see minor kerfuffling in the comments about a fellow by the name of “uplinktruck”; I met him in court, I chatted with him, I admire him for rescuing an orphaned hurricane cat. He seems like a nice guy. I disagree with his default assumption that LEOs are reluctant to escalate because allegations of excessive force jeopardize their jobs — I’d seen too many indications to the contrary even before all this stuff went down — but he seems very much like the kind of guy with whom one can disagree while still enjoying his company and a beer. Uplink and I have different (possibly irreconciliable) worldviews, but I regard him as a skeptic, not a troll. Just FYI.

That said, I profoundly disagree with his ongoing snark-on for Cory Doctorow, whose comments on boingboing were largely responsible for the outpouring of support that allowed me to even afford a defense1. It is true that Cory is a guy who likes causes; it is also true that the intense web publicity surrounding this affair must have hardened resolved on the other side, caused them to circle their wagons and go for the throat on an obviously trivial matter. But I repeat: without that publicity I would not have been able to afford a defense, period. Life is a tradeoff; consciousness-raising is a double-edged sword. I remain profoundly grateful to Cory, and to Dave Nickle, and to John Scalzi and Steve Andrew and Kathryn Cramer and Patrick Neilson-Hayden — all those good folk who raised the alarm even though I’m sure some of them have found me a pain in the ass on occasion. I certainly didn’t expect any of them to cross continents or oceans to sit at my side. In fact, that would have been downright dumb.

Moving on. Many of you have asked about whether the kibble fund needs topping up. The answer is, I think I’m okay. I haven’t yet received the latest invoice (which is bound to be substantial) but I’m not down to the dregs either, so we’ll see how it balances out. Any surplus funds that haven’t been explicitly authorized as multipurpose (i.e., cats and/or beer should they prove unnecessary for legal costs) will end up going to some worthy cause like The Jury Project or the ACLU anyway, so additional donations will not end up wasted regardless.

Penultimate Personal Point: don’t worry about Stockholm Syndrome, just because of the calm tone of my last post. I’ve still got the hate-on for those who deserve it. Behrendt and Beaudry will never make my “People I’d most Like to Be Stranded on a Desert Island With” list, believe me. But the fact that some dicks wear uniforms does not mean that all uniforms are dicks, and I encountered courtesy and the occasional smile along with the lumps. (I will not drop any names, for fear of getting them into trouble.)

Finally: my in-box is clogged. My voicemail is full. Family, friends, and complete strangers are offering me beers — and I hope to accept all such offers in due course. But I will have to ignore you all for a few days; I must hunker down and lick my wounds, I must meet an imminent consulting deadline that’s been backburnered by the trial, and the paperwork involved in pre-sentencing procedures is almost a sentence in itself. Please do not take offense if you don’t hear back from me for the next little while.
 

7. The Impact

One good thing may have arisen from all of this. Big yellow signs have suddenly appeared at the Tollbooths of Doom, warning all attempting to leave the US:

CAUTION:
EXIT SEARCH AHEAD

Those weren’t there on December 8th. I can’t help but wonder if our BOrdeal may be in some way responsible for these little beacons of clarification.

But maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

——————

1Contrary, once again, to the Times-Herald’s claims that the issue rose to prominence after I posted about it on my blog. Man, if rifters.com had even a hundredth of boingboing’s readership I would be a happy man indeed.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Saturday March 20 2010at 01:03 pm , filed under Squidgate . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

96 Responses to “DVD Extras and Director Commentary”

  1. hi Peter

    It probably will not do any good but I intend to forward the details of this case to my congressman and the congressman representing this district in which this took place. While perhaps you did not follow the law as strictly dictated and I suspect you can be at times abrasive (unlike myself…) I also do not picture you as a threat to our country, in either a violent or criminal manner.

    I would like to think that border guards are there to protect the general citizenry of both of our countries as well as any other innocent person wandering through the border who is from a third nation. I do know that when power is acquired by an individual, however minor it may be, if it is not accompanied with some sense of restraint it can become easily abused. These people you encountered in one manner or another are being paid by me and my other fellow US citizens, and I find it disturbing to read of this sort of activity when done to any person going about his lawful and private business. This could just as easily have been me or a member of my family and the thought that I must in some manner now fear the people policing the border is one I find unacceptable. And I guess I just do not care for bullies, never have and never will.

    I’ll leave it up to you what of, if any, this you want to leave on your site but I believe the US representative for that district is Rep (R.) Candice Miller.

    I also supsect that this would not rule out a civil suit, and that it might do a great deal of good if it were pursued. Nothing seems to garner attention in the political world more quickly than money.

  2. Hm, officers lying on the stand, isn’t that perjury? Sounds like a reason for a reversal. Just thinking out loud.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. So it comes down to this: a ridiculous and poorly worded law invoked by one (or more?) ridiculously overzealous officer(s). If it weren’t so serious it would be laughable.

  4. This story really sounds like Josef K’s ordeal. Don’t know what actually happened, not been there, not seen the trial, don’t even know any of the people involved, have no information, evidence so far is inconclusive (to me, anyway), but that’s the impression I get.

  5. Peter, I think you should ask your lawyer to get the Time-Herald to issue a retraction. On the first page. If they refuse, sue the bastards. I am so speechless with this banana republic lynch justice that has been done on you, I could puke. If you’re low on funds, please just mention it on your blog.

  6. I was hoping the video would have been more telling, due to their reluctance to show it. You’ll make it through, though. Even if the worst comes to pass. However, I don’t think it is likely that even if things keep going badly you end up in Jail; at least not for long.

    Two years on your story would be ridiculous. Of course, any time is, but that’s another story entirely. They’ll probably give you a half-assed “slap-on-the-wrist” for asking why you were being beaten.

    On the chance that you DO go to prison, I’ll totally drive up there from Florida and pay you a visit/bring you the latest scientific journals of your request. However, I doubt it will come to that.

    It doesn’t sound bad enough for them to drop charges and settle, obviously as they didn’t, but it sounds like any alleged beatings and or chokings you dished out were dropped long ago.

    I will continue following this, as I just found out yesterday about this whole thing. I’m loving your books so far, keep writing! I’m nearly done with the Rifter’s Trilogy now.

  7. Take care, Peter. We are quite the patient blog posters and will just have to find something to occupy ourselves with instead of pestering you into stunned submission and attempting to pick your brain.

    Hopefully, someday, we can all continue or finish that junk sociobiology discussion. I still wish to discuss Allister01’s theories. He is here but had gone over to that dark side to do battle for you.

    Since your inbox is all logjammed and full (I bet there is a big ole choo choo train of email sitting behind what you are seeing in the box itself that is bursting on the outside waiting to rush over the edge like Niagra Falls, probalby more like Victoria Falls), I won’t add to that major messup pile by even trying to put yet another thing into your inbox.

    So I will thusly fess up, that along with Allister01, who so bravely used his same handle over there, as he does here, I am the chicken little who got a bit pissed off reading the unbelievable commentary over there on that biased “news” website and posted under “Luminousverve”, thusly I have outed myself sorta bravely now, but I suppose it was more out of embarrassment, really. Oh well.

  8. Broad laws like this are controversial (and bad) because they create a move from the rule of law to the rule of men. When everybody is violating the law, or can easily end up violating the law, only a fraction of those who technically violate will be prosecuted, and men decide who will be prosecuted and who won’t be, and they often do so for reasons completely at odds with the goal of law.

    This took place here, and there was a catch-22. Had there been no publicity, it’s possible though not assured that the police and prosecutors would have just let it vanish silently. You can’t be sure of that, though. But the publicity and scrutiny did make them circle their wagons and follow through with a case on somebody who obviously wasn’t the sort of person the law is intended to deal with. The publicity funded a good defence at least — having the publicity and no good defence would have been a very risky state.

    Juries don’t usually know about jury nullification, they are sometimes told that it can’t be done. However, now that they ruled, it is not an option. Whether appeal is an option is something only careful legal analysis can show. It requires a procedural error by the judge, or compromised evidence. But the sad fact is that there was little dispute about whether Peter Watts did or didn’t bow down right away when he was told to. The jury accepted that, wished that the law did not say that such a finding required conviction, were told that it did, and did not know they could nullify.

    I firmly hope that the judge, aware of this, will conclude that indeed there is no need for further punishment of Peter Watts, and issue a suspended sentence. He’ll suffer the problems that come with a felony conviction (which include difficulty crossing borders.)

    And the publicity, whether it hurt or harmed the case, will have the one positive of bringing attention to how a law written this way has indeed generated the rule of men. For the law was not written to bring about this result, and everybody knows it. The officers want a law that is as strong as possible, which gives them as much leeway as possible, which lets them use their judgement — which they of course believe in — rather than follow complex rules and bureaucracy. I understand why they want it, but they should not have it.

    I am not sure they would want the compromise either, namely that people must obey their orders, but strong, and well-enforced penalties for clearly needless orders.

  9. Part of the confusion about “assault” as the conviction charge is that the online court records site still says that.

    http://www.stclaircounty.org/DCS/search.aspx

    Last name: watts
    First name: Peter

    Search results: 2 records
    (click on first record)

    (click on Charges)

    Num Type Charge (Pacc) Asc/Trf Charge Description Offense Date Dsp Evt
    1 ORG 750.81D1 POLICE OFFICER-ASSAULT 12/8/2009 GTY JTH

    See? Dsp = Disposition, GTY = Guilty.

  10. Appeals are not always limited to procedural issues. There can be appeals based on insufficient evidence to convict, and appeals based on the unconstitutionality of the statute (either on its face or as applied), and a sort of hybrid of these: the statute doesn’t really cover X conduct, because if it did, it would probably be unconstitutional, so we will construe the statute not to extend to X conduct.

    I can’t make any judgment as to how viable any of these approaches might be. The argument would be that regardless of the prosecution’s claims, the only thing that you were convicted of was not getting on the ground fast enough after being yelled at, which is quite understandable given what had just happened to you, and such transitory noncompliance isn’t what the statute is about. Or, if it is, then it’s unconstitutional to punish people in situations where they don’t have a reasonably adequate opportunity to comply. This is an argument probably best framed with a lot of “On the unique facts of this case” etc. That allows appellate judges to rule in your favor without fearing that they are setting some terrible precedent, unleashing the demons of anarchy, etc.

    This is all pretty theoretical, and whether it has any realistic chance can only be assessed by somebody who knows the trial court record. But run the questions by your lawyer, and don’t give away the rest of your defense fund until you’ve had that conversation.

    Good luck.

    John Boston

  11. Hljóðlegur said:

    “Hm, officers lying on the stand, isn’t that perjury? Sounds like a reason for a reversal. Just thinking out loud.”

    I’m sorry if I’m late to this discussion and if this has already made rounds on here, but this is such an excellent point. The boarder guards flat out fucking lied. I had my suspicions before, but this pretty much seals it in terms of conclusive proof. I hope those bastards are called out on their lies and something serious is done about it.

    I truly hope you come out of this unscathed. Not only has ‘The Crawl’ given me countless hours of funny, extremely insightful information, but Blindsight has literally changed my life. I haven’t gone one single day without pondering some of the ideas and conclusions contained within it.

    If you ever make it to Midwest USA, beer is on me!

  12. Though I’m sure you’re well aware of it, local newspaper comment sections are maybe one small step above 4chan in terms of maturity, on their good days. I’m personally amazed that this seems to be a universal truth. I’m glad that you have some defenders there, but try not to put any stock in it. It is nice that the jury is speaking out some.

    Good luck on the continuing saga, and please keep in mind that (at least from my perspective as one of the people on the list) thank you notes are nice, but real work that keeps you:
    * Out of jail as much as possible
    * Writing
    * Making money so that the first two are possible
    Is definitely the priority.

  13. By the way – it’s not entirely clear if you know this or not, but jury nullification is the process of a jury deciding that law is unjust and declaring “not guilty” despite knowing full well that a law was broken. Used in the USA’s past to let go bootleggers (so maybe good) and racist murderers (so not so good). Regardless, the ship has sailed there, so whether it would have been appropriate here or not, it’s not something you need to concern yourself with.

  14. I’m so sad to hear that it came to pass like this, Peter. I sincerely hope that your sentence begins and ends with “Probation” or “Suspended”. You’re hardly a menace we need to keep out of our country; you’re guilty only of asking why.

    I wish there were something that could be done, but I feel I’ve done all I can.

    I just look forward to the part of the next book involving a sodomized border guard. Petty? Probably. Cathartic? Hopefully. ;)

    Best of luck, Peter. If you need a copy of Science or somesuch sent to you wherever you may end up, just ask. I work at a research institution and they’re not hard to come by.

  15. This sucks beyond sucking, more than I can fathom.

    If you need anything, you know where to find me.

  16. As Peter well knows, I agree with him on the recent research idea that sometimes (if not nearly always) the conscious mind is slow to pick up on the clues that the unconscious mind leaves it. In my view, the unconscious mind is a supragenius that, unfortunately for it, has a semi-mentally challenged PR person doing the talking for it and communication between the two is difficult.

    As such, I must disagree with his explanation as to #5: Motive. Having been a student of human nature since at least the 2nd grade (think of it as a survival tactic forced on me to make it through some bizarre board of ed’s experiment: separate me from my friends for an entire school year and stick me with the bullies during a period where I stood out like a sore thumb to begin with), I think I have a good handle on what exactly the majority of the world REALLY thinks about the USA. Not what they say… not what they do… what they REALLY think (that is, what the majority of unconscious minds think and, no, not collectively ;) ).

    What he was really saying was, “America? What are you doing? You’re treating your friends like enemies. Why? What purpose does it serve? Can’t you see it’s not in your best interests to do that?”

    And all of that with more patience in his little left toe than I have in my entire body. That’s love. Yes, most of the world loves the USA not because of what we do, not because of the screw ups, but because of the potential they see. I don’t think anyone really wants China in its current state to be the world’s leader. (See articles on pollution, spread of disease in community housing due to poor plumbing, etc.).

    Agree or disagree, it’s entirely up to all of you. Just know that in order to fully understand where I’m coming from, well, you’d have to think like Chris Knall.

    Important thing now is what to do about the sentencing coming up on or after April 26th depending on scheduling. I suggest A) people focus on that and B) do not try to use insults and anger to affect that outcome, it merely causes people on the other side to draw up and dig in deeper to their positions. More flies with honey, etc. It works.

    ~Chris, who still knows nothing except how to play.

  17. I actually feel kind of crappy now that I got a blog thank you from Peter-freaking-Watts. I had to stop posting yesterday because of how angry I was getting, in a similar vein to Chris’ “more flies with honey” point (Point of interest, wasn’t it proved you could actually catch more flies with vinegar? I thought someone did that.)

    Either way, you have nothing to thank me for. Anyone who knows me knows I will never turn down an argument, and when your favorite writer is getting shit on for no reason… Well let’s just say it’s an easy sell for me to get e-involved.

    Hopefully everything works out better at sentencing and all that, and if there’s anything else we can do, just put out the call. I’m sure everyone here is just as willing to help as I am.

  18. Vinegar probably has a greater odor and flies notice it from a greater distance, but I’m quite sure they prefer the taste of honey since it provides sugar, energy.

    (Take that my demon-raising friend! :) ).

  19. I know another voice doesn’t mean much in the face of so many, but I was really saddened when I heard the verdict, and sincerely hope the sentencing is as light as possible.

    You say money isn’t needed at the moment, but if it is, I’ll try to kick some in. And regardless, I’ve decided to move you into the ranks of authors who’s books I’ll buy new and in hardcover where-ever possible, instead of waiting for softcover or it to make it into the used bookstore.

    So, get State of Grace/Dumbspeech published ASAP so I can make good on that, and because I really, really, really want to read it.

  20. Getting my head around things: an appeal or some sort of civil suit isn’t necessarily going to happen, and the herald isn’t necessarily going to be sued for defamation of some sort, and the online court record at st clair county stands to remain as-is, online.

    OK.

    Well, I’m cool with that if everyone is. I know how to slave naive idealism to the harsh realities of life and you know, being a grown up about things. I hope you manage to keep yourself together through all of it, Watts. May the sentencing be light, and godspeed. Let me know if u need anything.

    I’ll just go reboot my brand new worldview now…

  21. Hi Peter,
    For what it’s worth, just some more words of sympathy and admiration from across the world in Oz. I was dismayed to find out how it had turned out, and I hope the sentencing is as light as can be – but that doesn’t change that fact that an injustice has been committed, by the lawmakers and by the cops.

  22. Peter, thanks for all this extra insight! I’m still resisting biting my nails off regarding the sentence they give you. *crosses fingers that it’s as light as possible!!* April 23rd(?) can’t come any sooner!

  23. I’m an Australian. Your experience has reinforced my aversion to ever visiting the United States ever again. I’ve also discouraged family and friends from ever again visiting as well, and just convinced a colleague to modify his travel plans to avoid visiting the U.S.A. since he had planned to visit Cuba first and I knew from friends that U.S. Customs and immigration always give travellers arriving from Cuba a very hard time, whatever their nationality.

    I witnessed incidents of the type of tyrannical type of behaviour you experienced on the part of customs, police and border protection officials on my last two trips, fortunately not involving me. I am also aware of many documented incidents of bad official behaviour ranging from simple assault with a Tazer to inflicting grievous bodily harm.

    From what I’ve witnessed, what I’ve read and from your experience, I’ve concluded that all American officials dealing with the public are badly trained and share the common American black/white Yes/No polarised view of the world. Add in work pressures, omnipresent perceptions of danger, rigid work rules and you have a recipe for workplace stress. Flavour that with temptation, envy and perhaps a penchant for dishonesty , garnish with an inferiority complex and you have a recipe for serious misbehaviour.

    What compounds the situation is that almost all of them are ignorant of the rest of the world, which, combined with zero tolerance of anything less than immediate compliance with their commands, makes them extremely dangerous to perhaps uncomprehending foreigners who are not used to the language nor behaviour expected.

    To put it another way, I would have got out of the car just as you did; for no other reason than to enquire about what was happening and why – simple curiosity.

    I hope someone emails comments like mine to their Congressmen. I cannot over emphasise the damage this behaviour is causing America. I know of Two renowned Academics who will no longer visit the U.S. because both have Arabic names and appearance and were singled out for “attention’. One is a distinguished medical researcher whose discoveries will now be developed in Europe. The other is an expert on Iran who has worked for the U.N. I’m in the early stages of trying to buy an American aircraft at the moment, but if I can’t do it without having to visit the States, then no sale.

    On the other hand, I was astounded at the speed, courtesy and thoroughness of Canadian immigration on my last skiing trip to Canada. The penetrating but courteous questioning as to my bona fides was both enjoyable and painless. I guess I’ll have to travel via Japan now to avoid the three ring circus transit via Hawaii has become.

  24. Watts spouts off with his side of the story all over the web. The government saved their side for the judge and jury and wins the case. I’m going to guess what allegedly happened. I suspect the officers became alarmed that Watts emerged from the car yelling, ignored commands to return to the vehicle causing the female officer and her partner to be concerned. Remember, they’re looking for drugs, money, weapoms, and all sorts of contraband during this lawful search. They decided to secure Watts in handcuffs but he yanked his arm away. Watts claims “flinch response”. Yehright.

    TopCop comes running over to assist . Watts realizes he bit off more than he can chew and retreats for the car. Now they don’t trust Watts to sit quietly behind the wheel of a car while they search it and are concerned that he may have a weapon in there, drive away or hit them. TopCop decided to prevent Watts from getting into the car and ends up inside it with him. TopCop realizes that rolling around in a car with two people who could decide to take his gun away is a bad idea, and clears out of the vehicle with a few strikes to cover his retreat. Watts pops out of the car for a repeat performance of disobedience. Instead for taking another roll around the car with Watts, TopCop decides to freshen him up with some pepper spray and shows the baton. Watts finally decides to comply.

    When all is said and done, Watts is not even injured. No guns were drawn (reportedly). 12 jurors heard the whole thing and decided Watts committed a crime. Watts has been convicted of a felony for his antics.

    Come to find out, he had another police problem in Canada for something in Canada in 1991. Watts claims he “has no record”. The record may have been removed through some legal maneuvering or some quirk in Canadian law such as a conditional discharge, but something happened. Watts, who usually can’t be muzzled, is awkwardly silent on the facts of the 1991 incident. The Canadian cops must be thugs too.

    As for the exit stops. I went through one in Washington State six years ago. They aren’t new.

    I agree that some of these border guards are total jerks on a power trip and have no business working in law enforcement, but the time to complain is later not up close and personal while ignoring lawful commands. Watts seems to be the random victim a little bit too often to pass the sniff test.

    Watts claims the statute made it impossible for him to be found not guilty. He should have read the statute before he decided to go to trial. He wasted the courts time. I expect them to waste some of his.

    Watts: Let’s see if you’re man enough not to delete this post.

  25. Chris in NY said: “More flies with honey, etc.” and

    Allister01 said: “Point of interest, wasn’t it proved you could actually catch more flies with vinegar?”

    Actually the reality is:

    “The absolute best attractant for your fly catcher is….and this is in all seriousness.. feces. And the best feces for attracting flies is human feces as this has the most pungent odor.”

    I learned this when I was a kid because I had to do this in order to take care of the dogs. I had yard duty everyday (which included weeding, whacking and hacking), in addition to all of the girly stuff chores.

    Brings back fond memories, harkening back to the days of childhood all the way into early college.

    Before engaging in homework, reading and indoor chores, I would come home and proceed to make the backyard round for canine missives, actually having to tip toe about sling & fling, bag and drop, and then stop and handle some choice ones trying to ascertain which was best, in order to make the attractant for those pesky flies…

    Thank goodness our dogs were not big breeds and we fed them food that was not that likely to convert into something even more disagreeable. I was so good at this that I was asked by our backyard neighbors family, where an elderly woman lived, if I could just walk into the opening between our yards and do the poop scoop be-doop over there as well.

    Interestingly canine poop automatically brings forth such memories. However, I must say human waste is indeed the most odiferous as I have myself come across it in unexpected places out in the city. But I did not investigate it as to whether masses of flies were having a party on it.

    @Chris in NY: I am glad to see you back on here. :)

    @Allister01: You did good over there. :)

  26. Fritz, as far as I know, they are required by law to ask before searching and are not allowed to search without probable cause. He could have refused the search, had they given him the option and it is illegal not to.

    Then again, I’ve never encountered border patrol, I just know from some police friends that it is your right to deny a search you feel has no probable cause. I suspect they did not give him the option.

  27. @Fritz:

    Seriously? “Let’s see if you’re man enough not to delete this post.” ?

    You’re obviously new on here because Dr. Watts has a pretty broad tolerance as to what he let’s stay up on the comments. If you don’t believe me, take a look through the old posts and see what other people have come up with. You’re hardly the edgiest, angriest, or even least witty person to comment on here and have their tripe stay up.

    As for your rivetting interpretation of all the things you didn’t see go down, bravo. You’ve pretty much succeeded in posting the exact same comments that every other dissenter who popped in here did. Only it looks like you stole the format one of the pro-Squid posters on thetimesherald.com website was using.

    Generally what I’m getting at, is don’t you have anything better to do? You guys that are coming on here and posting long rambling diatribes have been done to death already.

  28. Perhaps it is merely one troll and we are feeding it. Honestly, few people trust these people anymore and few people have reason to disbelieve his story because this shit happens constantly. It’s insane what we let our police get away with, yet people still defend them. I do not have a lack of appreciation for their role in society, however I do tend to distrust their motives and their side of the story.

    It seems the common argument, as stated above. The few people siding against him, (It’d be amusing if it were the officer in question posting under different aliases), state that he likely mouthed off and/or seemed threatening in some way/wasn’t docile enough/et-cetera. They completely overlook that unless in an extreme case, or in a case where he had become physical in some way, they were acting way outside the realm of reasonable people.

    Also, you’re correct in that Fritz himself, and a few before him, seem to be trying to goad him into something. Stop going out of your way to make his day bad just because you don’t like him for some unspecified reason. Even in the scenario you painted the officers severely over-reacted. It happens, especially to people that live every day getting off to the statute that ultimately says it’s okay to beat you, mace you, and throw you into prison with a felony for any and all reasons fathomable.

    Have a good evening and keep your head up, things’ll improve. There will always be trolls, do not feed them.

  29. Lol @ fritz.

    I’m confident he’ll leave your post up as an example of horrible trolling. You might want to be aware that your “I don’t know what happened so I’m going to make up my own version” approach is not a very effective way of gaining knowledge.

  30. Fritz,

    Not to get in the way of how proud of yourself you must be for thinking up that scenario, but… you weren’t there. Noting I wasn’t won’t erase the fact that you weren’t, and all you posted was fabrications. As you say, “Watts has been convicted of a felony for his antics.” Even if there were these antics you seem so eager to imagine, but the occurrence of which don’t seem to be in evidence (why didn’t they show the tape in court?), do you really, honestly think that anything that can be called “antics” should suffice for a felony conviction and jail time? Really? Seriously? What developing nation elite are you from, man? (Actually, that’s unfairly insulting to some of the developing nations I’ve visited over the years.)

    As for that ostensible problem in 1991, well; some Canadian cops are thugs (and worse), just like some cops everywhere are. You and I alike know nothing of that previous case, and I don’t see you in the spotlight with everyone digging through your past, so maybe it’s hard for you to see why it might be that Dr. Watts would (like the prosecution, apparently) consider it irrelevant, or prefer not to discuss it now. Hell, I don’t even see you posting with your full name, Mr. Courageous — yet you somehow find within yourself the gall to challenge Dr. Watts to be “man enough” to leave your fabulations in his comments section? Ridiculous.

    If you agree — as any traveler knows — that some border guards are total jerks on a power trip who have no business working in law enforcement, then why are you assuming the ones who claimed Watts assaulted them aren’t lying? It seems to me your whole comment is to the effect of, “I would rather not give Watts the benefit of the doubt, so watch me give the benefit of the doubt to the border guards, just to spite him.” Neither of us know what happened… you’ve simply decided in that precious little head of yours to try and convict Dr. Watts in absentia.

    Which is precisely why going to court wasn’t a waste of time, even if the law does preclude a just outcome: one has to hope that the whole world doesn’t work the way your head does. Everyone has a right to be vindicated on some level when they feel they’ve been screwed over.

    Peter,

    I’m just returning to the online world after a few months offline, and very much saddened by this news. If iit turns out the “kibble fund” needs topping up, blog about it. Hang in there and remember that there are many of us, unlike those Fritz clown, who are hoping the best for you, and are deeply perturbed by this whole mess.

  31. Re: Fritz ~ I just do not understand why it is so personal for those such as this person, to continue to lay down the “facts” of what had happened, as if they:

    1) either were there; 2) have a crystal ball, ESP or superpowers that had revealed everything, but only to them; or 3) it is personal as they are going to bat for the baddies who lied, fibbed and fudged, AND STILL, such people as Fritz will present the false version of what really happened, still denying, as over there on the Times Herald, that their now apparently “memorized version got the story straight and embellished” WILL eventually become the truth if it is repeated over and over and over…still in their attempt to pin a wrongful lie on Dr. Watts.

    Unbelievable. Boggles the mind.

    I just do not understand at all why anyone would beat this to death in an effort to retaliate against another human being just because he did not want to be subjected to abuse and tarred with lies.

    You know how terribly revealing to see the continued thread throughout the postings by “the angry cannot let it go crowd just have to retaliate and continue to abuse and beat Dr. Watts”, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, again…that being the continued, pointed “rationale” that somehow someway being “abrasive”, “outspoken”, “different”, “seemingly arrogant” or “asshole-like” is one of THE BIG REASONS why these attack posts are being flung in the first place.

    Reading along the liminal spaces I sense that for some of the angry males whipping Dr. Watts, there is some sort of underlying “jealousy” that other humans find him swell, interesting, of value, funny, tolerable, worth defending, someone we don’t hesitate to give our hard earned money to in order to help him, enjoy discussing and jousting with him…among many things…

    …because, he is, as those of us believe, think or know, a good human being who happens to be super-highly intelligent, a majorly terrific writer with talents and skills arrayed and acquired from education, study and learning that he shares for free to anyone interested in any of the things that he writes or speaks about that ranges the gamut of hard fact based science, to poetical rendering of science fiction to hard science fiction, pop-culture commentary, current issues, and then some, that we, those of us who dig the author and blogger Dr. Peter Watts are cool with, that far surpasses any so-called taint of assholyness, abrasiveness and any dirty deeds done in the long ago past.

    Please get a grip, get a life and make your own way in this world cultivating your own talents and skills, try to be happy and find beauty in life instead of gangbang sullying another human being you happen to not like, and stop grabbing Dr. Watts by his tentacles like a parasitic bloodsucker in an attempt to suck everything out of him in these most obvious acts of retaliation and revenge.

    My goodness and sun on a beach, what is so wrong with these people that they just cannot stop?

  32. […] He’s also been slammed in the media, with accusations of violence and worse, all of which he notes have been discarded by court. Certain Canadian media outlets have, it seems, decided that they’d rather misrepresent the situation of one of their own citizens rather than criticize a poorly-worded American law. […]

  33. There’s a show on NatGeo, Borderguards or some such. It has officers petrolling the Mexican border, generally helping and saving people who might otherwise die in the dessert. It also shows Officers at the crossings. And every episode I’ve seen, they stop a middle age white man when the dog thinks it smells something. They then precede to destroy the car, commenting ‘We know he has drugs. We know he has drugs.’ After several hours they give up and attempt to put the car together they keep saying ‘We know this as- We know this jerk is trafficking. Whatever, we’ll let him go. We’ll get this jerk next time.’

    As much as we say ‘innocent till proven guilty’, suspicion is treated as guilt.

  34. Hey Peter- If you need a break, please go look at this handy periodic table of smells at http://nataliedee.com/smellements/

  35. As we pause within this seemingly peaceful intermission, after perusing the DVD extras and Director Commentary:

    If anyone wants a scientific or cute kitty interlude, as we await the inevitable reappearance of Cartman
    and his buds Beavis, Buthead, Bozo, Jar Jar Binks (among other iterations and aliases), those inimical to reason and rationality, and otherwise misplaced buffoonery and angry-enraged goonery…

    Feel free to take a look and set your mind free from this storm of nitwittery and malfunctioning brain cells:

    Alien chaotic worlds and screaming winds:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8577165.stm

    Learn an interspecies language:
    http://www.squidoo.com/speakcat

    I for one feel as if my brain has been fried crispy like a mass of calamari on a plate, in my trying so very hard to understand what is up with the Invasion of the Watts’ World Attackers.

    (p.s. Just meant for perusal, eyeball washing, lame comedy, and NOT a discussion on this particular newcrawl because it is quite unrelated)

  36. AmeriDUH sucks. Plain and simple. Dem or Rep, we’re all a bunch of undereducated inbred mouthbreathers.

  37. I realize the case of Marc Emery has absolutely nothing to do with yours, Peter, but the one similarity I hope to see come to pass is that the Canadian authorities should refuse to allow you to be extradited, as they seem to be considering in his case. This entire situation is due to border agent ego. Beaudry deserves to be charged with perjury and aggravated assault, and he should absolutely lose his job. You are clearly the victim here. And as an American who lives in Canada, I am both speechless with rage and red with shame. I hate what my country has become.

    To those members of the jury who claim in their own defense that they were just following the law: bullshit. You could have nullified anyway. That’s what nullification is about. Not whether or not someone broke the law, but whether that law is just. If you feel that someone clearly broke a law that shouldn’t have been on the books in the first place, that’s when you nullify. And that’s what you should have done here. Shame on you for not having enough sack to do so.

  38. Watts: Let’s see if you’re man enough not to delete this post.

    That is rich coming from someone who isn’t even mouse enough to reveal his/her/its identity.

  39. Personally, if someone hit me in the head a few times, I likely wouldn’t be capable of responding to orders in a timely manner. It takes time to process the actual fact of the assault; additonally, the brain isn’t meant to be banged around in the skull by way of blows.

    Just because someone isn’t rendered unconscious doesn’t mean his thinking or response time haven’t been impaired by an attack like this. Too bad a neurologist didn’t testify.

  40. @fritz

    Please re-read some of the jurors’ post trial comments. They concede that Peter’s actions were entirely non-violent and that the actions of the border patrol officers were unjustifiably aggressive.

    As for exit searches, they are news to most of us and are a continuing source of confusion regarding this story.

    Civil society and lawful, competent law-enforcement are shared goals. It is not a good thing when citizens become fearful and suspicious of the authorities. The civs and the cops should be on one side and the crooks and the crazies on the other. This kind of injustice isolates the cops from the community — to the detriment of both groups.

    Dr. Peter Watts is a productive member of society, a highly trained scientist and talented writer. What goal will be served by his incarceration? What would be the consequences?

    There is the possible deterrence angle: DO NOT MESS WITH THE BORDER PATROL OR ELSE. Is that the message we want to send to the citizenry? Border crossing is already a stressful experience. Do we want to reinforce the feeling of fear, the threat of violence and legal jeopardy in the traveling public? How does that help commerce, tourism, border security?

    Removing a non-violent, productive person from society because of a procedural conflict is not consistent with core American values. The matter is now in the hands of the presiding judge. I trust and hope that he will ameliorate the situation with the appropriate ruling: a suspended sentence.

    I also hope that the US border patrol takes stock of the situation and implements and improved policy of communication with travelers. Dr. Peter Watts is not at all atypical. No one benefits from needless confrontations at the border and in the courtroom.

    Finally, there are aspects of Dr. Watts predicament that deserve further legal attention. At present this whole business of non-compliance is very unsatisfactory. Does LE not have certain obligations during the arrest process, especially if the object of their attentions is non-violent? In non-violent circumstances is there not some obligation on the part of authorities to communicate with the subject? To inform the subject of options? Is it legal to initiate a search without so much as a word? Is it really legal to batter a non-violent non-complier before issuing a warning that violent means are about to be deployed?

    Did the border patrol act legally in this matter? The lingering perception is that they did not. Incarcerating Dr Watts under such circumstances would only compound the existing rift between the citizens and law enforcement. During sentences and in his summary, the judge has the chance to steer this process in a productive direction. I remain hopeful that good sense and shared values end up ruling the day.

  41. I’ve been covering this. Shameful, and let us all know if you need further financial support–I’ll put out an appeal.

    This “deep integration” stuff will claim more victims before we’re done.

    http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2010/03/more-on-watts-buried-lede.html

  42. I have a friend named Amir who, years ago, last I saw him,
    told me he was exiting the US and the customs agents hassled him.
    He ended up moving to Canada and becoming a high-profle
    left-wing attorney/professor/biologist (yes, THAT Amir).
    Anyway that was the first I heard of Customs bugging people
    leaving the US…surely there must be some misunderstanding…some
    sort of error in the system. I mean, right? We were the ones with this amazing Bill of Rights and profound respect for citizens’ rights.
    When I go down to Mexico, that country couldn’t care less
    what I have in my pocket as I depart; they know the US will be waiting
    to check my stuff.
    What an abusive, monolithic, self-serving behemoth the US Justice Systemhas become. NO wonder people are starting to hate us.

  43. I just stumbled across this while reading popurls.com and completely horrified. It just re-enforces the fact that no matter where you are, keep your doors locked and windows rolled up and the camcorder rolling as you will never know when you will need to show you were just minding your own business being a law abiding citizen.

    When leaving a country it should be up to the country you are entering to do the search, not the country you are leaving. If this law was put in place as has been said to keep guns and drugs out of Mexico and has just migrated to the Canadian/US border, then it should be up to the Canadian and or Mexican border gaurds to conduct the searches. Sure the US can observe and even suggest what cars to search but as the border as I understand it is divided in half (left to right ) with (going south) the right side being US property and the left side Canadian property. If the situation had been revesed, the Canadian border patrol would have been accused of being out of thier juristiction while conducting an illiegal search.

    Americans as individuals are very inteligent and some of the nicest people I have met. However taken in as a group they are some of the dumbest, isolationist, no matter what, we are the only ones that are right and if you do not believe as we do you need to be shot, mind set, kind of people I know. They will blame anyone and everyone no matter how dumb the story and try and make it stick. Case in point is Kennedy, ignoring the number of shots fired and where people heard the shots comming from, it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that no bullet can travel through the amount of flesh and bone that bullet did (ignoring too the changes in direction) and remain in prestine condition. To me the story the border guards in this case are as far fetched as the magic bullet theory.

    To the border guards and prosecution, shame shame shame, to the Jury, ignorance of the law should excuse you from serving on a jury as this jury should have nulified itself. The only one left is the Judge who has yet to rule, now I may be wrong on this point (not being a lawyer) but is it not within the judges right to set aside the jury verdict and enter a not guilty verdict due to the prosecution misconduct as well as purgery by the prosecution witnesses and also by the fact that the time elapes of only 20 seconds between order and attempted compliance was infact a reasonable anoumt of time for a person to process the information given to him and to start to comply with the instructions? Lets hope the judge has a better understanding of the law in this case than the jury did. As for appeal, isn’t it appealable if the judge did not let the jury know all the options open to it under the law? So if they did not nulify because they were not aware of that option, is it not up to the judge to tell them and therefore be appealable under proceedural failings? Again just a laymans observation.

    Here is to the judge throwing this whole thing out. Good Luck and please excuse all the spelling errors (no spell checks on blogs grrr)

    .

  44. Fritz angrily cyberspit: “Watts spouts off with his side of the story all over the web.”

    Hello. I believe it is called “freedom of speech”, and the inherent right to have a voice, especially in a matter that so intimately and profoundly affects your very life, reputation and fate.

    I come from a long line of military guys, ancestors who fight in battles in what was the New World into the pre-birth baby that became “America”, arcing across into the Civil War, WWI, WWII and ending with Vietnam.

    Usually, much of the reason for the battles was the taking a stand for freedom, rights and fighting oppression, tyranny and abuse of power, among other things, but really, how dare my Revolutionary War ancestors believe that they had the right to stand up and make a difference in the life they were being forced to live…

    I actually had the audacity to consider joining the FBI, CIA, Foreign Service, Military, or become a Diplomat, Human Rights Lawyer, Alternative Dispute Resolution Mediator…what to do, what to do,
    with my Science, Writing, Research and Fine Arts background…

    My ancestor Captain Joshua Huddy was hung for being a rascally ex-Quaker dude who did not cotton to those Britishy guys bossing him around. My ancestor Mary Barrett Dyer was hung for daring to interpret religion as SHE chose to. Her friend, and another of my ancestors, Ann Marbury Hutchinson did the same, but she was “lucky” to only be banished from the colony.

    Man, with the person I am, if I was living back in those good ole days, I would most likely be swinging from the end of a rope too. Must be in my genes.

  45. If it wasn’t so tragically wrong, it would be hysterical. The first thing I thought of was the Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi. One perceived misstep and NO SOUP FOR YOU!

  46. Science fiction indeed.

    The customs agents made lawful demands. You wilfluly disobeyed them and continue to engage in wild self-justification, and your pal Cory Doctorow has so shrilly and tendentiously blown this up to an anti-American hate parade that both of you are discredited, thoroughly.

    The Toronto Star got the story right: a customs agent said you didn’t obey them; a jury found that you didn’t obey them; and you yourself admitted the trial was fair.

    So knock it off with the posturing for leftist causes that you think this incident affords you and stop the hate.

    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2010/03/crossing-the-border-of-truth-into-lies-cory-doctorows-tendentious-blogging.html

  47. Fellow troops, I offer a letter you can send to the governor.

  48. This outcome is a terrible shame. Please do not forget, as an ultimate option, petition to the President of the United States for a pardon. With enough public support, and especially if you can drum up enough media attention, this might conceivably happen…especially if you can get Canada’s diplomatic forces to put pressure on the Department of State.

    Many Americans love to hate our own government, so if you’ve got good documentary evidence of your treatment by these bullies, please try to get it in front of the sensationalist-news media (20/20, Frontline, etc.) if you can. It might garner you additional support.

    Best of luck with the rest of this fiasco.

  49. @Brandy ~ Thanks for sharing the smellements. My friends will get a kick out of that. :)

    @Madeline “Squeak” ~ Terrific, thank you! :)

    @Prokovy Neva ~ Regardless as to whether you agree or disagree with Cory Doctorow, the fact remains that what happened to Dr. Watts was wrong. No if, ands or buts.

    I can’t believe that some people are still telling the rest of us that we have no rights, when someone with the veneer of authority wrongfully and violently abuses that power to beat and then frame us. Then lie about it in order to make it stick to an innocent human being.

    And that such a person wronged, and his/her friends, have no right to give voice to it.

    News about the tentacley appendaged ones:

    Octopuses excited by high definition television!

    (But, so are human males…)

    “It appears that standard definition moving images are not sufficiently ‘convincing’ for the sophisticated cephalopods, say the scientists.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8572000/8572828.stm

    Is this why some women refer to men as an octopus? Or is it that the have tentacles?

  50. @Prokofy Neva

    I don’t know if you are simply doing this because you dislike Cory Doctorow, as it seems from a cursory glance at the wall o’ text on your site, but you’re oversimplifying the matter.

    1) The officer didn’t say Peter only didn’t obey him. He said that he was choked. This version of the story was shot full of holes on cross, and the whole ordeal (unless I am misunderstanding things) took less than 20 seconds, of which 8 was the actual “fight” so to speak. Add that to the justification of said macing being shown to be a lie, and you can see why most of us, Peter included, are more than a little bit skeptical about the claims.

    2)From what I can understand, there has been little to no self-justification on this blog or by Peter that wasn’t a direct response to newspaper postings that are guilty of the same reductionism you are. He hasn’t called the border guards evil people, he hasn’t started some sort of populist movement to try and get him off the hook. He has come onto his -personal- blog, and has informed people who genuinely care about his wellbeing as to how things have progressed.

    Look, you’re obviously new here, otherwise why would you have been worried about being censored. As stated not twenty posts up, and as shown by the amount of truly virulent messages that are up here, there is very little to no censoring done on this site. For a personal blog, that’s pretty good.

    Peter has never been one to go for the press or media circus. Hell, look at how -little- self-promoting actually gets done on here. I’ve seen him say more nice things about plenty of other writers than he does about himself. All of this is kind of putting the lie to your claims.

    You don’t like Cory Doctorow. We get it. That’s fine too, you’re perfectly within your rights to dislike someone. The problem here is that you’re not just attacking Cory Doctorow. You’re attacking someone who Cory Doctorow supports. In philosophy, this is called an association fallacy, otherwise known as “guilt by association”.

    Just because Cory Doctorow supports Peter and you think Cory is evil, doesn’t mean Peter himself is evil. Take a closer look at the posts here, the articles, the posts by -actual jurors on the trial- and then make a decision. Don’t just decide that since you don’t like Cory Doctorow, that this issue he supports is instantly wrong.

    P.S. Word a day toilet paper is great and all, but how many times does the word tendentiously get used in actual conversations? I count almost 8 uses in your blog post alone.

    3)

  51. @Prokofy Neva
    Wow, Prokofy Neva, also known as Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, in her bulbous flesh, no less.

    Long time no see.

    Still fighting communist invasions, I see…

    @ everyone
    Do google her up. Amusement guaranteed.

  52. This is why you (vous) ought to get a NEXUS pass!

  53. How, oh how, did I miss that?

    @01

    If only you had posted but a minute earlier. I can’t believe I actually fed a troll, much less an Encyclopedia Drammatica worthy one. I have nothing but shame.

  54. 01 said: “Do google her up. Amusement guaranteed.”

    I did. Cripes, here’s what came up. I can’t stop laughing, sorry. My tummy hurts! Shit.

    “Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World”

    http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/magazine/16-02/mf_goons?currentPage=3

  55. I am still laughing, sorry…

  56. The flying penises thing made me laugh pretty hard. This is what people don’t get about 4chan. It’s the scum of the earth yes, but it’s a great place to just go and be able to laugh at anything.

    (4chan subbed in for SomethingAwful)

  57. @Allister01
    Sorry, I arrived too late.

    @Peter Watts

    Interesting fact – Prokofy Neva systematically seeks out situations like this, trying to increase her own e-visibility by trolling popular blogs over “hot” topics.

    Which means this is a popular blog now.

    I believe congratulations are in order.

  58. @Michael Johnson: You posted: “Fritz, as far as I know, they are required by law to ask before searching and are not allowed to search without probable cause. He could have refused the search, had they given him the option and it is illegal not to.”

    I don’t even live in the US, but even I could do a little Googling and find out that the courts have stated that the guards need ZERO suspicion to conduct vehicle searches at a US border crossing and the person cannot refuse.

    For those of you saying that people should be able to get out of their car and approach an armed officer despite their commands not to, you need a dose of reality. I’m sure Dr. Watts didn’t fax his resume and character witnesses to the crossing before he arrived. How are they supposed to know his intentions? How do they know he is a harmless author?

    Some of you say the law is unjust. If one person should be legally allowed to the officer’s disregard instructions, leave their car, and approach the officer to ask their question, surely all five occupants of a car should be able to do the same. They could just surround this female border guard and ask her all of the questions they want. Get right up close so she can hear them. She can just stand there surrounded and hope they have good intentions.

    My son is a police officer in my country and we discussed this at length. A vehicle stop could be routine or it could be a tragedy. People have gotten out of the car despite orders, taken the officer’s gun and killed him. They are trained to come home safely. 99.99% of the people are no threat, but the procedures are in place for the .01 % that are a threat. The police have families too.

    My son said in his training they showed that if a criminal has a knife within 7 meters of the officer and the officer doesn’t have their gun out of the holster that the officer will almost certainly be stabbed before he could draw the weapon if the bad guy decides to use it.

    I’m sure Dr. Watts was not a threat. The guards may have been able to deescalate the situation.

    I apologize for the “man enough” comment. It’s apparent that this site welcomes a lively discussion.

  59. Peter, you have my condolences and support.

    As a result of your conviction, I’ve decided to avoid crossing the border and skip a martial arts convention I was planning to attend in Michigan this summer. That state clearly doesn’t need my money.

    I find myself with some wiggle-room in my budget as a result. If your passenger decides to launch a civil suit, please do let us know if he needs funds.

  60. Lawl. Well at least some of the trolls on the internet still manage to entertain. What a winner. She comes on here and pulls out some sort of moderation defense, then goes on to delete people’s comments on her blog. I will have to join in on the next troll of her Second Life (although technically it would count as her first I imagine).

  61. Haha! My favourite from her site:

    Yeah, I know he’s not a “cartoonist” but a *Canadian science fiction writer*. This was a first a typo and then a mess-up. But it’s corrected now.

    That’s a typo and a half. I wouldn’t even get that typing with my eyes closed.

    I know she’s not a “simpering assclown” but a “net-commenter.” My bad.

  62. I am very sorry the jury in this case was not knowledgeable or stonesable enough to engage in nullification.

  63. @Allister01, who said: “I will have to join in on the next troll of her Second Life…”

    Wouldn’t being a “goon” be of so much more fun? Something perhaps related to Peter’s junk sociobiology piece and your interesting theories…

    Allister01 pointed out to the meanie troll: “…Dr. Watts has a pretty broad tolerance as to what he let’s stay up on the comments.”

    So true. He tolerates me. What more evidence could you possibly need?

  64. Just found this and it reminded me of this:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2010/03/another_lying_cop_shock_in_tex.php#more

  65. @keanani

    I have for -so- long wished I was in sociology or psychology at a university, simply so I could write a piece on mob mentality a la Anonymous.

    @Fritz

    It’s understandable that you would feel that way, especially having someone in law enforcement. Hell, I have friends in the police here. The thing is (and I am working off of Peter’s word largely), he didn’t approach the police. He stepped out, asked what was happening since he hadn’t been informed, and then started to get back in before being pulled out with no warning.

    Officer safety is definitely something that should be taken seriously. No family should have to be informed their husband or wife was killed on the job because someone made a dash back for their car and the officer was afraid to act decisively.

    The difference here, is that Peter didn’t make a dash to the car. He didn’t charge the officers. He was getting back in when another officer directly countered an order issued not ten seconds before and tried to grab him out.

    Should officers be allowed to act decisively, of course. But they shouldn’t be able to lie on the stand (or misremember, whatever that means) and punish an innocent man with a felony conviction. Could Peter have reacted better, sure. But then again, so could the officers involved.

  66. Hi Peter

    Just wanted to join my fellow Antipodeans in expressing my disgust at what has happened and wishing you well. We’re sending good vibes out to you from New Zealand!

  67. Being an individual with a grad school degree, well off life and lover of freedom I rescinded my VISA to the US a long time ago ( 5 years ) because of what I saw it was becoming (and eventually became), and sadly it will get even worse very very soon, I read what has happened to you and I offer my support, wish for your well being and hope you can get out of this messy, incredible, unfair and ridiculous situation. I will never step foot to the US ever again and from afar I wish you the best.
    ( …and before anyone starts hating, there is no need to visit the US in this modern connected world of ours where everything is done through the wires. )

  68. The CBC is another website which ran the “‘assault conviction'” headline on March 19. I’ve emailed their Ombudsman to have it changed. We’ll see what happens.

    (Is there enough money left to have the lawyer draft a letter to the media, demanding that they retract these headlines? Don’t these constitute libel?)

  69. Allister01 said: “I have for -so- long wished I was in sociology or psychology at a university, simply so I could write a piece on mob mentality a la Anonymous.”

    Yes. An interesting “human phenomenon”. I wonder how people could even possibly unify as if they were one organism and possess the same mentality, without their conscience telling them to think about what it is they are doing.

    This mob mentality extends to what we see in times of war and conflict, how for some reason, women are mass raped, as in The Congo.

    It is also quite telling that on an individual level, people can so easily be persuaded to harm, hurt and torture another human being just by being told to do so. With others encouraging it.

    As seen here:
    “A disturbing French TV documentary has tried to demonstrate how well-meaning people can be manipulated into becoming torturers or even executioners.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8573755.stm

    Other instances of course are the recent video footage of a child being attacked by a bunch other children who kick and stomp the child to a pulp.

    I just don’t get it.

    As evidenced by those few commentors on here, their particular brand of vitriole, virulance and rage driven violent wishes rained down upon Peter, is in and of itself, quite revealing as to the inner workings of some of the human beings amongst us.

  70. Totally unrelated, sorry, but would any Canadians kindly tell me if this gentleman is known of by anyone here?

    http://www.phsc.ca/monsters.html

  71. […] Given that members of the jury have written to Watts expressing their dismay at the wording of the statute under which they were forced to convict him, one can only hope that the judge sees reason, lectures […]

  72. I’m starting to appreciate this case just as Theater of the Absurd.

  73. […] Peter Watts was convicted essentially of not responding fast enough and questioning commands. He’s now posted more on his own blog, including some comments from some of the jury, who couldn’t quite believe the […]

  74. […] Peter Watts was convicted essentially of not responding fast enough and questioning commands. He’s now posted more on his own blog, including some comments from some of the jury, who couldn’t quite believe the […]

  75. This is horribly off-topic, but I felt the need to share anyway (even though probably absolutely no one but me will “get it”). Wound up at a most interesting place/event last night (yes, by accident) and saw yet another “ghost” from the past. Known as “spider-legs” or something similar, he was wearing an SS hat, a 1/4 chainmail shirt, and very little else. Yes, he still does have spidery legs. Unfortunately, I’d have to say seeing that was the highlight of my evening.

    It’s almost… almost enough to make you believe in g-neural or whatever it’s called.

  76. On a Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Website:

    “Peter Watts, Canadian writer, guilty of felony for arguing with U.S. border officer March 22, 1:29 PM – Civil Liberties Examiner – J.D. Tuccille”

    http://www.examiner.com/x-536-Civil-Liberties-Examiner~y2010m3d22-Peter-Watts-Canadian-writer-guilty-of-felony-for-arguing-with-US-border-officer

    eExaminer.com/Honolulu:
    http://www.examiner.com/honolulu

  77. CBC did respond, and changed their headline from:

    “Canadian sci-fi writer convicted of assault”

    to:

    “Canadian sci-fi writer convicted in border scuffle”

    (They answered my email within half an hour.)

  78. Opined by a juror:

    ‘He was found guilty of obstructing/resisting, and that was due to the time that transpired between him being ordered to do something and him actually complying with the order. We were forced to decide what was a reasonable amount of time for him to comply with an order”

    I really feel for them. The more I thought about the situation and wondered what I might conclude if on the jury, the more I realised that this was likely to be at the core of their decision. How Sow is Too Slow? What of a person with a hip or knee problem making it impossible to move instantly?

    I’d want to know if the decision I made was going to be used in the future as some sort of ‘standard’ for not acting quickly enough. If there was no legal definition of how long it takes for a person to be non-compliant, then is the law not pretty much unenforcable?

    Or is it just me who ponders things like this in the wee-small hours?

  79. Wow. Quite an experience.
    What is especially frightening is that many people could easily find themselves in your situation thinking that they have basic legal and human rights when confronted by US officers.
    America has changed. It used to be such a nice place to visit.
    In a few years I’ll be telling my grandkids about how the United States at one time was the beacon of freedom and justice, before the paranoia set in.

  80. […] BF and I have been following Peter Watts’ tribulations with the US system in a state of growing perplexity and anger–as far as I know, we have a sort […]

  81. @Terry who questioned: “If there was no legal definition of how long it takes for a person to be non-compliant, then is the law not pretty much unenforcable?”

    Perhaps it was that “what a resonable person would have done in that situation” standard. Of which for all intents and purposes, is rendered rather bogus if anyone with working brain cells could ascertain.

    As human beings, were are not all borgs, cylons, clones or superhuman replicants. We are all individuals with our own reaction and response times. There are too many variables to be factored in.

    Case in point, not the same issue, but illustratively relevant nonetheless. (Ok, maybe only in my mind). Everyday I walk about downtown Honolulu, and there are many streets to cross, as is in any main city. The street crossing itself can be in some ways akin to a lesson in the survival of the fittest, or as it actually is, the survival of the fastest. In other words whomever can get their bipedal flesh pod across the street before the traffic light changes to the glaring red pointed at you.

    Time and time again, I see people trying to keep up with the ticking red flashing seconds counter alerting all of us to get your sorry pedestrian behind over to the other side pronto.

    Sometimes it amounts to a rather funny human interpretation of the turkey trot including some arm-waving imitation of flapping wings and ruffled feathers. (don’t mind me, it’s 4:15 a.m. and I am still waking up)

    In this, I see humans who are elderly, in a wheelchair, with crutches, handicaps, diabilities, problems with walking, with children, pregnant, or just plain old slow as any of us has the right to be (maybe I just got a charlie horse in my calf), not making it in the requisite time of seconds.

    Oftentimes I see, as I myself have experienced, cars whooshing in front and in back of those of us who just are not up to par in turkey trotting ourselves from one point to the other across a street on any given day.

    There is this underlying assumption that we must all conform. The message of course is not stated clearly or blatantly. It is there nonetheless. It is as if we are in that movie with Roddy Piper who wore those magic sunglasses and could see the subliminal messages that he, along with all the other humans, were being brain-numbed into apathetic submission, meekly following, blinding them to the reality that we are not truly free and consciously making sure that we are.

    My point, and relevant to the issue, what bothers me is the fact that the jury is comprised of people who believe that they must act in unison no matter what. That somehow the thought did not occur to any one of them that they are each an individual who has the absolute right to excercise that individuality if their own singular conscience, if it is telling them that this is not right, and that no one can threaten, bully, pressure, intimidate and weasel-reason me into changing my mind, then they can break free from the pack.

    It is akin to, or a weakling wimpy cousin to the mob-mentality, where all of the jurors go down a predetermined path, and perhaps one or a few just knew, just felt, just had that dread and itching in their conscience that what they were doing was not right, but not a one of them was willing to break free from the mass pack and step off of that path and stop right then and there at that point, refusing to continue on, and having, mustering, the courage and integrity to do so.

    Then asked: “Or is it just me who ponders things like this in the wee-small hours?”

    No, not at all. Many times I am actually awakened at night from sleep by pestering thoughts and words. I sometimes wonder if I have that serious mental condition that is not oftentimes spoken of, “RMS”,
    although it is not at all contagious. Restless mind syndrome.

    The problem with RMS is that it renders one not at all unlike an extra from a Dawn of the Dead movie, where for most of the day you are a sleepwalking shambling space cadet needing caffeine to propel you through the day in some paraody of actually being with it and capable of congnitive function complete with fakery that all thrusters are working and you are actually there in just more than physical form.

  82. I appreciate that the jury felt that the law had been written with such a wide scope that in effect they either had to pass a verdict that bluntly disregarded the law – which is what I would have done, I think (I hope!) or they had to accept that the broadest charge had been proved – Peter Watts did resist an officer of the law.

    My interpretation (I hope – though I do feel for the jury in this position) would have been that once the police officer had hit Peter Watts, at that point that officer’s orders were no longer lawful orders which Peter should have had to obey – since the officer had gone (in UK law at least) over the line into illegal action by hitting Peter Watts in the first place.

    In short: once Beaudry had hit Peter Watts in the face (and twice!) Beaudry no longer had the benefit of the reasonable presumption that lawful instructions from the police will be obeyed.

  83. […] two post-conviction posts present a brave face and sound more upbeat than blogs by sci fi author colleagues such as […]

  84. Excellent and balanced ~ see above link of “Dystopia Now: the new normal…”

    “There are these rules that everyone is supposed to know when dealing with U.S. Customs officials,” he said. “I’ve heard these rules invoked when you’re talking about dealing with angry grizzly bears in the Yukon – don’t make eye contact, be passive.”

    Certainly, we are going along the road of not being human but prey to the predators…reverting to fearful masses rendered insignificant as to our humanity and dignity in a cowardly new world where doing what is right is no longer something of value or seemingly worth standing up for…

  85. I was offline when all of this went down: my condolences. If the funds run short just mention it on your blog.

    You’re definitely due some personal time for wound-licking. I’m happy to see that Keanani and Alistair01 and others are holding the fort in the meantime.

    What a sorry mess all this is. With all the distress it has caused you, this is already a sentence! I can only hope that the judge will see reason. The wrong person has stood trial.

    My very best wishes.

  86. The Juror was sadly wrong,

    They, in fact, did have a say in the matter. They may have been told they did not, but that did not make it so.

    The entire purpose of the Jury is to assure justice. Even if the defendant is in technical violation of the statues he is charged with violating, the jury decides if the charge and the intended penalty are just.

    If either the charge or the penalty is unjust, they have the duty to acquit.
    That is the entire purpose of having a jury of peers, as a check against tyranny. (by legislators, prosecutors, police, judges or any agent of the state)
    Had Peter’s jury been properly informed of their power, they would have found Peter innocent.

    To paraphrase Martin Luther King: An immoral and unjust law is no law at all. Jury nullification as an option is necessary to protect us all.

    Peace and my sympathy,
    JK

  87. Part of the shock of this story is they did it to respectable articulate white man.
    If this had happened to a third world national it would be a non story. I wonder how often this happens to Arabic looking people.
    Personally I avoid going through the US from Australia because I do not desire to be humiliated and treated like a criminal by a state thug who is empowered with Power without any Responsibility.

  88. […] More from Peter […]

  89. I am sorry to hear the verdict; I have nothing to add to the above arguments.
    This is shitty.

  90. I’m really sorry to hear about the verdict as well. I’m new to the site, but have been a fan for many years. I actually even named my Eve Online corporation Blindsight at one point ;-)

    Hopefully, the judge will listen to the jury’s POV and the actual evidence and use his sentencing discretion to give Dr. Watts a suspended sentence.

    As someone who has had to deal with the INS, and later on with ICE for many years, I know very well how arbitrary, intimidating and just plain unreasonable these border agents can be. I was a legal resident for over 10 years in the US, my wife is American, and even with a green card, I got harassed a few times for no reason at all. Just to clarify things, I am Brazilian, European looking, college educated and during that period always held legal and gainful employment in the US, so I never really fit the either illegal immigrant or the terrorist profile.

    At one point I was coming back to the US after vacation, and had the bad luck of getting a young and extremely belligerent INS agent that also was visibly very hungover, or maybe still drunk, and looking to take his frustrations out on someone. I was interrogated for over an hour, called names, sworn at, etc… All of this while standing at the passport inspection booth, and trying to be calm and cordial. He never sent me to secondary inspection, never called a supervisor over, or in other words, never followed procedure.

    When I finally had enough of this treatment, I told him to either detain me, deport me, or let me go. He told me that if he wanted to, he could do do any of those things, threw my passport at me, and told me to get the f**k out of his face, no explanation for the harassment, no apology, nothing. By the time I got to baggage claim, my wife (she took the US citizen’s line and had been waiting for a long time) was sitting with our luggage looking like she was about to cry.

    Anyway, I didn’t know it at the time, but after informing myself, I found out that apparently, he did have the power to do any of those things he threatened me with (indefinite detention, deportation, etc…) and that there is no recourse (the low ranking agent’s decision is final) and that they don’t even have to provide a reason to you (seems like there is very little oversight as well). In retrospect, and taking into account what happened to Watts, I guess I was lucky I wasn’t punched, maced, tazzed, etc…

    This just illustrates how broken and ineffective the system is. Low level border agents have way too much power, no oversight, and meanwhile contraband and illegal immigrants keep coming into the US unabated. I think this is a tragedy. I have moved back to my country, where I get treated with dignity and respect while crossing the border, and have no plans of visiting the many friends and family I have in the US until things change.

    I hope the best for Dr. Watts, and hope his suffering helps to shine some light on this problem to an otherwise apathetic American public.

  91. I’m really sorry about this. The behavior of the border patrol makes me feel like I’m living in a totalitarian state. They do it to Americans too, not just to Canadians.

    What I don’t understand in all this is how someone can claim that they are following their conscience in doing something they feel is wrong. If it’s wrong, and you know it’s wrong, it’s not your conscience that you are following. It’s your fear of embarrassment, or your desire to conform, or something like that. Following your conscience in difficult times is hard, and uncomfortable. It requires that you go against the grain.

  92. There is one thing that the jury may have missed, but it would really come down to the judges instructions and the local laws.

    The charge has to do with failing to follow the order of an officer, but the ‘order of an officer’ part has an out, at least in some jurisdictions, in that if the person giving the order is operating outside the bounds of their authority they don’t count as an officer giving an order. Excessive force, or other inappropriate behavior, can effectively strip an officer of their legal power turning them into more of a regular person who has no right to order you around.

    Your lawyer has probably thought of this, and perhaps it doesn’t work in this jurisdiction or with this law, but it is a possibility.

  93. Peter,

    Thank you for the kind words. We might not be as far apart as you think on the world view.

    We will have to disagree about Cory. I strongly suspect the fire storm he lit put you in a far worse position. His lack of journalistic standards has forever destroyed the respect I once held for him.

    I will agree with you that everything Cory did enabled you to get a quality defense. So he did some good and is not all bad.

  94. Peter, stroll over to the nearest mirror. See that guy? He’s the one to blame.

  95. “I am very sorry the jury in this case was not knowledgeable or stonesable enough to engage in nullification.”

    It’s not a very well-known option. It also would probably have just ended up in a hung jury- you would have had to convince the entire jury to rule against the law as written.

    There is also the chance that- had Peter been found not-guilty in MIchigan via nullification- the Feds could have reconsidered and then charged him under the applicable Federal statute.

  96. […] Nasty police state coming your way ? Are we creeping towards a petty, dimwitted fascist police state ? Dunno. The signs aren't too good. Peter Watts may serve two years for failing to promptly obey a customs officer – Boing Boing No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) DVD Extras and Director Commentary […]