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.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 19th, 2010 at 9:04 am and is filed under Squidgate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

397 Responses to “Guilty”

  1. Paul C

    So sorry, Mr. Watts. Best of luck in the coming days.

  2. Paul C

    “Dr. Watts”

  3. Brian Dunbar

    Sorry. I was pulling for you. What happened to you could have – has – happened to anyone.

    On the upside: hey, jail will give you lots of time to sit and write without being bothered with salesmen at the door, phone calls and so forth. Plus, lots of time to work out in the weight room.

  4. keanani

    Oh Peter…so sorry! I am really sad that the jury just went with the prosecution.

  5. Emily Schooley

    From another Canadian artist, I find their ruling appalling on so many levels, and it makes me that much less inclined to travel or do business south of the border.
    Kudos to you for having such a generous perspective on their poor decision – I’m not sure that, if I were in the same position, I would be able to handle it with such a magnanimous perspective.

    & consider this another gesture of support. <3

  6. Arnon Clark

    Peter, I am so sorry this has happened. I’m impressed by your calm. I hope the sentencing will be sane (as sane as possible in this insanity). If you’re in TO at any time before Ad Astra, or other cons, drinks aplenty are yours.

  7. Declan Dennhy

    I understand what you mean about the jury being serious. I personally am more annoyed at an article I found on this which states you were found guilty of choking the officer.
    I hope the best for you. I still look forward to the chance to sit and talk with you at Polaris.

  8. Jason Stackhouse

    There is justice and there is the law…

    We’re standing by, Peter.

  9. David Dyer-Bennet

    Apologies for the stupid laws of our increasingly-authoritarian country. Scared people make stupid decisions, and we have a lot of those in Congress.

  10. spice

    I’m really sorry to hear that it’s taken this turn. Thanks for keeping us updated, and I hope that something good comes from all this. Best wishes.

  11. Jury Finds Watts Guilty « File 770

    […] Watts has posted detailed comments about the trial and verdict on his blog. He analyzes the statute the jury had to work with and the factual questions they had to […]

  12. 01

    My sincere condolences, Mr Watts.

  13. dave

    Apparently, not saying “YES SIR!” fast enough is felony assault. I’m ashamed of my country. 🙁

  14. Mike Tevee

    “The statute itself? Now that I have complaints about.”

    The perfect vehicle for securing convictions. Write stupid laws.
    For example in Florida “resisting arrest without violence” which is essentially
    “resisting without resisting”, is a misdemeanor; web journalist took this BSlaw to court and got his conviction for this non-crime reversed.
    That’s why every American should be informed about
    Jury Nullification. As a juror you can vote Not Guilty if you think the
    law is frivolous or unjust (like what PW just described) even if the person is caught red-handed.
    A shame Jury Nullification was not used here; now you have a Felon who,
    by all accounts, did nothing wrong.

  15. Paul

    Not the result I wanted to hear.

    Much sympathies, Mr. Watts

  16. Ken Kennedy

    Best wishes, Peter. This is crazy and scary…I’m so sorry.

  17. will shetterly

    I’m embarrassed for every commenter who defends this law and this verdict.

  18. adicat

    oh Peter. i am so sorry.


  19. A juror


    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.

  20. angusm

    I for one will sleep sounder tonight knowing that this dangerous non-complier will get the punishment he so clearly deserves. If Dr Watts will say “Why?” to a cop who just hit him in the face, who knows who or what he might say “Why?” to next.

    This man is capable of questioning anything. There is no place for him in an obedient, deferential society that values unquestioning acceptance of authority. Let’s hope they caught him before he had the chance to infect any impressionable children with the spirit of scientific inquiry or a pernicious belief in civil rights and other discredited notions.

  21. Chris

    “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” George Orwell

  22. Kelly

    Oh hell, Peter. I’m so sorry.

  23. Uplinktruck

    Hey Peter,

    Sorry this came out badly for you. Keep us updated.

  24. John R.

    Shock, disbelief, anger, sorrow. All at once, I don’t know what to say, I can’t believe you were found guilty. Someone, please stop the insanity. Can we get a reality check around here??

  25. Gordon

    Peter, this is astounding. It sickens me to think that you are the victim of such a miscarriage of justice. May the judge be reasonable when sentencing!

  26. Because Asking a Question is a Federal Offense | Living the Liminal

    […] 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.No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Guilty […]

  27. Mike Cane

    A travesty of justice. Good luck in the next phase.

  28. David J. Williams

    Hopefully the judge gets the bullshit nature of the statute’s wording, hands you a suspended sentence, and we raise a glass or twenty some point this summer in Toronto. hang in there sir. . .

  29. Cat J.

    I’m sorry to hear it; I wish the jury had come around to thinking of it as “slow compliance.”

    That is sickening, that law.

    There are uniformed types conducting bag checks at my subway stop not infrequently, and while I have been told that we -are- allowed to decline a bag check (and then allowed to leave the station *without* getting on the train) . . . ugh. If they pressed the point and I continued to say, “No, thanks, I’ll just be going back above ground,” well, my nightmare is what just happened to you. (Fortunately for me, they always face the entrance from above that I never use, so I’ve never had to deal with them.)

    Crap. Well, I hope whatever happens next is as nightmare-free as possible.

  30. Doug Smith

    God, Peter, I am so sorry to hear this news. I am amazed at your ability to assess this event with such fair detachment. I hope that the sentencing will recognize the reality of events.

  31. Terry Findlay

    Your measured assessment of those involved speaks volumes about your character and makes the verdict all the more unsettling. Any abuse that took place was clearly at the hands of the officer involved. It’s extremely disturbing that this person has not be reprimanded and that no charges are pending against him.

    Hopefully, the sentencing will be more rational.

  32. Jeff

    Wow, that’s… absolutely terrible. Best of luck; hope your sentence is as lenient as possible.

  33. kettunainen

    What utter BS. Apparently it’s against the law to ask a question of an officer because that’s resisting arrest? *shakes head in disbelief* I, too, am ashamed of my country. 🙁

    I’ll echo Arnon in that I’m impressed by your calm. I do sincerely hope they’ll go extremely easy on you with the sentencing.

  34. John Picacio

    Hang in there, Peter. You’re a class act. Good thoughts to you….

  35. Marna Nightingale

    Peter, I’m so sorry. You’re about 100 times as reasonable about this as I am at the moment. This appears to suggest, though, that I shall see you at Oysterband, and will say whatever there might be to say then. Which really might just be a hard hug and talking about cheerier things.

  36. Alex von Thorn

    I think the border guards wanted to use you as an example, but I don’t think people will get the lesson they wanted. What’s going to happen is that some people will simply not take the risk of dealing with US border guards. Law-abiding people will choose other countries to travel to and trade with. Can’t be good for Michigan or for the United States.

    I guess we can hope that the judge will note the facts established in court that you didn’t actually assault or choke anybody and that this was essentially nothing more than a sincere misunderstanding. Maybe your lawyer can ask for an absolute discharge. If there’s anything people can do, let us know.

  37. Nick N

    Here’s hoping that the judge has the sense of proportion that the laws on the book completely lack. Between this case and my brother-in-law’s conviction of a felony on a minor drug charge a year or so ago has made me completely rethink the standard “Have you been convicted of a felony?” question on most job applications. While I was going to say you can at least be glad that you probably won’t have to deal with that issue, I’m realizing that being a Canadian trying to do business in the US will likely have its own host of problems.

    So… any chance “convicted felon Peter Watts” on the cover makes a publisher more likely to pick up a novel? Or does “street cred” work differently for SF novels than it does for rap music?

  38. Lisa Spangenberg

    I’m so very sorry Dr. Watts.

    Please people, if you write or speak about this, do remember that it’s Dr. Watts The elimination of his earned academic title, and the references to him as an author are attempts to imply he’s less than accurate.

    So remember. It’s Dr. Peter Watts, Ph.D. He’s a scientist and author.

  39. Dave

    Peter, I’m so sorry to hear this, but I commend you on the way you’re handling it; absolutely admirable. All luck to you, sir, and we’re still (haven’t stopped) rooting for you.

  40. Dominick Grace

    Wow. If ever there was a case for jury nullification, this would seem to be it. I have no idea how widely known it is that juries can (and on occasion do) acquit in the case of a violation of the letter of the law, but presumably nobody on this jury either knew that or dared to do so. I, too, hope that the judge finally brings some sanity to this case and grants either an absolute discharge or a suspended sentence. I rarely travel to the US for any reason and am seriously beginning to consider amending “rarely” to “never.”

  41. Matt

    Oh, hell. I hope there’s some kind of appeal process.

  42. John Marshall

    “[…] 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.”

    I’m not sure I could be so magnanimous. There is a point of view that, as citizens, their job is also to send a signal as to whether the law as written is appropriate for the society that they wish to live in.

    See also

    Best wishes from another supporter…

  43. Erin Kissane

    I am so sorry.

  44. Arachne Jericho

    Oh gods. I had hoped for better. But I’m glad it wasn’t a kangaroo court. On the other hand, we seem to have kangaroo laws. 🙁


    I hope that you don’t have to go to jail. You have a good lawyer, and neither the judge nor the prosecutor seem over-reactive, so I hope, and hope, and hope….

    *hugs again*

  45. John Rea-Hedrick

    I’m so sorry to hear this.
    I’ve never understood why the law assumes anything but instantaneous compliance is “resistance”. Officers of the law have so much more power than do the accused. I once saw a police video of a woman being tasered by the side of the road because she didn’t “respond” quickly enough to the officer’s request. The officer’s language was abusive and she clearly felt threatened. When the taser hit her she fell then in her fight-or-flight response she turned and tried to crawl away. He continued to shout orders at her (which she clearly could clearly no longer respond to) all the while you could hear the taser still pumping volts into her until she finally collapsed. And the officer was deemed to be in the right.
    I wish things had gone differently for you. I really do.

  46. Richard Palmer

    Hey man, sorry to hear about this. Disgraceful that this would happen in the US.

    Thanks for giving us your side; I’m impressed that you aren’t more bitter too! I sure as hell would be.


  47. Karl Schroeder

    I was caught completely by surprise by this news, Peter. I’m still assimilating it, because knowing you as I do, I knew you couldn’t have assaulted anyone.

    I think it’s very important that we hammer at the fact that you were convicted only of standing there in confusion, rather than assault. And if there’s anything specific I can do, just ask.

  48. angusm

    Nick N. wrote: any chance “convicted felon Peter Watts” on the cover makes a publisher more likely to pick up a novel?

    I am trying hard to see Dr Watts as an original gangsta, but it isn’t working. Although maybe this could be the start of a successful recording career:

    “Straight outta Toronto/crazy motherfucker named Ice Pete/From the gang called Canucks with Attitudes … the police are gonna hafta come and get me …”

    Damn, that shit was dope.

  49. Lynn Kendall

    I am sick at this.

  50. Lars

    And Rahim Jaffer walks…

    Boy, this kisses willy.

    Best of luck, Peter.

  51. Jena

    All the best, Squid. It’s about time you had some good luck for a change, especially with the U.S. justice system.

  52. Allister01

    Wow, words really cannot express how stupid this is. I can’t believe that what happened to you is enough to get a felony on your record. Here’s hoping that it just ends up coming down to a fine or something like that. Is the same judge going to do sentencing? If he was there to witness the whole court show we can at least hope there will be a hefty helping of lenience.

  53. Laurie Mann

    Sorry to hear that, Peter.

  54. Gregory Krohne

    Mr. Grace is correct; it was the jury’s job to decide what verdict best served justice. Otherwise, there would be no need for a jury; a judge alone could decide what was lawful or unlawful.

  55. Uplinktruck

    @Dominick Grace –> Jury nullification is not legal in most states. The Michigan Jury instructions do not leave the door open for true jury nullification. So unlike the 1970-something New Mexico verdict that made it legal (briefly) to shoot someone caught in the act of cheating with the shooter’s spouse, that will never pass judicial muster in Michigan.

    However had the jury felt so moved, they could have found him not guilty without setting aside the law.

  56. Raggi

    I thought that both the judge and the jury were able to interpret the law. It’s open to interpretation isn’t it?
    Also, is there any chance for appeal?

    Because this is bullshit. This is as far from justice as anyone can get.

  57. Dr. Peter Watts found guilty of assault in border crossing incident | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home

    […] Update: Ted R. points out Peter Watts’s blog entry on the verdict. […]

  58. Joe Mahoney

    Sounds pretty ridiculous to me. I hope the actual sentencing is infinitely more sensible. Not that you should be sentenced for anything at all.

  59. Miss Lynx

    Oh no – I’m so sorry to hear this! I’d really been thinking the whole case would inevitably fall apart when it came to trial. Ironically, though, it sounds like it more or less did, and you got convicted on what amounts to a technicality.

    If I’d need any more reason to completely disown the country of my birth, this would be plenty. But I already got my Canadian citizenship several years ago (having been motivated to finally do so after upwards of 30 years as a permanent resident by various other US stupidities/horrors), so the deed’s pretty much done.

    What an appallingly stupid law — there is no logic on earth to justify treating simply questioning authority with the same legal force as physical assaulting said authority.

  60. Sebastian

    Well, damn.

  61. Kathleen

    I am so embarrassed by my country’s foolish laws. Best of luck with the sentencing – you have maintained an amazingly open-minded view of the whole sorry series of events and I hope the judge uses his discretion to suspend your sentence. I’ll keep a good thought.

  62. Randy McCharles

    Best wishes Peter for a reasonable sentencing. Thirty years ago I sat through a frivolous US court case. The charges were a joke. The prosecuting attorney was a joke. The claimant was a joke. After a 3 day circus the jury took 3 seconds to throw the case out. I was appalled at the waste of time an money. I had hoped that your time in court would be similar. I am sad that it was not. I can only hope that the judge can reasonably interpret what really happened.

  63. gwern

    Grace: I was thinking the exact same thing. Jury nullification is intended for this sort of situation where a law is obviously unjust; if the jury felt the same way, but decided to convict anyway because ‘that’s what the law says’, then Watts certainly does have a reason to begrudge them.

  64. No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Guilty

    […] No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Guilty. This is… unfortunate. For what it’s worth, I tend to side with Dr. Watts. I’ve always had a problem with the customs process for crossing between the US and Canada. It’s been my experience that the guards there tend to be somewhat over-reactive about relative trivialities, so the fact that this event happened to Dr. Watts comes as no surprise. There is certainly shortage of horror stories from people who have found themselves handled somewhat indelicately by customs officials. […]

  65. janetl

    Judging by your analysis, I’m one traffic or border stop away from being a felon, too. This is nuts. I’m very embarrassed that we have such a law.

  66. Julia Sullivan

    This is just terrible. Terrible news. Sometimes the law is an ass, and even well-meaning people must follow its misguided direction.

    If you choose to appeal, please know that there are many of us eager to help where we can.

  67. David K. M. Klaus

    If ever a case for jury nullification was called for, this was it. The ghost of Peter Zenger is wailing in his grave right now.

  68. Julie K.

    What happened to you was awful, and the law disgusts me. I hope the judge takes everything into account and suspends your sentence.

    I’m embarrassed to be from Michigan today.

  69. Karen Bennett

    Oh, HELL, Peter. This is appalling and disgusting.

  70. Emma Bull

    This is my pissed-off face. Not only on your behalf, but for everyone who’s had to live with a judgement like this.

    Because in the U.S., juries are selected with much fuss and bother…but the selected jurors aren’t informed of their powers and responsibilities, their actual job in the legal system. Jurors don’t know they can refuse to convict even if the defendant has violated the letter of the law through the process of jury nullification: . The Fully Informed Jury Association ( provides more information for any of your readers in the U.S. who find themselves selected for a jury.

    It’s a bad law, badly written. You should never have been convicted under it. And I am pissed off.

  71. Jenny Rae Rappaport

    I’m so sorry, Peter. I feel like my country is irrevocably broken, somehow.

  72. Jonathan Vos Post

    It’s a pity that these stupid, ignorant people will never understand what a civilized man you are.

  73. Prosthetic Conscience

    @Dominick Grace:

    Although jurors do have the right to decide on the merits of the law, not just on the application of the facts to the law, it is typical in the US for judges to advise juries to the contrary.

  74. Gray Woodland

    Well, by damn, I’m sorry to hear this. And I don’t share your sympathy for the jurors, who had a mile-wide opportunity for silent nullification even if they’d been screened so they durstn’t do it openly. “Failure of instantaneous compliance to the Masters’ demands” is not a felony in any country with free people in it – or any country which it is safe to visit.

    I hope you’re right about the judge’s basic decency, and wish you the very best of luck, since natural justice seems to be out of stock.

    I have kin as well as friends in the USA, and it is such a great place in so many ways. I wonder when I shall see it again – I wonder hard and long.

    Other than that, What Alex von Thorn Said.

  75. Penny

    Hi Peter

    I just got this linked from John’s Scalzi web blog and read it and am sitting here at work with my bottom jaw on the floor…..

    All I can say is that if you ACTUALLY get a jail sentance for this I have NO problem starting a petition for the verdict to be over turned… I’m Canadian and if that had been tried in Canada I can’t imagine the veridct would have come out the same…. I really hope everything goes well and because of the stupid law they give you well nothing but I guess I hope you get the minimum??… (I REALLY DIDN’T JUST WRITE THAT)… man this situation just SUCKS!!.

    Would I be correct in assuming that you would no longer be able to travel to the U.S?

  76. Nick N

    gwern, given the general lack of knowledge about jury nullification, I would hardly treat failure to use it as a mark against the character of its members.

  77. Radio-SF

    […] RT @KevinStandlee: #PeterWatts’ reaction to verdict: […]

  78. Lindy

    I’m close to speechless.
    Yep, I really can’t think of much else to say but, “This stinks”.
    Plus, you’re pretty darned gracious in this entry, Dr. Watts. Way more so than I’d be, I’m sure.

  79. Bob Smith

    I am a huge fan of yours, and also crazy enough a federal police officer. When this all first happened I contacted David Williams to see if you might need any help with anything. I feel embarrassed that this would even take place, and as a police officer I try to think how a situation like this could get out of hand. It seems like you got it right though. In the heat of the moment things can get crazy. My problem is that they considered this an assault on a federal police officer. This is pretty ridiculous. I’ve been in some rough situations, and when I really could have just thrown the book at someone I didn’t because I realize every situation needs to be looked at carefully. The problem with law enforcement is you have many police officers who tend be dramatic, and if a suspect doesn’t listen to them, or things don’t go their way, they take it personal, and charge that individual with everything they can. Recently I had a knife pulled on me, and the man was carrying a larger bowie knife concealed in the back of his jeans. I didn’t take it personal; no one knew what happened except me, my partner, and the suspect. I was able to get the knife out of the guy’s hand, and prevent myself or my partner from being stabbed. No one went to the hospital and it was a good day. I’m a police officer, and my job tends to get crazy, I am put in situations that are dangerous, so I accept that. I don’t look forward to sending people to jail who don’t deserve to go there. You didn’t deserve the charge you got, it is that simple. I didn’t charge him with assault, but carrying a concealed weapon. He did 30 days in jail, and it was a misdemeanor. The problem is that officer you dealt with took something personal, and this got hyped up in the media and got blown way out of proportion. Sorry to hear about the verdict, it really is a shame, and shows just how dated our laws, and judicial system is.

  80. Angela N. Hunt

    I don’t even know what to say, except I so terribly sorry and so furious as to choke.

    I’m pulling for you that the judge uses restraint.

  81. Angela N. Hunt


    Can’t type.

    So angry on your behalf.

  82. Ken

    The judge should know the difference between the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law. A person cannot swiftly comply with anything, after being struck in the face.

    I’m hoping that your relative calm is based on a general sense that you’ll get out of this without any jailtime. I can’t see anyone sentencing you for this. That being said, I hope an appeal is being developed by your lawyer.

    Two questions:

    1) Is it possible for us, your SquidCabinet, to write to the presiding judge and convey our disappointment in the ruling? We’ll keep things clean and professional. I promise to use the term Fucktard only once or twice in my remarks.

    2) Is the collection basket still open? Do you require more funds?

    Ok, so that’s three questions.

    Just know that you’re not alone in this Peter. We’re here to lend our support.

  83. Dragon

    I am curious about this part….

    “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). ”

    How much is the “repeatedly struck in the face” going to be worth in a civil court for damages?

  84. Jason!

    And in fact, Jury Nullification is often subverted by judges who instruct juries to rule “only on the facts of the case” or “on the letter of the law”. Also often subverted by lawyers during jury selection.

  85. Rose Fox

    What a wretched situation. I’m sorry my country’s laws and border guards have done such a number on you.

  86. Michael Roberts

    Eventually, we’ll all be felons.

    My condolences. If houses here weren’t so cheap, I would never have come back to this benighted hellhole of a nation.

  87. NelC

    That’s bad news. I’m glad you’re taking it so well — considering — but, shit, it’s still a pissy situation. I’ll be hoping the judge gives you the lightest possible of taps on the wrist for this bullshit. Do you know when he’ll be sentencing?

  88. Bahumat

    Well fuck. -.-

    Peter: Any comment if you think that decision-by-judge versus decision-by-jury would have made any difference?

    Also, is care for Kibble arranged? It wouldn’t do for a cat to go without, based on injustice perpetrated upon its owner.

    It’s shit like this that makes me wonder why I should consider bringing my tourism money across the border. Good god.

  89. Brian Prince

    I’ve got a jury summons next month, and for the first time ever, I’m not dreading it. Maybe I’ll have a chance to be a voice of reason.

    Hang tough, Peter.

  90. Foxessa

    As a U.S. citizen, as a member of the sf/f community (though almost lapsed at this point, but still interested in the books) — I am so very, very, very sorry.

    The fault was with that border guard from the gitgo.

    Love, C.

  91. Canadian sci-fi writer Peter Watts found guilty by U.S. court | Quillblog | Quill & Quire

    […] took to his blog to report on his experience: I cannot begrudge the jury their verdict. Their job is not to rewrite […]

  92. Anne

    You have been in my thoughts ever since I heard of this incident back when it happened. I didn’t seek out your blog though and have thus not been following your progress. I am heartbroken to hear that this is what it has come to. I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. Take care of yourself.

  93. Nick N

    @NelC: The Times Herald says sentencing is April 26.

  94. TheDukester

    NONE of this even happens if you weren’t such a full-of-yourself blowhard. NONE of it.

    Just follow instructions like the other hundreds of thousands of people that cross that border and NONE of it ever happens. You’ve yet to explain why that was just so damned DIFFICULT for you. Frankly, you come across as a holier-than-thou asshole who is above such petty things as rules and regulations. Those are for the “little people,” right?

    Keep trying to win this case in the court of public opinion — I’m sure that will do you a world of good in prison. But in a REAL court, you have been found guilty. But at least you’ve got your fanboys, right? The ones that keep reminding you that you can do no wrong?

    It’s amazing, isn’t it? Just simply complying with some routine requests would have had you on your way in 20 minutes … instead of facing prison time. Something to think about.

  95. Roland Dobbins

    Firstly, appeal – even if you don’t intend to keep fighting this, it gives you negotiating leverage to get a plea-bargain. Assuming you’ve no previous record, you should be able to get away with either probation plus time served or something like a halfway house.

    Secondly, if you haven’t already, try and get your MP involved. This is no time to decide you’re going to ‘take it like a man’ – prison isn’t for you, if it can possibly be avoided.

  96. Foxessa

    I really hope the judge rules the very lightest sentence possible, and then suspends it, due to the circumstances.

    Love, C.

  97. JoeZ

    re: TheDukester:

    Beaudry, is that you?

    Fucking Douchebag.

  98. Paul McEnery

    Echoing what Roland says.

    Also: Don’t let the Stockholm Syndrome get to you.

    Yes, the Prosecutor can be blamed; this was an unreasonable case. Yes, the Jury can be blamed. If you have any brains or balls at all, everyone know you can return not-guilty no matter what happened, and if you choose instead to follow the rules on an unjust law, you’re just as culpable. And yes, the Judge can be blamed, because the idea that asking a question is the same as non-compliance is abhorrent.

    You have been completely in the right all along, and the fascist jerks who like to dogpile on you for refusing to bend the knee only prove the point.

  99. Alexx Kay


  100. boyhowdy

    I know you’re not supposed to feed the trolls, but…

    @TheDukester: “a full-of-yourself blowhard”

    I can only hope for the sake of the country I live in (which I can only assume you live in as well) that you mean that in an ironic, plank-in-your-own-eye sense and you’re really not that flat-out, deplorably, depressingly stupid.

  101. Kirsten

    It is unfortunate that the jurors in this case were not fully informed jurors who understand that it is their job to evaluate not only the facts of the case at hand, but also the fairness of the law and its application. A juror is responsible for independently judging the law as well as the facts as a check against bad laws, misapplication of laws, etc. If a juror cannot identify an actual victim harmed by the defendant and an actual harm committed by the defendant- regardless of what the law states- that juror is obligated to vote Not Guilty. To do otherwise is to do violence unjustly to the defendant.

    I hope all potential jurors will visit the Fully Informed Jury Association to understand their rights and responsibilities. Neither judges nor lawyers in the courtroom will give them this information, and they may even be instructed to the contrary.

  102. Allister01

    TheDukester went on some sort of rant that sounded like:
    “NONE of this even happens if you weren’t such a full-of-yourself blowhard. NONE of it.

    Just follow instructions like the other hundreds of thousands of people that cross that border and NONE of it ever happens. You’ve yet to explain why that was just so damned DIFFICULT for you. Frankly, you come across as a holier-than-thou asshole who is above such petty things as rules and regulations. Those are for the “little people,” right?”

    That’s a great approach to take their chief. Just hop back into line, goosestep along with whatever someone with a badge feels like telling you to do, and never dissent from any form of authority till the day you die.

    There’s no law against getting out of your car, there’s no law to being informed of why you are being searched. AFAIK, there’s actually a law saying you can request reasons for a search. Even if we assume there isn’t, how is it that a whole bunch of contradictions in opinions between law enforcement officers doesn’t seem to matter at all to you?

    One of these border officers overreacted, plain and simple. Because of this, the rest of them were forced to go along with whatever strange and twisted version of events was dreamed up to have happened. If you even read the post Peter put up, you can find why he was convicted. Because of the definition of a law being inadequate to handle the situation.

    That’s a little much to hope for though isn’t it? I’m sure you would much rather just knee-jerk cackle away about another Mr. Smarty-Pants getting the book thrown at him for not respecting the god-given authoritay of your brainwashed and power-mad civil servants. Enjoy ignorance you twit, some of us would prefer to have a legal system that doesn’t revolve around John Q. Public’s fear of being black-bagged for the slightest infraction.

  103. Colin

    Peter, so sorry to hear this and echoing the other words of encouragement.

  104. will shetterly

    Case in point: TheDukester. Just in case he comes back, I’ll try to explain this for him: TheDukester, someone who objects to unjust treatment is objecting to unjust treatment for everyone–even for people like you, you are happy to submit to authority.

  105. will shetterly

    Apologies for typing in haste: that should be “who are happy to submit”.

    For anyone who doesn’t know about jury nullification:

  106. Chris Pepper


    That is a terrible shame, and a reverse crime. Sorry — what are the consequences? Fine, jail, community service, or banned from the USA?

    At least you’re not a citizen under that law or the government which wrote it, which has to be cold comfort.

  107. Chris Gerrib

    Please ask your lawyer if there is anything we ordinary Americans can do to help with sentencing. Also, if an appeal makes sense, please feel free to pass the hat for a second round – I for one would chip in.

  108. keanani

    @TheDukester ~ Hello. Hi. Dude? What is your problem? Don’t you think that Dr. Peter Watts has been through more than enough already without you still attacking him? I guess perhaps it is true then, bullys will keep bullying no matter what.

    Seriously Dukester Dude, it is more than apparent that you have a grudge that smells personal, as if even with the wrong and rather falsifying testimony by the guards, you still treat this as what it clearly is not.

    What happened to Dr. Watts was so very wrong and you are somehow sore that it is being shown to be most definitely so.

    Therefore what do you do, rail upon him to get the rest of your hits, whacks and attacks?

    Come on. After making false accusations, and trying so hard to tar and feather him, you just cannot let it go, can you? Why is it so hard to take the higher road and move on?

    What? No one has a right to question? Is there a law against asking questions? Is it against the constitution to be an asshole? I’d rather be an asshole myself than a bullying grudge holding falsifier.

    I hope that you never find yourself in any situation of any kind whatsoever where you really did absolutely nothing to warrant the overkill violence that Dr. Watts endured and experienced. And I am not talking about border crossing and cowtowing to anyone of authority.

    Oh, by the way, do not even presume to attack the rest of us who you do not the fuck hell know. WE are not all fanboys as you so snarkastically sluringly sneer. Some of us are women. Some of them are men. Many are Dr. Watts’ friends and collegues you nitwit. What a total okole lolo. There, I unleashed my shitty anger at you, a stranger in cyberspace.

    As an educated woman with a degree beyond college I take high offense to your flinging of crap at those of us who happen to love science and science fiction. Get a life and go live it without following Dr. Watts around in cyberspace to get your ugly bullywhacks in.


  109. Bob

    You refused to get out of the car when told – you admitted this. It was a lawful order. You did not deny this.

    You confessed, in other words.

    Tell us, was the border guard, who is tasked with keeping American handguns out of Canada, just supposed to let you drive on? Or maybe wait until you needed a bathroom?

    Are you mad because he treated you like a person with brown skin?

  110. Charlie R.

    Very sorry to hear this, Dr. Watts. Best wishes to you.

  111. Morgan Ives

    So basically, you have been convicted because you failed to bow down and kowtow to some arrogant, full of their “power” guards. Nice.

    I’m sorry. I’ve worked on military bases before, and I know the type. I had a gate guard draw a gun on me once, because I tried to show him how to open my hood during an inspection. Even though he was too stupid to understand my explanation of the hood latch, I was not supposed to leave the sidewalk.

    To TheDukester: I’m sure you’re just a bored troll, but if you do stop by again, grow a pair and come out from behind your anonymity. Dr. Watts got in trouble because he stood up for himself and faced his attackers. Not something you’ll ever be accused of, I’m sure.

  112. walkerp

    Is there a case for a civil suit by you against the guards? At least maybe that way you’ll get some money out of it.

    It’s really upsetting. I hope you don’t get any hard time. This must be scary as hell for you. Good luck, we’re pulling for you.

  113. Steve Coppock

    When Right Wing idiots talk about how they can never be ashamed of America, they must put the heads in the sand (or really far up their own arseholes) to ignore incidents like this one. It tarnishes us and does not reflect our ideals.

    I do hope you appeal. Shame this didn’t happen on the West Coast where the 9th Circuit is, not sure how conservative the 6th is.

  114. walkerp

    And Dukester, how dare you use that avatar. Go talk to Dave Kenzer about this case. I’d be very curious to hear what he has to say.

  115. Colleen

    So sorry to hear this. You gave as fair an account as you could. I bet there’s no way you can sue them for gross negligence by setting you to walk in a snowstorm or for police/homeland security brutality because they beat you without provocation unless asking “why” is grounds to taser or otherwise molest a person? It seems the law protects only the law makers.

  116. PhilRM

    That sucks, man. Unbelievably. Ditto Chris Gerrib’s comment.

    Every day the USA takes another giant stride towards authoritarianism, and moronic little trolls like TheDukester can’t drop to their knees fast enough.

  117. jmcdaid

    You are being characteristically gracious, but I’ll agree with Paul upthread. It isn’t just the fault of an abstract printed statute; the reason we have juries is to weigh the facts. It’s not a perfect system, and sometimes it fails. There are still many procedural avenues, so let us know if more kibble is needed.

  118. Arachne Jericho

    Lots of folks have mentioned appealing. If you choose to do this, I will definitely chip in again.

    Still many hugs.

  119. Jeff

    I apologize on behalf of the folks who grew up in Southeast Michigan. Unfortunately I recognize that border guard. He’s the school bully who never outgrew his need to prove himself.

    Exactly the wrong sort of jackass we need as Border Patrol. Your conviction is completely ridiculous and what makes even me even more angry is this is not an isolated event, it’s happening to U.S. citizens as well as international visitors. Canadians are our northern neighbors, you deserve respect, not abuse and phony criminal charges.

    I had hoped the new President I had helped elect was going to change the culture of fear the last administration had been fostering for eight years, but so far he’s been a disappointment in that area.

  120. Doug Miller

    This makes me feel ill. I’m so sick and tired of the excesses the various police forces of the US commit under the pretense of keeping us safe. I’m terribly, terribly sorry to hear about this Peter, and sincerely hope the judge at least uses some common sense in the sentencing. More, I hope there’s no idiotic mandatory minimum sentence the judge has to comply with.

  121. Ita

    I don’t believe in the law. I believe in justice and this wasn’t just.

    If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t ever come to the US again. Who needs that kind of crap? I am deeply embarrassed that we have asinine laws and juries that won’t think for themselves. I hope the judge has some common sense.

    I suspect dukester is probably one of the thug border guards.

  122. William Shunn

    I’m sorry to hear this. Here’s hoping the judge will be very lenient in the sentencing. Any idea how much leeway he has, legally?

  123. Cat Sparks

    I’m so sorry, Peter. This is so unfair.

  124. Åka

    This whole thing is sort of scary.

    I talked to a guy from South Africa who now lives in Sweden. He once was stopped by a policeman when he crossed a street on his bike. He was on a one-way bike lane, and had a green light, but the pedestrian crossing next to him was showing red and the policeman was standing behind the green light and could only see the pedestrians’ red. When he was stopped and told that he was driving against a red ligth he felt bad, because where he came from he had learned never to argue against a policeman. He tried anyway, and the policeman believed him and politely let him go. The point of the story is that this was a culture clash.

    From my point of view: I would probably be very slow to comprehend and follow orders that don’t seem to make sense. I would totally be in the same position as you, or worse, I’m afraid. And how does that make me a criminal?

  125. Åka

    (Sorry if I don’t make sense or write correct English, I’m a bit tired.)

  126. ET

    What kind of support could you use? What can we do?

  127. Daniel

    Do you have a right to appeal? Would it do any good?

  128. rochrist

    TheDukester, on March 19th, 2010 at 11:35 am Said:

    blah blah blah….

    What kind of douchebag calls himself The Dukester for god’s sake?

  129. Stella Quinn

    Appeal. Appeal. And Appeal. Where is the video? Why can’t the public see what you did and what they did? Transparency is only the enemy of the guilty party.

  130. Allister01

    Ugh. I have officially lost my mind on that paper’s discussion board. Time to stop posting.

  131. David Poole

    > 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

    You should look up jury nullification, sir.

  132. Other Bill

    Sorry to hear about the outcome. your take on the proceedings and your frustration with the statute seem well placed. I guess next time you’re in that spot you’ll know you should bust out your ninja chain saw skills instead, given it’s the same felony either way. Though, theoretically that may be harder to defend in terms of leniancy at sentencing.

    Even if you get the minimum possible sentence, will a felony conviction affect your ability to cross the border?

  133. akb427

    I can’t agree with you. The jury has a sacred obligation to refuse to convict people of things that they think should not be crimes. They are part of the critical checks and balances of the system, one that has been severely impaired in the past few decades. The entire legal system tries to tell them otherwise, implying all sorts of penalties (but never stating any), but refusing to convict goes back to Revolutionary times.

  134. Cheryl Morgan

    Glad to see you taking it so calmly. Here’s hoping it gets better from here on.

  135. Cheryl's Mewsings » Blog Archive » Border Issues

    […] Much outrage has already been vented around teh intrawebs, but before you add to it I strongly suggest that you read Peter’s remarkably measured and calm analysis of the case. […]

  136. keanani

    Someone stating he/she was a juror has commented on the timesherald website:

    “proudinjun wrote:
    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 escalted 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.
    3/19/2010 2:01:10 PM”

    I suspect that even if a juror who decided Peter’s fate tells it like it is as quite similar to Peter himself stated, there will be those who still want to make it out as what it most definitely was not.

  137. Michael Johnson

    That’s really unfortunate. There are all sorts of cases of police brutality around. There was a case with my girlfriend’s uncle just a few weeks ago. As for what was said above by theDukester, who knows. Perhaps Peter Watts did show a bit of lip, perhaps not. However, it’s no excuse for the officer’s behavior.

    I hope you avoid any serious time, I just started reading your books last week and have finished all but the last in the Rifters series. Your writing is really encouraging me to go back over mine and think about finally sending some of it out. I’m too chicken-shit to show it off, though.

  138. Agnes Kormendi

    I’m sorry to read this. This is so unjust! I hope it is possible to appeal, you do not deserve this!

  139. Wintyr Bourne

    My personal opinion is that the persecutor, the judge(obviously not honorable), and the border guards should all be shot. The guards are violent criminals who have guns and badges to hide behind. They should be taught that those badges are only 2 inches wide and 3 inches tall. The persecutor is just a sleazy whore for the police state. And the Judge should have just thrown the entire thing out. His dishonor is just another police state whore.

    Crud like this happens and people STILL tell me I’m nuts when I tell ’em the U.S.A. Is a communist country.

    What’s wrong with you people?!

  140. aphrael

    I’m terribly disappointed to hear this; it’s an unfair and unreasonable situation.

    That said, I disagree with you on one thing: in the American system, the DA has the discretion to bring or not bring a case. The fact that this case was brought at all (a) was entirely the decision of the DA’s office, and (b) was outrageous.

  141. Tziedel

    Another person saying sorry our laws suck. None of it makes any sense. I apologize for my government. Please let us know if there is anything we an do i.e., letters or what.

  142. Nalo Hopkinson

    Crap, crap, crap. Still pulling for this to work out well for you, Peter. xxx, -nalo

  143. Glenn Grant

    That thoroughly sucks, man. Very sorry to hear it. I had hoped that the prosecution’s failure to submit the surveillance tapes into evidence might convince the jury that there wasn’t a real case here.

    Best of luck with the sentencing and/or appeal.

  144. Nestor


    The US is a police state.

  145. Alexis Roots

    We are sorry, dear Peter.
    All your russian fans from our site FL feeling sad now… =(

  146. Julius

    Dear Dukester, I’m sure you’re a troll who’s trying to get people riled up, but let me just say this, from the bottom of my heart: I hope you end up in a similar situation, get arrested, convicted and sent to prison, and then anally raped by a large man named Bubba. I further hope that your mother comes to visit you in prison, and says to you “NONE of this even happens if you weren’t such a full-of-yourself blowhard.”

    Sorry, got a bit carried away there.

    Paul McEnery makes a good point. There is plenty of blame to go round here, don’t let people off too easily. Sure the main problem is the unjust law, but I think anyone who keeps their head down and plays along with the unjust law (which is what prosecutor, jury, judge and others have done by the sound of it) rather than challenging it in whatever way they can bears some responsibility. These people have failed as human beings, if you ask me.

    Oh, and the guard that assaulted Peter needs to rot in prison.

  147. Michael Johnson

    Also, if you were unaware, there is a facebook group that wants to break you free and make off with you, possibly store you in a habitat and feed you stale bread.

  148. Terry

    I am profoundly depressed by what this law says about this country. I’m so sorry, Peter. I hope the judge has the sense to sentence you to time served.

  149. Bryan

    “I cannot begrudge the jury their verdict. Their job is not to rewrite laws, or ignore stupid ones;”

    Unfortunately it *is* the Jury’s job to rewrite stupid laws, or at least nullify them. Jury nullification may be frowned upon by the courts who will go out of their way to avoid picking jurors that know about it, but it’s one of the greatest powers a small group of citizens still has. Even if you’re guilty by the letter of the law, if the Jurors feel the law is unjust, they can find you not guilty. The jurors have a responsibility to judge the law as well as the case.

  150. Ellen Datlow

    Peter, I’m amazed at your equanimity and graciousness and I apologize for my country for its treatment of you and for the amazing straitjacketing of interpretation by the statute under which you were convicted.

  151. adam

    I hope your jurors are fully informed. They sit not only in judgment over you, but over the law itself. They have every right to nullify these states ridiculous laws. More info at the Fully Informed Jury Association website

    It’s time jurors start taking the law into their own hands.

  152. Ross

    Chin up.

    Od tir’eh, od tir’eh,
    Kama tov yihiyeh
    Bashanah, bashanah haba’ah!

  153. Hljóðlegur

    What the hell has happened to my country if failure to obey an order is a felony? Have I been asleep that long? Did I wake up in the Soviet Union today? Holy hell.

    Okay all you atheists, pray like you have never prayed before that our host doesn’t end up in some pound-me-in-the-ass federal pen in Mississippi. Where will he likely serve the time if there is time? Does anyone know?

  154. Paul

    I’ve been following this case and would like to inform you about the following.

    I’d like to mention a website called Fully Informed Jury Association that has a lot of pertinent information about the role and responsibility of jurors. It is at and details the history and importance of juries and the role that juries have played over the years in protecting the rights of citizens. If you are called on to serve on a jury be informed of how you can help to establish justice.

    A juror is not bound by a judge’s instructions. The judge instructs as to what the law means, but that should not persuade you as to the efficacy or legality of that particular law. The juror has the final “right of veto” over laws. If a juror believes a law is wrong, immoral, threatening to civil liberties, or violates individual rights—you have a duty to find people accused of that law “not guilty”. You do not have to give a reason to anybody on why you vote that way, but of course you can. The juror has the final “veto” on any law that the state has passed.

  155. Mary

    So, are you saying that there is no avenue of appeal here?

  156. Michael Scofield

    @Hljóðlegur – let’s hope he ends up at Fox River in Illinois. I’ve got a plan to get him out.

    Seriously, I’m sad to hear of this conviction. Hang in there!

  157. Uplinktruck

    @Hljóðlegur –> If he gets jail time it will more then likely be a minimum security facility in Michigan. This was tried as a state matter, not in federal court.

  158. Lindy

    from the TimesHerald’s discussion board:
    “proudinjun wrote:
    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 escalted 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.”

  159. WTF

    You still don’t get it. When an officer tells you to do something, you’re supposed to do it.

    It doesn’t matter why. You can ask why after you comply, but not before. That’s not slow compliance, that is non-compliance. Maybe it’s because they would feel much safer when they don’t know who you are and they don’t care who you are, they’re doing their job. Maybe it’s because they see someone walking up from down the road with a rifle and it’s for your own safety. Maybe it’s because they found something in your trunk that you didn’t put there and you don’t know about, but they see and they’re going to ask you about in a minute. But then we can play the ‘maybe’ game all day, as it does not change what happened.

    Oh well. You have my pity, Mr. Watts, but it is not because you were convicted. It is because you are a very intelligent man who does not possess a great deal of common sense. Good day.

  160. iPad Links: Friday, March 19, 2010 « Mike Cane's iPad Test

    […] theory book by David Joyner, Minh Van Nguyen, and Nathann Cohen 1: Peter Watts Found Guilty 2: Guilty Handwritten/drawn: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground – Introduction […]

  161. Jenny

    Okay, would the next step be for people (not you) to start a letter-writing campaign? To whom should we address the letters that will state Canada can’t have our tourist $$$ until the law is rephrased to differentiate between some confused guy asking a question, and a person resisting the law? Best of luck…

  162. letscallhimray


    Michigan penal code, chapter 750 (act 328, 1931):

    Sec. 81d. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters,
    wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is
    performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a
    fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

  163. Oh really?

    So if an officer tells me to remove my clothes, lie down and spread my legs , I should submit first and ask why after you comply? An interesting POV.

  164. Adam Rakunas

    Dropped some cash in the Kibble Fund for your appeal.

    And all you authoritarian apologists can get stuffed.

  165. rosyatrandom

    Who do we have to hump to get a law changed round there?

  166. letscallhimray

    For context of this law on the whole:

    Michigan penal code, chapter 750 (act 328, 1931):

    Sec. 29. Definition—Adultery is the sexual intercourse of 2 persons, either of whom is married to a third

    Sec. 30. Punishment—Any person who shall commit adultery shall be guilty of a felony; and when the
    crime is committed between a married woman and a man who is unmarried, the man shall be guilty of
    adultery, and liable to the same punishment.

    Sec. 31. Complainant and time prosecution to be commenced—No prosecution for adultery, under the
    preceding section, shall be commenced, but on the complaint of the husband or wife; and no such prosecution
    shall be commenced after 1 year from the time of committing the offense.

    Sec. 32. Cohabitation by divorced parties—If any persons after being divorced from the bonds of
    matrimony for any cause whatever, shall cohabit together, they shall be liable to all the penalties provided by
    law against adultery.

    Fulltext of statute in question can be found at

  167. OtterGold

    Not the Soviet Union. Ceauşescu’s Romania.

  168. Alehkhs

    I’m so sorry to hear this Dr. Watts…

    Please, if there is anything that any of us can do – I for one am ashamed that this is coming from my country, although I should have known better I suppose – don’t hesitate to let us know.

    Best of luck in the sentencing, hopefully the Judge is rightfully more forgiving than the jury.

    Whatever comes, I will continue to hand out and recommend your books, from Starfish to Blindsight, to everyone I meet, they’ve been great and I hope to read much more from you in the future.

  169. Steven Robertson

    I’m sorry, Peter.

    To any Americans: I presume that, being here, you tend to be more rational and scientific in your decision-making than the norm for this nation. Many of you find Peter’s situation deplorable, and are itching to find a way to fix it, or to prevent it from happening to another person with innocent intentions. It seems to me there’s a pretty clear way to fix it.

    We need to get ourselves elected.

    I’m not kidding. As abhorrent as the idea of entering politics may be, it seems clear to me that applying the formal problem-solving frameworks used in science and engineering to policy-making would result in a significant boost to the effectiveness and sanity of our government. Getting elected is likely the surest way of ensuring that your elected official shares your views and experience. If you’re able to do so, I urge you to consider running for office.

  170. Maura McHugh

    Peter, I’m terribly sorry to hear about your conviction. I hope the sentencing is as lenient as possible. Best of luck.

  171. Greg Wilson

    Sorry and angry — please let us all know what we can do to help.

  172. Michael Johnson

    I know I’ve posted twice on this already, but it just occurred to me. Don’t police cars have audio and visual recordings? Were these brought up in the trial at all, or were there none present on these particular individuals. Rhetorical questions I suppose, I don’t expect a response.

  173. Janice M. Eisen

    So, so sorry to hear this, Peter. The statute is clearly ridiculous. I wish you the best.

  174. asc

    Well I feel much safer now that being brutalized by homeland security is a felony.

    You know what? I fucking hate this country.

  175. Yves Chrétien

    People selected to sit as jury must use their common sense in edicting a verdict, not simply deciding on the bias and decision that is put in their mouth.

    Facts were presented. Inaccuries were plenty. There was reasonable doubt there was no felony, no aggression for Peter.

    Future consequences for Peter might be restrictions to travel; a beaten path for additional foolish accusations. The jury should have considered that. The case was weak. Facts presented contradictory. The judge (former lawyer) should know better than penalizing a regular folks.

    What a mess.

  176. Sveinung Sjåstad

    I am saddened by this news. May you never spend a day in jail for this…

  177. Carbon Trust launches algae “dream team” |

    […] RelaxPeriodic table of social mediaKatherine Heigl: Wardrobe Malfunction (Photos) » Right CelebrityNo Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » GuiltyDave Weston Junior – Border Counties Rally | RallyBuzzHow To Color Old Black and White Photos | […]

  178. Derek

    Actually in the United States IT IS the jury’s job to ignore bullshit laws.

    Google “Jury Nullification”

  179. Huon Longman

    Dr. Watts, this….sucks. I hope that sentencing and any possible appeals go your way.

  180. Ron

    To those saying the guards are bullies or deserve to be shot: you don’t know that. Based on the court testimony, Officer Beaudry clearly overreacted, but that does not make him an evil person. Please stop blowing the guards’ actions out of proportion; you’re making your side look bad. We’re all human and have bad days, so we deserve some benefit of the doubt.

    HOWEVER: People stopped by security officers deserve the same consideration. There is always room for the reasonable questioning of orders if the situation is not immediately life-threatening. It is ridiculous for the law not to distinguish between a questioning pause and a physical attack.

    Dr. Watts: Thank you for your calm and balanced account. I don’t believe it’s automatically “Stockholm Syndrome” when you are fair to the people involved. I’m glad to see the “choking” story discredited as it deserved to be. I hope that the judge agrees that the law is overly broad and gives you a suspended sentence. If you’re going to appeal, I’ll gladly contribute to your defense fund. Good luck to you and thanks for the great books!

  181. Edward Champion

    As an American, I am absolutely appalled by this verdict and offer my most profuse sympathies for Dr. Watts. But condolences clearly aren’t enough of a response to this exceptionally gross injustice of a needlessly liberal statute in a broken system. Should the sentence not be suspended, and should Dr. Watts be asked to serve time, action must occur so that this does not happen again. Letter writing campaigns to those who make the law. An open public discourse to demand reform. If one cannot see the clear parallels between what North Korea did to Laura Ling and Euna Lee and what the United States has done to Dr. Watts, then the time has come to offer similar lines of diplomacy so that Dr. Watts can return safely to his country. If we are as dishonorable (which includes the gutless juror who left a comment above) as those nations whom our previous Presidents declare part of an “axis of evil,” then this government has no business speaking of justice.

  182. postrodent

    Oh hell. I’m so sorry. 🙁

  183. Neal Soldofsky

    Very disappointing news. I wish you the best.

  184. Mirik

    Sorry to hear! Utterly ridiculous conclusion and a gigantic waste of resources.

    Appeal the charges and sue for damages, good sir!

    Plus I sense an Orwellian masterpiece from PW coming sometime in the future!

  185. Trey

    Well, that fucking sucks.

    Peter, you’re a better man than I. Good luck and God speed.

  186. Chinedum Richard Ofoegbu

    Deeply sorry and disgusted to see this. Power *does* corrupt and it attracts the corruptible.

  187. Random Nuclear Strikes » Something that should give you pause

    […] A few months back, author James Watts was arrested for assaulting a federal officer (a felony) at the border crossing between the US & Canada.  He was just found guilty of that felony.  His thoughts are here. […]

  188. WWWeaves

    I’m so sorry. You seem like such a really good person. I love my country, and I hate it when it behaves poorly. I’m glad you felt the jury took it seriously. It’s small comfort, but the vast majority of Americans are well-meaning sincere folks. Sorry you met another sort.

  189. Kelly

    Wow! I might cancel my travel plans to America. If the next door neighbours get treated so bad, what hope has a complete foreigner got? It’s just not worth the risk. I might get thrown in prison for asking an officer for directions!

  190. The Lodger

    If there were videos, it might have been smart for the defense attorney to introduce them into evidence. That would establish how truthful the border guards were.

    Also, “WTF”, don’t go making up rifle-carrying guys out of thin air, or the next time YOU cross the border, I’ll have to mention the bags of white powder you’re carrying in your Depends.

  191. Bear (the ugly kind of)

    This is awful! This plainly revolting! Hang out there (not IN there) and I hope it never comes to the worst case scenario. One thing I know for sure: I will never ever put my feet willingly on american soil. Americans (all those I met) are great people, but their country is guarded by a bunch of assholes and their laws are crap. Shame!

  192. Dr. Psycho

    A disgusting end to a disgusting story.

    Just bloody awful, and I see no consolations or compensations other than the one you have already found: to forgive all of those who trespassed against you.

  193. Sean

    I don’t buy into “failure to comply with a lawful order” as the gold standard for conviction here. America, as a nation, was founded exactly on the same principle — it “failed to comply with a lawful order” because it, working alone, apprised the situation as being unjust or legally dubious and it then openly, and appropriately questioned this.

    Everyone involved in this abortion of justice has utterly failed on a personal level with the very idea of what it is to be American. Instead, they hid behind the wording of the law like a bunch of cowards.

    Such cowardice is dangerous — even lethally so.

  194. Oh no « Ridiculosity

    […] His own words. […]

  195. rm3154

    This verdict is a great disappointment. Peter Watts: you have my fullest support. I am closely watching what happens next and will help in any way I can: funds, letters of support, whatever it takes.

  196. Tamara

    This is terrible. Terrible terrible terrible.

  197. r
  198. Marsha Sigman

    Heard about this from Lynn Viehl’s blog. After reading this and back posts of what happened, I can only say that maybe this jury felt they had to go by the letter of the law but I cannot believe with all the judge heard that he would sentence you to any jail time. They have their conviction,unfair as it is, and that should be enough.

    I wish there was more that we could do to help.

  199. JHB

    I am sorry for your extraordinary bad luck. The tale of your woes has given me some insight into the ridiculously high rate of incarceration in the U.S.

  200. Michele

    I am sorry for your ordeal.

    Chinedum Richard Ofoegbu, on March 19th, 2010 at 5:10 pm Said it better:
    Power *does* corrupt and it attracts the corruptible.

    I tasted it in 1997 at a Montreal US-border spot, where I was detained on the spurious grounds before boarding my plane for Washington. My crime: I was bringing my own comics to sell at a comic fest!
    : ^(

    I hope it doesn’t come to any jail time. For you and the cats!

  201. kristy

    This is ridiculous and once again, I’m ashamed to be American.

    I hope that you appeal. I will kick in again to the kibble fund.

  202. Leona

    Can we get our priorities straight:

    1) APPEAL first,
    2) CAMPAIGN second,
    3) CONDOLENCES third.
    4) WASTE AIR ON TROLLS last.

    Number 1# : erm… that’s you, Dr Watts you kinda hafta get this ball rolling. Let us know the fiscal implications. Don’t waste the resources at your disposal (blog, ppl, kitty fund), because that’s immoral. Take whatever time you need but not TOO much time…

    Number 2# : someone/anyone know any CONCRETE, VALID addresses we can write to, to voice dissent? Email addresses would do just as well.

    Number 3# : this is the only part we’ve got down 🙂 I guess I should do my bit: *** HUGG *** 🙁

    Number 4# : waste of typing effort.

  203. Fred

    Well if you didn’t act like a jerk, you wouldn’t be in this position. You deserve what the jury found you guilty of. Come out of your state of denial and be a bigger man by admitting you screwed up.

  204. Leona

    To get the ball rolling:

    Tell David Miller (toronto’s mayor) what’s happening to one of his own citizens:

    Toronto City Hall, 2nd Floor, 100 Queen St. West, Toronto ON M5H 2N2
    Phone: 416-397-CITY (2489)

  205. Eddie

    Sir you are arrogant and are getting what you deserve. This is not the first time you have had this type of trouble. You are a repeat offender according to public record of the charges filed against you.

    You weren’t innocent the first time and you are not innocent this time.

    Maybe you should take a break and attend some anger management classes.

    You are a smart and educated man you obviously know you can’t throw a female officer aside and then argue with them. If you had just complied with their legal requests your freedom would not be in jeopardy.

  206. Shawna Bradley

    I think I’d be in a state of shock, myself, if I’d just been ATTACKED by someone I was under the impression was one of the good guys… and disbelief and incomprehension are a part and parcel of that. I think anyone at all would have reacted exactly the same in the circumstance – and that right there belies the claim that you did something “wrong” – to be wrong, there must a “right” – and befuddlement is no threat.

  207. Shawna Bradley

    Another thought – the usual reason for a jury to take an extra long time is not because they are “taking it seriously”. It’s because someone is being bullied into changing their opinion.

  208. Miss Lynx

    @Jenny: “Okay, would the next step be for people (not you) to start a letter-writing campaign? To whom should we address the letters that will state Canada can’t have our tourist $$$ until the law is rephrased to differentiate between some confused guy asking a question, and a person resisting the law?”

    Wrong target: it was the US that did this, not Canada.

  209. OtterGold

    Zero tolerance: applying a law to every possible instance, and applying the maximum amount of force allowed, without regard to circumstances.

    Jury nullification: negating the zero tolerance effect by considering circumstances and choosing not to enforce an outrageously applied law.

  210. Leona

    The Toronto Star newsroom:

    phone 416-869-4300
    fax 416-869-4328

    They might be more interested in a story about the fans than Dr Watts’ plight though.. but hey – whatever gets ’em to run something!

  211. Ellen Eades

    Very sorry to hear this news. I hope there will be an appeal.

  212. Alex K

    Hi there sir,

    I just recently got into your works via the Distant Early Warnings anthology that Sawyers edited – sorta ironic, I know, considering the total differences in your respective styles.

    I was playing catch-up on your postings when I encountered the ongoing drama from this mess! My condolences!

  213. Westenra

    You’re a hero, plain and simple. For standing up to bullies and defending yourself tooth-and-nail, first verbally, and then physically when they didn’t get the memo that you weren’t the kind of guy who has his dignity stripped without a fight. Screw national security. America deserves what it gets.

    I cross the border monthly (for my work) and will make it my obligation to give the border police a hard time, whether or not they are behaving heavy-handed, if for no other reason than to keep them on their toes and legitimately earning their government paychecks for once. I urge everyone else to do the same.

    They can’t arrest all of us.

  214. Mats

    so very very sorry, Dr Watts.

  215. Leah Bobet

    …ah, hell.

  216. marke

    Sorry to hear all that.

    This is what happens when the bulk of society accept the foolish adage: “well, that’s the law”.

    Whatever happened to logical thinking, considering what the intention of the law might be, interpretation of meaning? It amazes me the system of literal interpretation and precedent that has floated to the top of what should be a very fair process. I theorize it is the old ‘tribal compliance” instinct at work, and the judiciary are either too timid or too lazy to actually make some decisions.

    I generally avoid visiting your good country because I feel very uncomfortable entering under the gaze and weathering the uncivil attitude of the bunch of pumped up bullies and hooligans you call border guards.

  217. htom

    “When such are declared to be outlaws [felons] it becomes a mark of shame not to be declared an outlaw[felon].” — I forget. Gandhi? Chung Zhu?

    Perhaps the judge will set the verdict aside. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

    FIJA ++

  218. marke

    But I do advise great caution and deference in crossing any border these days.

    As I explained to a teenager who had a mild altercation at an immigration point:

    “You see those guys there? In this area, they have a just little bit more power than God, and they revel in any chance to exploit it!”

  219. Rebecca Stefoff

    I am very sorry to hear this; when you are ready, let people know what they can do to help.

  220. Alex


    I am so, so sorry at the outcome of all of this. You are certainly more forgiving and calm here than I could ever hope to be under the circumstances. I will, however, try to refrain from showing too much internet anger over your conviction, as I am flying to the US next week, and would like to avoid any cases of “pre-emptive electronic non-compliance.”

    We’re thinking of you here in Toronto!

  221. keanani

    Shawna Bradley said: “…the usual reason for a jury to take an extra long time is not because they are “taking it seriously”. It’s because someone is being bullied into changing their opinion.”

    Certainly, this is true to an extent. This thought had actually come to mind yesterday, that the jurors were trying to “reason, convince and orient” those or that juror(s) who did not want to find Peter guilty. It happens, and it is rather sad, how people who may have that conscience, that nagging feeling, that something is so very wrong with what is going on, but does not hold their ground and do what is right.

    I know that I would not be swayed by anything to change my vote in order to go along with everyone else.

    There have been cases where the jurors were tired, spent, and just did not want to go on any longer in jury deliberations, missing their family, tv, their usual life, so instead of doing what was right, they just went with what was majority or mostly in order to end and bail. There are not enough checks and balances to make sure that such things aren’t happening.

    The reverse, or course is also true, where there is a holdout or two who can’t believe that a defendant for whatever reason, and not based upon the evidence, was guilty, and the other jurors had to each speak and reason as to why they thought the defendant was. Still, the holdout wasn’t swayed, and it was not based upon the facts or evidence, but on their own formulated opinion that was not appropriate. I was on that such jury in a murder case.

  222. Resolution in Favor of Power Abuse: The Peter Watts Story « Atsiko's Chimney

    […] like to extend my condoloences to Peter, who handled the jury’s decision very well, all things considered.  I hope he recieves leniency.  A suspended sentence would probably the […]

  223. Val

    Oh FUCK…

    This is disgusting….

    It’s sweet of you to give them all so much credit. Now that that’s out of your system, I hope you feel free to rage against the people who abused you and the people who have used legal process to condone that abuse….

    Let us know if the defense fund needs topping up…



  224. Joyce Melton

    Someone should mention jury nullification. It is perfectly within the jury’s power to refuse to convict on a law they think is bogus. Nothing requires them to convict even if they believe that the accused did everything the prosecutor claims. Juries are the last word. A judge can set aside a conviction but cannot overturn a not guilty verdict once delivered unless jury tampering or something similar can be proved in another trial.

    Of course, a judge can dismiss a juror who advocates nullification or even dismiss the whole panel and declare a mistrial before the verdict is delivered and final but in some cases where judges have tried this, they have been overturned by higher courts. Proving someone is trying to flout the law in the private chambers of a jury is very difficult.

    IANAL, btw, but the above is true as far as I know or can find out. Search on “jury nullification” for more info.

  225. Rhonda

    I’m so sorry.

  226. keanani

    The bad, the sad, the ugly, the mean and the good:

    @Bob (March 19, 2010 @ 12:13 p.m.) ~ who so racistly asked “Are you mad because he treated you
    like a person with brown skin?” ~ Wow, how bad of you. Really. I have found in my puny life thus far
    that some of the most narrow-minded, racist and race-whipping-tension creators are those who utilize
    the race card.

    We all have our own hand of cards to play, and those who pull out a race card are amongst the ones
    who are truly racist.

    I come from all sorts of colored and colorful human beings. Some of my ancestors were dark brown,
    some were tan brown, some were yellow, some were ivory, some were beige, some were peachy pink
    gold, some were all mixy mixy crayony box colors that melted together variations, but I am “white”. What
    say you. Which race card am I supposed to play? Is it based on phenotype or genotype? Blood
    quantum? Facial features? Do I identify with my maternal mitochondrial deep ancestry that the
    National Geographic Genographic Project typed as being an “Eurasian Line”?

    Does my blonde hair mark me as whitey girl? Maybe my green eyes are Europeany therefore I gotta check mark that U.S. Census 2010 box for White Folk.

    You know, I would much rather be just a human bean. Or an alien invader from a galaxy far far away.

    @A juror ~ It saddens me that you could just not break free from the fear and the follow all the other sheeple down the path of doing wrong instead of standing up and doing the right thing.

    You know, the only thing any of us has to really fear, is fear itself.

    @TheDukester ~ how ugly of you.

    I know of four Dukes:
    Duke Ellington (Composer, Pianist and Big Band Leader)
    John “the Duke” Wayne (Actor and Manly man cowboy)
    Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (Father of Modern Surfing & Olympian)
    James “Duke” Aiona (Lt. Governor of Hawaii, and former Judge)

    You dude, are no “Duke”, nor worthy of being a “Duke” anywhere near the ballpark as the four listed

    @WTF ~ Exactly, wtf are you suggesting? So mean. I would rather live my life courageously and face
    the fear, rather than cower down in submission like a violently beat down dog, and let the bully sticks
    and power tripping wielders brain me.

    When no one stands up for what is right, then we all might as well follow one another to the cliffs’ edge
    like a bunch of mindless autobot lemmings and slip down into the abyss where it is dark and all

    Which is just a poetical way of stating “death”.

    Freedom certainly isn’t free, and when those in positions of power are allowed to get away with taking it
    from us, what, exactly, is the life we will be living then?

    Perhaps we can make a Logan’s Run from the sandman…I would rather have Scotty beam me up, but
    unfortunately James Doohan’s (Canadian!) dust is out there somewhere dissipated and floating in the

    @Allister01 ~ How very good of you, our good man, so valiant of you to parry, marche, attaque au fer,
    balestra, battement and liement with your rapier, foil, epee and sabre, on that news website, over there,
    trying to counter the slings and flings of the battle axes, clubs, sticks and stones of the “mighty mad we
    all must cowtow bownow crowd”. If you need your knight in shining armor shined, buffed up, wiped
    down, and outfitted with all sorts of cool nuts, bolts, gadgets and chainmail in preparation of your ability
    to outwit the nitwit, then I will gladly do so.

  227. xxx

    Two things need to be pointer out:

    First, the prosecutor wasn’t a nice lady by any stretch of imagination. US prosecutors have the power to DECIDE whether to pursue a charge. A prosecutor worth their salt should have refused to take this bogus case to the courts. But then, this is the US we’re talking about.

    And second, jury’s job *IS* to ignore stupid laws, too. Although the state would prefer it if you wouldn’t know about the right of nullification.

  228. x. trapnel

    Oh my god, this is just terrible. You have my sympathy, for whatever good that does. I can’t believe 12 people would go along with such crap.

  229. billdkat

    I used to wonder how the Nazi’s came to power in the democratic country of Germany, but the past few years of fear, intimidation and the abusive erosion of personal liberties in my own country illustrate that the road map to a fascist state is inevitable if a government is inclined to subject it’s will over the people and show such low regard for individual rights as described in this mock trial. My government is now a plutocracy designed to protect the corporate rule of an usurped American way of life, my forefathers are rolling in their graves, and there is nowhere to escape. Good luck in hoping a clean political slate will change all that’s happening in Amerika people.

  230. Şi americanii au legi de căcat « Ugly Bad Bear’s Blog

    […] autorul canadian riscă pînă la 2 ani de închisoare. Detalii găsiţi pe blogul lui Watts, într-o însemnare uimitor de calmă şi de echilibrată, în care ne este explicat inclusiv ceea ce s-a întîmplat […]

  231. d

    I am shocked – this is a monstrous injustice. You have my total support, Peter.



  232. J Meijer

    Damn Peter,

    All the best of luck, someone down there should have a sense of perspective.

  233. Greencavefloat

    This totally sucks. People are behind you and support you.

  234. Chris

    I am appalled at this result – and most folks are correct – you are being far too kind to the …. “system.”
    You may have lost this battle, but the war against stupidity ought to continue. I hope you will appeal, I hope you will consider suing Beaudry’s ass off in a civil suit, and if the fund needs some topping up to accomplish all of this, it looks like that ought to be doable. NEVER surrender.

  235. DEE

    To “A juror”,

    You don’t understand what it means to be guilty of a crime.
    A given fact may be a crime, or may not be a crime, based on intent, and if it was done “in an unlawful manner”.
    If I walk up to a cop, say “screw you”, and poke him in the shoulder, that is the crime of assault and battery, and “assaulting an officer”.
    If I walk up to a cop, say “hey buddy, you just dropped your wallet”, and poke him in the shoulder, that is not a crime.
    Same fact (poked him), different verdict.
    ANY statute has to be read with the implied phrase “…in an unlawful manner” added at the end. Another way of saying it is “in a manner in which a reasonable person would know to be unlawful”.
    The jury doesn’t just decide the facts of “did the person do X”. The jury is supposed to decide did the person commit the crime of “Anyone who shall do X shall be guilty of a felony”.
    How anyone can not understand this is saddening. You can only hope that you don’t someday face a jury of those like you.

    To the defendant: If your attorney is as good as you say, then you will be appealing the conviction. The judge and/or appellate judges can overturn the conviction itself if they find that no reasonable jury could have convicted.

  236. Flinthart

    Ah, fuck it.

    I knew there was a good reason to to cross the US border ever again. If you can get punched and maced, and then found guilty of a felony for asking ‘why’ — I reckon that’s enough for me.

    I left the USA a long time ago. I’ve been back a couple times to visit. Not again, though. That place is simply too fucked up for me.

    Best, Peter. Keep us posted. What we can do, we will.

  237. Abdula

    I tend to think that there is more to this case than Mr Watt’s is saying and he likely knows it.

    But that is conjecture and personal opinion. However It is very apparent that he failed to comply or pissed off the guards in some way. I don’t trust border guards but the legal system is one of the best in the world.

    The next step is the appeal, if this judges you innocent then the system has been long but fair if it judges you guilty. Then next time listen to the border guards.

    We all make mistakes I’ve seen the inside of one of our fine institutions and trust me everyone inside will tell you it wasn’t their fault but they know it was.

    We are human we don’t admit we can be asses at times, that would be a sign of weakness, and even great sci fi writers ascribe to be the top lion in the pride.

  238. Jetse

    What Leona said: APPEAL!

    Let us know if you need more money: I’ll see what I can send to the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund.


    Very sorry to hear this, but if this is justice, then the law is broken.


  239. David S.

    Devastating news, I’m so sorry. I hope the judge sees fit to cut you some slack come sentencing.

    Somewhere on the web a while back I read the best summation of this orgy of panicky and ill considered anti-terrorism/border protection law making – “fear is the rootkit of democracy”. Amen to that, alas.

  240. GolemXIV

    It seems that you don’t now what is the job of Jury.

    If jurors find the law to be invalid or unfair, they may acquit the defendant, regardless of the evidence that the defendant violated the law. This called jury nullification.

    wikipedia: Strictly speaking, a jury verdict which rules contrary to the letter of the law pertains only to the particular case before it; however, if a pattern of identical verdicts develops in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offense, it can have the de facto effect of invalidating the statute. Jury nullification is thus a means for the public to express opposition to an unwanted legislative enactment.

  241. Gailmom

    Your grace overwhelms me, sir.

    I apologize on behalf of stupid American legislation. Though I’ve rarely voted for the idiots who enacted it, it still makes me ashamed. I wish the jury, who sound well meaning enough, had been better informed of their rights as well as their responsibility.

    Best of luck to you during the coming days, and I hope for only the best for your and those who care for you as you bear this injustice.

  242. Hljóðlegur

    @letscallhimray and @ OtterGold

    Michigan penal code, chapter 750 (act 328, 1931):
    Sec. 81d. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters,
    wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony

    Ah, so, not Ceauşescu’s Romania, the Repubiick of Michiganistan?

    Thank you for the legal cite, btw. That’s helpful.

    Okay, let’s posit for a moment that Mr. Watts is in fact an asshole. Just a bad-attitude grumpy sumbitch who smart-mouthed a border patrolwoman. As Jesus might have remarked to the gathered crowd, “He among you who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

    As if all of you law-n-order respect-the-uniform types are never assholes, never back-talked someone in authority, never panicked a little when a group of people jumped you and started punching you.

    What you are not getting here is that if Mr. Watts is not safe from the cops, no American here among us is safe. What it means is that you have a bad day and aren’t Mr. Swift Compliance to some officers orders, you can get lose your right to vote, even if your actions are evaluated by a jury of your peers under relevant state law.

    Doesn’t this worry you lot? It worries me. I’m not always a bundle of sunshine, and I bet neither are you. Sure, sure, Peter’s an asshole. And I’m an asshole, and you’re an asshole, and that guy over there is an asshole, and Office Beaudry was an asshole that morning. Only the law and the court system allows his moment of assholery to end in no punishment for him, but serious punishment for the asshole on the receiving end of the beating. As Nalo above said, this is crap, crap, crap.

    I feel that in America, occasionally being an asshole should not be against the law. If it is, nobody is safe but the police.

  243. Samantha Martin

    I’m so sorry, Dr Watts.

    For what it’s worth, your grace under this particular pressure has been commendable. Keep us informed — I think a donation to the kibble fund is in order.

  244. Russell B. Farr

    I’m sorry to hear about this, it sounds like you’ve been screwed over by the alleged land of the free.

  245. SF Author Peter Watts Found Guilty - BiblioBanter

    […] has responded to the jury’s decisions with a posting on his blog. You can jump over there to read all the details, but here’s a bit of what Watts had to say: […]

  246. Jamie

    I’m sorry, Dr. Watts. I hope the sentencing goes light. Take care.

  247. Jeff B.

    People suggesting that jurors should know about jury nullification are right, but there’s one small problem: jurors aren’t “allowed” to know about it — lawyers aren’t permitted to tell them, and jurors who know about jury nullification can be, and have been, dismissed from jury service. Whole juries have been thrown out because someone was handing out FIJA leaflets. The case then goes ahead with uninformed jurors.

  248. cp1919

    If the Prosecuting Attorney can choose to pursue a case, then it would seem logical that here is another place to apply pressure, Looks to me like the Prosecuting Attorney in MI is an elected position. I’m not certain enough of my facts to go pointing, but I would think that if the correct person can be identified, then a little campaign money can go a long way. (though my quick googling found someone who was unopposed for election) IANAL, so I don’t know the ins-and-outs of who decides which case goes forward.

    [Please note that I’m not calling for public vilification, just electoral opposition]

  249. Joel Polowin

    Given the officers’ (false) reports and statements, I’m not sure that the prosecutor had a lot of choice about letting the case go to trial — the allegations were very serious, though demonstrably untrue.

    On the other hand, if the jury really had the power to return a verdict equivalent to “this is a stupid case” and weren’t so informed, that seems totally unreasonable (and in my uninformed opinion, grounds for an appeal).

  250. Jean-Louis Trudel

    If there’s anything we can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask.

    (No, I’m not including in “we” the deluded few who think that being part of the automatically compliant Milgram-majority is somehow virtuous.)

  251. marke

    Very well said billdkat, at 2:08 am

    especially this:

    “My government is now a plutocracy designed to protect the corporate rule of an usurped American way of life, my forefathers are rolling in their graves, and there is nowhere to escape.”

  252. Mike

    In general, men and women entrusted with weapons are highly trained professionals that are poorly compensated for the risks they take. I have nothing but respect for the vast majority of them. I’ve traveled to a great many places in the world and I will assert that U.S. security forces are among the best.

    For the most part their work can be characterized as hours of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme danger and they never know when that danger will manifest itself. It is entirely possible that the proverbial little old lady in the Cadillac has a nine millimeter in her purse; consequently they need the ability to adopt an aggressive stance at a moments notice to preserve their own lives if they pick up on the least signs of challenge in their area of responsibility. A potential offender has the option of initiating a conflict at any given moment and law enforcement officers need to react immediately or their wives/husbands just might be widowed that particular day.

    Included with the potential risk to their very lives is a miserable compensation package and the knowledge that their agencies internal review procedures, the legal system, and the public will take three weeks to judge the decision they made in three seconds. What’s not to like about the job?

    Do the armed professions attract the wrong sort of people? Of course they do, but for the most part they are weeded out in the selection process. The armed professions also attract the right kind of people, those that look just a bit farther than their own personal horizons. Not only will they protect themselves and their immediate loved ones but they will risk their lives for a perfect stranger. Its lots of fun to mock the fat bumbling sheriff in a donut shop until you need that very same man to check out the noise in your backyard. To say that every soldier, police officer, or border patrol guard is a jack booted thug is ridiculous and irresponsible.

    Let’s be absolutely honest with ourselves. We may not like the fact that there are borders or people with guns but we have to recognize their necessity. Who wants to be the guy responsible for letting the murderer or terrorist or thief into the country because he had a nice smile and an unassuming demeanor?

    Dr. Watts, I’ve enjoyed all your books and stories. I’ve read Blindsight four times just to pick up on the subtleties. I’ve read your short story The Things more than a few times and I’ve found it masterful. You can put me in your fan column. Having said that, I find it hard to believe in the perfect storm of a highly educated accomplished author encountering evil incarnate in a uniform and a patently malicious judicial system. I also find it disturbing that this may have happened to you before. You could be striking blows for freedom in two different countries or you could just have a problem with law enforcement officers. Feel free to correct me on this issue.

    I understand that my nuanced opinion is not perfectly aligned with the mainstream of the posters and therefore subject to any manner of personal assaults on my intent and character.

  253. lol funny dog

    […] No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Guilty […]

  254. JasonM

    IMO, Watts’ attorney sounds great on the witnesses and cross-examination, but may have fallen short on the legal aspects of the case. He should have challenged jury instructions that permitted the jury to convict in the absence of any physical resistance. He should have argued the law was unconstitutionally vague as to what conduct was prohibited. He should have fought for a jury instruction based on self-defense (I don’t remember the details, but I’m pretty sure there’s a common law right of a person to take minimal steps to defend himself from unprovoked assault by a LEO). If he was denied on these Jury Instruction issues, that would form the basis of the appeal. Without these legal objections prior to the verdict, I am not sure what he can appeal on.

  255. Bob

    I am shocked and disappointed by this absurd verdict. Just one question. I am sure that there is video tape surveillance of the border crossing area. Why was the prosecution not obligated to produce it? Because it would have contradicted the allegations they made about you?

  256. ScentOfViolets

    That said, I disagree with you on one thing: in the American system, the DA has the discretion to bring or not bring a case. The fact that this case was brought at all (a) was entirely the decision of the DA’s office, and (b) was outrageous.

    Well no, not really. A lawyer explained to me that laws like this are on the books to protect the state. What usually happens is that law officers behave extremely badly, the home office determines that the original charges that have been issued to cover up that fact cannot be made to stick, and so a “resisting arrest” or “non-compliance” charge is slapped on as well. So when and if the aggrieved party sues, the chances of the plaintiff collecting for any damages is according reduced.

    That’s just the way the world works, my lawyer friend told me. For what it’s worth, what usually happens is that the penalty is usually a fine, some sort of suspended sentence, and a period of unsupervised probation. It used to be that if you stayed out of trouble during your probation, your conviction would be expunged from the record (at least in the United States), but I have the feeling that is just so twentieth century. Anyone remember Zappa’s “Joe’s Garage”, the bit where the Central Scrutinizer narrates the fact that many conflicting laws are passed precisely so that everyone becomes a criminal?

  257. DP

    I’m rolling out the old email again.

    This is for my effort to coordinate any protest trains from the U.S. that want to go up to Michigan and express their distaste. Still contact me if you’re coming from the Canadian side, but one of you will have to be the volunteer to coordinate that.

    Being 5 months pregnant with 2 small kids, I can’t promise I’ll go myself, but this isn’t my first rabble-rousing rodeo so I can help folks make a strong showing.

    ,Dora P.

    BTW, Peter, any trial where the jury wasn’t informed of the legal status of jury nullification was not a fair trial. Even snarky statements by you that could be interpreted to imply the trial was fair could be used against you in an appeal.

  258. Sylvia Wrigley

    Well, hell. :/

    I’m not going to keep reading these comments because they are making blood gush out of my ears. I will simply wish you the best possible outcome from this point onwards (as my previous wish clearly failed to come true) and thank you again for standing firm for your convictions.


  259. Madeline

    To the Juror:

    It’s okay. We know. You were just following orders.

  260. Nullh

    Sorry to hear about this chap.
    I hope the sentencing goes well, and I’m glad the people involved did things right. It sounds like a bloody stupid law at fault for punishing those who might act sanely.
    Best of luck.

  261. John A Antilety

    Let this be a lesson to everyone who reads this: protect yourself and learn about “jury nullification”. Spread the knowledge far, spread it wide. Post it on billboards. Put it up in graffiti on every wall. JURY NULLIFICATION.

    It won’t help you, Dr. Watts, but it might save the rest of us.

    “I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.” – Ulysses S. Grant

  262. drmeow

    “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.”

    I give you Jury Nullification:

  263. MentalPolyphonics » Blindsight Author Assaulted By Fascist Filth

    […] I join the cries of bullshit. Where’s our government on this? When will Canadian Citizenship mean something besides being a flag-of-convenience for the American scum that piss all over it with impunity? […]

  264. SpeakerToManagers

    The conviction sucks; despite what some commenters have said, not jumping to obey after being beaten is not a failure of common sense; it’s a common reaction to being bullied for no observable reason. Peter, I am very sorry you have gotten caught in the gears of oppressive overreaction by the police, and as a US citizen I am heartily ashamed and repelled by the outcome of this mess.

    Let us know when you plan to appeal, and I’ll send some more money to the Kibble Fund.

  265. Val

    Peter — I didn’t know any of this was going on with you until I saw the blurb on Locasmag. I am a big fan of your writing, and you’ll be happy to know my professor of Eng 340 — Science Fiction Writing, had your book “Bindsight” on our reading list. Which I read. But how ironic, everyone against you certainly had blindsight.

    Are you going to sue them for abuse. I would. I think you have a good case. It isn’t being vindictive, its protecting others. Some of these border cops, (I live in WA state near the border) think they are. Find any angle you can about how they showed biased behavior.

    I hope you do not receive any time in jail. Best of luck.

  266. rayp

    Condolences Dr. Watts. You display admirable coolness under fire.

    How likely is a custodial sentence? Do you think the Irish judge took a shine to you? Otherwise, The Shawshank Redemption or Cool Hand Luke?

  267. Yizmo Gizmo

    This raises some interesting questions.
    He’ll be on probation in the US, but living in Canada?
    US Social workers have no jurisdiction up there, and if they
    tried to bother people or fish around up there, especially
    over some stupid ass conviction like this, I
    think they might be mugged.
    How is this going to work, exactly??

  268. Science Fiction Author Found Guilty Of Being Slightly, Peacefully Upset After Being Beaten By Border Guards » Birds Before The Storm

    […] jail. The media relays that one border guard claims Peter tried to choke him, but Peter points out that this accusation was disproved in court. In short: Peter was driving across the border, the guards beat the everloving shit out of him, and […]

  269. cadrech


    Check this out, it may helps:

    I’m your biggest fan, so like someone said: keep us updated.

  270. Out! « Ridiculosity

    […] Posted in Links by tamarasheehan on March 20, 2010 The world has gone insane. Watts has been convicted, a retired US general has blamed the massacre at Srebrenica on fags in the ranks (obviously the […]

  271. Tylda

    try the polansky trick you still has time left
    know that polish fans support you
    keep us updated!

  272. Laur

    Wow. Just.. wow. It seems the good ol’ US of A is getting cranky and paranoid in its old age.

    Here’s hoping your sentence is overturned on appeal, Peter.

  273. NaClshaker

    I am ashamed of my fascist-leaning country. The jury decision was wrong and cowardly. Jurors have the legal right to employ a concept called “jury nullification”. This principle allows a jury to return a verdict of “innocent”, even if the accused is guilty based on the language of a statute, because the jury can declare the law unjust. If I was on that jury, I would have imposed such a right as a juror to nullify this a bad law.

    I encourage you to file a civil lawsuit against the officer(s) who abused their authority. Make it a Civil Rights lawsuit or any other viable accusation, but make them pay for their abuse. I also suggest you seek to have your conviction overturned on appeal. Abuse of authority by bad cops is grounds for such a reversal. In addition, I would suggest you ask the Canadian government to take a stand on your behalf. If Canadian citizens can expect such violence from US border guards, then your country should get involved, perhaps threatening a boycott of travel to the US.

    Your treatment was shameful. I am deeply embarrassed by my country.

  274. prairie dog magazine | dog blog

    […] of the border guards which, as it turns out, didn’t happen. Better to read Watts’ own blog post about his conviction. Have to say I’m amazed by how polite and understanding he seems to be of this whole absurd […]

  275. Alan

    Actually, it IS the jury’s duty to ignore a bad law. The fact that the courts instruct jurors differently does not change this. This duty is part of English law and predates the founding of the United States, and – according to the Founders of the United States – is precisely why defendants are given a right to a trial by jury.

    If Mr. Watts has given an accurate portrayal of events, this jury failed miserably to do its duty in this case.

    If any of you ever go on jury duty, just remember two things: You cannot be charged for voting “not guilty” and you cannot be required to give an explanation for why you voted “not guilty”. Volunteering such information may create problems, but if you keep your mouth shut you can end the sort of prosecutorial abuse that has become common in the United States.

  276. Robert Hood

    Everything that can be said has been, Peter, but I’ll add my condolences anyway.

    This was a depressing result. That the incident occurred at all is wrong, but such things happen, human beings being what they are (that is, flawed). What is inexcusable is that the “justice” system, for whatever reason, ends up condoning it, when it is the job of a justice system in a free country to ensure that unreasonable acts by law agencies against ordinary people are not condoned — even when they occur within the letter of the Law. Okay, so anyone with a brain knows that the Law is about the Law, not Justice. It’s just terrible to have that fact reinforced so blatantly once again.

    I hope the sentencing judge recognises this and acts accordingly. It lies with him/her to ensure that the legal system is redeemed for the cause of Justice.

    We’re thinking of you.

    PS. As a matter of interest, how can the demonstrated “Inaccuracies” in the testimonies of some of the police officers concerned be ignored? Isn’t lying under oath against the Law? Even if we assume that they didn’t do it deliberately, why isn’t it grounds for dismissing the case altogether? Actual villains seem to get off on lesser grounds all the time. Am I missing something?

  277. Sean

    Hey Peter, sorry to hear it turned out as it did, but sadly not surprised.

    I am happy to contribute towards your defence fund again (as I am certain will be other right-minded folk) if you decide to go to appeal and the kitty is looking a bit low.

    Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

  278. texts for nothing : No justice for Peter Watts

    […] Watts explains the conviction: 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. […]

  279. keanani

    @Mike, on March 20th, 2010 at 8:28 am Said: “I understand that my nuanced opinion is not perfectly aligned with the mainstream of the posters and therefore subject to any manner of personal assaults on my intent and character.”

    I would venture to say that many posting who support Dr. Watts in his innocence and are strongly against this travesity, would not at all disagree with most, if not all of what you have so balanced, fairly and eloquently said. Having only been on this blog barely a year, I can’t believe anyone “aligned with the” blog “mainstream” would in any way subject you “to any manner of personal assaults on your intent or character” whatsoever.

    It is not those posters who come on here and disagree with many, some, or a few points, issues and/or views, whom may receive a bit of a cyberspace word lashing, it is those few posters who continue to attack, denigrate and demean Dr. Watts, and those of us, who believe he was unjustly treated without any real, meaningful, respectful discourse that engages rational and reasoned discussion and interchange of sharing in a manner befitting respectful disagreement.

    I found your post to be quite enlightening and agree with most of what you were saying. I too am never of the mind to broadbrush paint anyone for the badness of a few, a couple or the one. But of course do remember we are all humans and we all do have our moments and emotions to contend with.

    Mike said: “I also find it disturbing that this may have happened to you before. You could be striking blows for freedom in two different countries or you could just have a problem with law enforcement officers.”

    This was pointed out on another website, namely, the TimesHerald(Port Huron, Michigan), the docket and by various commentators who made this seem to be THE evidence proving that Dr. Watts did something, in the here and now, present time, that he clearly did not.

    However, my own personal opinion on this is that it is not relevant to what is in the here and now. I respectfully disagree with you on this.

    You may find it disturbing, without even knowing the particulars and what it really was, but I do not believe in utilizing past mistakes, baddish behavior or troubles when the person of today, in the present time is not that person way back then in that past.

    Giving people second chances and not holding past transgressions over their head as if somehow someway this is still a scarlet letter mark upon them until the end of time is just so unfair and not at all what most human beings of good heart and compassionate forgiving soul would even think to do.

    Besides, I do not understand why this should even be relevant, let alone the knowledge of any one of us. Quite frankly, I don’t care about that. The only thing about it that bothered me was whether it would be utilized against Dr. Watts.

    As if any one of us has not anything in our murkey past that we would not wish to have dragged out into the open to follow us like some ball and chain punishment.

    In other words, I believe it is not anyone’s “damn business”. Dr. Watts absolutely does not have to reveal what it was and then have to proceed to defend and justify himself on that past issue.

    When do we as human beings just let past things go and do our best to live in the present, being the better human beings were are hopefully striving to be?

    What disturbs me is the targeted vehemence, anger and ugliness of those few who do post opposing Dr. Watts just because they do not like his way of writing, speaking, the words he uses, his education, his profession, his silence, his jokes, think nerd and geek equates to space cadet not in touch with reality, that hard science fiction writing means you are a liar because you make up stories, whatever it is that makes them so very enraged, slurring him as an “arrogant asshole”, “whine & cheese partaker”, “holier than thou thinks he is above the rest of us”, as a justifiable reason to continue pinning him with the unwarranted and unjustified guilty brand…

    Since when does being a unique, individual, singular, human with the right and freedom to be as such, without harming anyone or infringing upon the rights of others, equate to being subject to ridicule, attack and false accusations that just by your being you, and continuing to remain true to yourself, it is enough to tip the scale of justice toward guilt?

  280. SeismicMike

    @a juror.

    As a Libertarian I am appalled at you. You are not a Libertarian. As a libertarian you must know and hold onto with firm conviction that you have the right to defend yourself against the police. I don’t have full information about what led up to the incident. I don’t know why they hit him in the face, but if there was no just provocation for that – and there is never a just provocation for that – even deadly force should not fall under this law, because he would have been defending himself against an oppressive law officer. Libertarians must know that that is their right, because they must know that that is eventually what will happen to all who love freedom.

  281. Ian M

    The Jury in all freethinking nations has a duty to not only uphold the law but to act as a panel of peers i.e. putting themselves in the defendants position and deciding if a crime was really committed.

    The testimony/apology from the member of the jury was misplaced, that person did not do their job and as such should be held accountable, this is often ignored in modern society ( I do actually suggest we name and shame them all when the chance arises).

    My personal belief is the Judge realising this is the end of his career will act in a self-serving manner to put the least pressure on himself i.e. a suspended sentence and a warning that next time you are attacked by an officer of the US law you accept your beating and thank him for protecting the US of A – God save the Obama and all that.

    I am sure Dr Watts was innocent of all crimes here, this very incident brought to my attention that you should stay in a vehicle in the US when assaulted by a member of the SS/Stasi (insert word here.._) for me as a European this was amazing news. I would have done the same thing as Dr Watts and as such would be facing the same jury, this makes me pity the USA! and insist our Ambassadors warn the idiots in charge that they have made a mistake and must correct it.

    I hope and actually pray that our Atlantic cousins realise where they went wrong and fix it fast as the world needs them back as leaders where they belong.

  282. Fred E.

    The shame of this whole event at the border has my eyes tearing right now and I apologize to you on behalf of all U.S. citizens who believe that there is nothing wrong with asking law enforcement what is going on, why they have stopped you, etc. Law enforcement officers are not supposed to be above the law. I have witnessed first hand how the border patrol officials a the the Texas border treat Hispanics even though many of them are Hispanic themselves.

    Also know that I am disappointed in the jury. Jury nullification is perfectly legitimate and has a very long history in the U.S. The judicial system hates it, but in the end, it is our last defense as citizens against tyrannical laws an authoritarian law enforcement under our present system. You are mistaken not to be a little peeved with the jury for not stepping back from the narrow situation and seeing that true justice was done.

    Please appeal this.

  283. When you want a badge and a gun but fail everywhere else the US border patrol will help you feel all manly. « voice from the pack

    […] to have more holes in it than a chunk of Swiss cheese; the really threatening Sci Fi writer was found guilty based on that […]

  284. Peter Watts and Chris Rock (How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police) « The Ultimate Codex

    […] Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police) Ahhh yes, It’s time to talk about Orwell, Stalin and the second coming of Rodney King. Apparently, the cops in The Great White North(Canada) are so enlightened that they allow people to […]

  285. Anonymous

    Just awful! I would rather live in a world where this hadn’t happened to you. I hope it gets easier from here.

  286. Crai

    WOW just WOW I do not even know who DR Watts is ‘No offence” Never heard of him till I read an article on Slash Dot. Followed a few links and found out the whole story. First off Dr Watts I want to apologize for the way my country has treated you. I am an Active duty military member It greatly distress’s me when I see this kind of behavior by the people that are there to protect. It makes me question why I am defending the Nation I so Love. That an Officer of the Law would lie and twist facts to suit his need for superiority is sick. I know there are many good Police out there, but they need to stand up to the bad ones. I have had people in the military ask me if I had their backs my response is always the same if you’re in the right and did it the best way possible yes. If you’re in the wrong broke the rules / law then NO. As a civil servant I feel it is my responsibility as with all other civil servants to be the shining example of what makes America great. I want people to look at us and go “That’s how I want to be” I want to inspire others to BE better. I attempt to do this with my Junior Petty Officers. Mr. B needs a physic eval. I think all police do, not because I think they’re crazy but because I think we need to weed out the personality traits of these individuals. The hateful, the racist, the power hungry, aggression driven, adrenalin junks. These are not traits that make a good Police officer. In the case of Mr. B I think that since it was proven in court that he falsified court papers when he said you choked him he should be terminated with prejudice. The fact that he willingly lied to the court proves that he is unreliable. Should another incident happen where he IS assaulted all a lawyer will have to do is point out that he lied before and the case will be tossed as he is an unreliable witness. I hope the Jude sees reason in sentencing. I also hope that you pursue an assault case against MR. B as it was Assault and the arrest afterward was a way for him to cover it up. It seems he had no clue what was going on and reacted poorly “yes that is an understatement” Good Luck I’m not even a fan but in this you have my support!

    You Enter Life with nothing but your voice if no one can trust your voice then what do you have?

  287. Peter Watts may serve two years for failing to promptly obey a customs officer | The World Matters

    […] Guilty Previously: […]

  288. Brad Davis

    Another ashamed US citizen chiming in. I am so sorry that our people failed you in this. Our corrupt and authoritarian border guards are getting more reknown every year, and our citizens more cowed by their authoritah every day. We once actually had the affrontery to call ourselves “the Land of the Free” and these days that just makes me more ashamed of what we have become.

    Please appeal, I can only hope that the next jury will get it right. Jury nullification is important, and becoming moreso every day with our penchant for voting ourselves into more and more ridiculous laws. Please, please, give us another chance to make this right. I can only hope that that doesn’t just solidify instead how wrong we can be.

  289. cyan

    I don’t see how the “beyond reasonable doubt” threshold was met here. If indeed “unless you’re dazed and confused from being hit in the face” and “in those few seconds between Beaudry’s command and the unleashing of his pepper spray”, then it leaves significant doubt, imho, as to whether it was slow-compliance or truly non-compliance.

  290. morganchaser

    Stockholm syndrome much?

    Everyone falls for the impressive psychology and demeanor of a court room’s decorations the first couple times they’re in one.

    You’re getting fucked and you’re kissing the ass of the law school flunkies that are perpetrating the crime. As if those silver spooned assholes have every done anything to deserve authority? Their accomplishments are tolerating a BS system, and abstaining from life in exchange for status.

    Quit blaming yourself like a good little sheep because it’s easier to be accountable than a victim.

    When you don’t have a taser and a parole officer evaluating your “attitude” we’ll see if the reality distortion field created by the threat of violence collapses.

    Maybe you’re doing what’s mentally necessary. Anger is poison. You either act on it for a release or it destroys you slowly with frustration.

    Look on the brightside: the tax payers who tolerate your treatment will be the one’s footing the bill for it’s long term expense. In terms of an ever broadening trade deficit mostly.

  291. Ian Cheong

    I’m outraged to hear about all of this, Peter.

    I would echo most of the things Cory already wrote about the subject on BoingBoing and wish you only the best of luck in the days to come. I’d say something like “May justice prevail” but after all this, I’m far too cynical to see how it could.

    Whatever happens, you’ll get through this.

  292. Jamie


    As ever, my time, my professional experience and insight remain available to you should they be of use. You continue to have my best wishes and full support.

  293. » Crossing the border on eggshells

    […] read the story as it was popularized on, it scared the crap out of me. According to Watts' version of the events, an officer punched him in the face and maced him during the incident. At some point, the officer […]

  294. The Gospel According to Whom » דיוויד בואי: סוף של מסע מוזיקלי מודרך

    […] הברית וקנדה, הוכה, גורש והוזמן להישפט זמן מה אחר כך, נמצא אשם באותו משפט, ועלול להיכנס לשנתיים לכלא על שום דבר, […]

  295. Eugene


    Do you plan to appeal? Do you need financial help for that? Please send me an email if you do.

  296. Yonmei

    I am appalled that you were found guilty. Thank you for writing about this.

  297. George Maat

    Hi Peter, and might I say “Welcome!” Welcome to the other side of the gun, the receiving end of that twisted psyche that purports to be defending freedom. It’s going to alter your view of life as you have known it permanently and you will never be quite as comfortable ever again as you have been in the past. But I believe you will become a more focussed writer and perhaps, if both you and the world are fortunate enough, go on to influence the conditions that make this type of travesty possible beyond your own personal scenario.

    You were not shot. You were not destroyed by a bomb. You were not tortured. You simply got screwed. I appreciate how you have played it out so far and encourage you to not let the matter go until you fell in all good concience that you have done everything in your power to assure this will not happen to anyone else.

    Yes, you can only do so much, and there’s the rub…..

  298. Barry

    “When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Frank Costello.

    “The only difference between cops and criminals are the bars that separate them.” – T.C.

  299. Rob

    very sad to hear this.

    I hope you’ll appeal, and I’ll certainly chip in if you do.

    It seems the court has found that there was some pretty serious wrongdoing by the border guards (punching, lying, etc.). Does the US have a method for you to complain properly?

    Lying in witness statements and attacking people without reason ought to be the kind of thing that gets a border guard sacked.

  300. Craig

    Everyone knows border guards are a bunch of Barney Fifes. Unfortunate that they don’t have an Andy to keep an eye on them.

  301. M. Jones

    I’m always paranoid when travelling to the States. I don’t know how to explain it, other than to say I don’t feel the same sense of security that I do at home here in Canada. When my family went to Florida, there was a feeling of watching carefully everything I said and making sure we didn’t discuss anything political when out in public, and basically kept our heads low and made sure no one knew we were from Canada.

    I remember being on the bus with my kids on the way to Disneyland and seeing the opposite highway closed due to five police cars and several police who had their guns drawn on what looked to be an unarmed black man. A woman beside me tched and said ‘Did they have to close down the highway? Now the traffic’s going to back up.’ To me, this appalling, dangerous display of armed conflict was frightening, but to the passengers on the bus it was just another daily routine.

    They don’t put things like *that* on the postcards.

  302. marla

    very sad to hear this

  303. Jasmine P.

    That’s just plain messed up. I’ve never read your writing, but I heard your story and this was all so unnecessary. If they hadn’t be aggressive themselves none of this would have had to happen what so ever. I want to saw something positive to wish you well for the next few years, but I can’t think of a good way to phrase it. I apologize for this statue and how ambiguous it is, people should -not- be punished for asking a question. People should be allowed to know why they’re being searched, why they have to get on the ground, they should know why before things happen. Knowing why beforehand isn’t going to hurt anybody. In my mind it’s not resisting, it’s like a pause before continuing. I’d rather go to jail/prison for resisting than get a medal fr blind obedience.

  304. Peter Watts may serve two years for failing to promptly obey a customs officer |

    […] Guilty […]

  305. Lee

    I blame the prosecutor for bringing the case to trial. They have plenty of discretion as to whether a case is worth prosecuting, and as a US taxpayer (not something i’m proud of in this case), I don’t see how the expense of this trial is in any way justified by the nature of the incident.

  306. banzai cat

    Coming all the way from the Philippines, I’d like to throw in my condolences and my support into the pile, There is the law and there is right and wrong. Whatever happened to the idea of following the spirit of law and not the letter of the law?

  307. Radka

    Good grief! I don’t even know what to say. This really makes me nervous about crossing the border (I’m Canadian). Oh well, I rarely need to go to the United States of Authoritarianism and I plan to keep it that way. I’m truly sorry what happened to you.

  308. Andrew

    Sorry man. This shit happens in the USA sometimes. It’s nothing personal – although it is monumentally stupid and wrong.

    My advice, take that conviction, frame it and put it somewhere people see it when they visit. You didn’t ask to get dragged into our authoritarian legal system. But since you have, you might as well try to take pride in it.

    Questioning an authority figure is a valuable act. When people stop questioning, horrible things happen. (Milgram’s experiment, etc.) So thanks for asking a simple question.

    My other advice is to tell Canadian’s about this whole thing. Not because I want them hating us. But because I want you, and your fellow Canadians, questioning their own border patrol – keeping them honest. I don’t want our sickness spreading north, which it easily could.

    After all, I’m sure I’ll want to visit there again someday.

  309. Joe

    “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.”

    Wrong. They most certainly do have a duty to ignore stupid laws. Research jury nullification. The judge was incorrect in his jury instructions.

  310. Kevin S. Van Horn

    “[The jury’s] job is not to rewrite laws, or ignore stupid ones; their job is to decide whether a given act violates the law as written.”

    Not true. Juries are allowed to vote their conscience, and there are a variety of Supreme Court ruling upholding this right. Jurors who refused to convict someone who had clearly violated the “law” when they felt the law itself was wrong were instrumental in establishing freedom of the press and in undermining the Fugitive Slave Act.

    Regardless of the legal precedents, as a general rule I would say that all people, at all times, are responsible for their own actions; “I was just following instructions” is never a legitimate excuse. The jurors who voted for conviction allowed themselves to be used as instruments of evil instead of consulting their own consciences. That makes them accomplices to the continuing crimes being committed against you.

  311. James Callaghan

    This is SO not okay. I can’t think of any way that any sane and reasonably intelligent person can possibly construe this situation — initial incident, being charged and being convicted inclusive — as okay.

    Dead serious: This can and should be appealed to the highest courts. What happened to you is a gross and despicable violation of basic human rights, to say nothing whatever of the Bill of Rights of the United States.

    But hell. You seem to be taking it philosophically and sanely, and that’s to be admired. My hat is off to you, sir, and I wish you the best in the future.

  312. Gabi

    This makes me reconsider even the thaught of visiting “tha land of the braves”. I hated the americans for their stupidity and their “bravery” and I’m glad to see that I wasn’t wrong.
    Good luck and make apeals to the highest courts. This can’t go on like this.

  313. bilbo

    “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”- A jury can nullify a law that is unjust.

  314. Rafe

    “Their job is not to rewrite laws, or ignore stupid ones.”

    This is, as bilbo above mentioned, not actually true (I hadn’t known this myself, I’m ashamed to say).

    The practice of Jury Nullification ( has been suppressed to the point where jurors are removed for knowing about it, and cases have been brought to support the court’s intentionally not telling them they have this power.

    Your case has pried the lid off of this particular can of worms for many of us, too, and has stoked the fire of many citizens.

  315. Ellen Kushner

    It’s a damned shame. But your writeup is gorgeous – if it’s any consolation, it’s a terrific piece of expository prose. If one can’t have one’s innocence acknowledged, at least one’s virtuosity can be lauded.

  316. Larry Roth

    Although I am a veteran I would not like to serve along side anyone on the jury. The same goes for nearly all the people who have responded to this incident. A few weeks ago the supreme court ruled that the rich and huge corporations has the right to take control of our elections and country. In reality the court was announcing to the people of the US and the world that the fascists have completed the takeover of the US. I guess the people want this takeover to go nicely without any RESISTANCE.

  317. Uncle Slam

    Yes it IS a jury’s “job” (one of many) to re-write law. Jury nullification (he’s as guilty as hell; but WE say he’s ‘not guilty.”) is the constitutional right of “a jury of one’s peers.

    Next time, carry a scattergun. If the f**king prick doesn’t get the message? Use it.

  318. Rimfire

    If there was ever an indicator that it is time for people to get really, really competent in Common law and one’s rights under International law, this is it. It’s a real pity that the lawfulness of unlawful corporate statutes were not challenged in the court, because that would have forced the matter to move to the private side of the court, not the public.

    I don’t know if you can appeal the matter by using Common and International law and get the whole thing moved to the private side of the court. Don’t blame or ask your lawyer, they aren’t even taught this side of the law in law school; they don’t even know the legal minefield they enter when they are admitted to the Bar- which stands for the British Accreditation Registry. British. Canada, the US and Australia are, under law, still nothing more than colonies of Britain, ultimately governed by British law. If I was in this situation, I’d be asking some very urgent questions towards people who are experts on Common and International law. It’s why I’m learning it now- and to learn it, I have to go other places than law school. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Be aware; the law is NOT on the side of ‘right’, it’s on it’s own side. As soon as you step past the gate in a courtroom that separates the public from the court, you are both entering the realm of Admiralty law (you are essentially stepping onto a boat) and agreeing that the judge has jurisdiction over you. This signed the deal, because you were agreeing that their laws applied to you, which in actuality they do *only if you agree*.

    Those jurors who have commented here regarding ‘following their conscience (as regards the letter of the law)’ are simply echoing the sentiments of every good citizen of every fascist and totalitarian regime that has ever existed. They might console themselves as to ‘being proper in the law’ but when the law itself is a tool of oppression, one is simply being a co-operative agent of oppression. All these justifications are simply self deception, which is one of the mechanisms whereby every dictatorship and oppressive regime has maintained its ability to rule- individuals agree as a group to be oppressed, so they are, and then they make up stories that make being oppressed ok. First step of refusing to be oppressed is know who and what you are *under law*. It will astonish- and then hopefully empower- you.

    The above is offered in the spirit of peace and freedom. Peter- if you want to go this route, I know of someone in the US who might be able to help you. I’m happy for you to email me- if you can’t gank my email from this post, comment and we’ll work it out.

  319. anonymous legal professional

    personally, I hope they throw the book at you when you are sentenced. rotting away in a cell with no means of writing is the only fit punishment for you. I hope it makes you angry. and that anger tears at you, causes you stress, high blood pressure, and other diseases that will cut your life short.

    there won’t be a next time, will there you 2-time loser? and while you are getting sodomized and wondering if the blood loss will finally kill you this time, remember that it only cost a pack of cigarettes to get them to do you like that. using a shiv would have cost an entire carton, and you aren’t worth that much.

    I truly hope you are an atheist, and believe that you will slip away to dark nothingness when you die. And that you will die soon, so the rest of society will be spared your drivel. You will be forgotten, quickly.

    As for the chuckleheads who are lending you their feigned support, did you notice none of them offered to even set up a legal defense fund much less contribute to one? Did any of them see that the officers in question were also brought under scrutiny for their actions and found not guilty of any wrong-doing? Nope, not a one.

    And where is this video tape you spoke so much about in earlier ? Did it not conform to your version of events? Where can all of us find a copy and view it? Or aren’t you interested in the facts coming out?

    So long, convict.

  320. keanani

    @anonymous legal professional ~ Wow, you are utter evil. What ugly words of hatred.

    But “thanks” for rearing your despicable piece of shit head. You have given an example of just what those of us have been standing up against. The utter evil and deep hatred that emanates from those around us who continue to trample upon our rights…

    Such virulence, disgusting hatred and pointed attacks on Dr. Watts, is indicative that you are associated in some way with the sorry spectacle of this case and the wrongs committed against him. Wow, you and your damnable ilk just cannot find the integrity, honor and conscience to admit that you were wrong.

    What an overkill of retaliation and revenge wished upon a human being who did nothing to warrant what happened to him in the first place. Wow, my eyes are opening even wider at this reality.

    Your pointed reference to his being an atheist also reveals that you are of the “religious type”, meaning, that you are not only evil but a hypocrite, professing your religion via denigrating someone who chooses not to have and believe in a religion, and then procedding to want him to suffer, be raped and harmed in jail. Wow.

    But as we all know, those of us who stand up against such evil as yourself will triumph because we won’t tolerate such evil.

    For the sake of Dr. Watts, for you to even wish for him to die in prison, for this is exactly what you are stating, brings tears to my eyes of a rage that futher solidfies my resolve to always stand against the evil manure so exemplified by YOU.

    I could easily want, hope and pray the same and worse for YOU, but I will take the higher road, knowing that such an ugly souled evil hearted life form as yourself will find no safe place on this planet for there are far far more good people existing than evil people. You most definitely are evil.

  321. keanani

    @anonymous legal professional: “As for the chuckleheads who are lending you their feigned support…”


  322. Terry

    I just wanted to express my sympathy to Peter Watts over this ridiculous affair. In my opinion he should never have been charged.

    I wish Peter luck with his sentencing and hope it reflects the innocuous nature of his actions.

  323. Rafe

    @kea: Deep breath. It smells like the underside of a bridge where ALP comes from. Anyone too cowardly to leave a name or valid link isn’t worth the energy of getting worked up over.

    They’ll get theirs without any help from us.

    “There is no sin except stupidity.”
    — Oscar Wilde

    “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
    — Søren Kierkegaard

  324. Mike

    Keanani. You have no idea how heartened I am by someone that can post a well reasoned argument even if I do disagree. Please don’t fall to the level of the anonymous legal professional. The temptation is tough but the debate has to be kept at a civil level for it to be effective either way. The person doesn’t want to make he point he wants to piss people off. Blog democracy at its ugliest. (I would have moderated the hell out of him)

    Anyway, this is the most interesting blog on the tension between national security and personal freedoms so if no one minds I’ll swing it back to some minimum level of professionalism.

    Obviously, I wasn’t at the border and I am not personal friends with Dr. Watts so I can’t speak to his character. Everything I “know” is what I’ve read. What utterly stuns me is the speed at which people line up behind (and against) someone they have only the most tenuous contact with. I’ve read Dr. Watt’s books and thoroughly enjoyed them, but that is all I know about him. I have the notion that most of the bloggers here have the exact same relationship as I do.

    I’m a 20 year veteran of the armed services so I have a distinct and unashamed law and order bias. I couldn’t be effective in my past profession if I didn’t believe in the fundamental soundness of my country. I’m also smart enough to know this country doesn’t have a corner on morality. Every country has shameful events, but only democracies confront them.

    Most of the time, I am just mildy amused by the blogs I stumble across. What inspired me to partake in this one is the sheer vehemence and baseness of some of the participants. Let’s immediately discount Anonymous Legal Professional. I think that guy is a few standard deviations away from the peak of the bell curve. Most other posts, I find less than enlightening. I don’t care for the syncophantic pledges of support and Nazi references and I am willing to bet that Dr. Watts doesn’t care too much about them either. I can understand a Non-US citizen gleefully throwing an entire country under a bus to satisfy their own personal agenda. I can understand anyone being persuaded by Dr. Watts account and sympathizing, but I can’t fathom any US citizen comparing their country to a totalitarian police state. I don’t think there is a rational thought in the world that would sway those people from their point of view. My opinion is that such posters, while endlessly entertaining for some, hurt Dr. Watt’s case by cheapening the debate. If I could be snarky for a moment: I would rather have one smart person by my side than a herd of morons behind me. There might be value in morons but they are a fickle bunch. In another week they will forget their cause celebre and move on to another perceived injustice, which is too bad because no matter what side of the debate you fall on Dr. Watt’s personal experience is important. As,I said before, the tension between national security and personal freedom is the defining debate of the time when killing power can be concentrated so acutely. At one time terrorists could kill only tens, then hundreds, and now thousands. Before I die, some non-state actor is going to set a new record for single incident casualties. Let’s face it, nuclear technology is over sixty years old and college students have come up with workable designs. I don’t think Dr. Watts had a WMD in his pocket but he did come up against a officer who must deal with everything from the drunken teenager to the highly motivated jihadist. With that understanding, I’m inclined to cut the man some slack.

    I’m also inclined to cut Dr. Watts some slack but the one thing I am having a hard time getting past and the coincidentally the point I disagree with you on is the one on past behavior. The connection between what someone is accused of and what they have done in the more distant past is not a tenuous one. I understand that they are two distinct events and must be considered in their own unique contexts but rarely does lightening strike twice in the same place without some sort of conductor.

    Even considering the event in isolation, I think there are too many unanswered questions. I wonder why Dr. Watt’s passenger wasn’t beaten, abused, or charged. Is it because he sat in the car and waited like a prudent individual would? I wonder what Dr. Watt’s ultimate endgame was? Any challenge, even a verbal one, to a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties is a fool’s game. You are going to lose and it doesn’t matter what country you are in. I wonder why a border crossing wasn’t under video surveillance?

    I’ve taught my two teenage drivers that the best strategy when stopped by police is to shut off the engine, roll down the window, and hand him/her your license, registration, and insurance card and be polite. Did I just teach my kids to be weak-minded drones in the service of a totalitarian regime or did I just pass on a bit of common sense?

    While it does not directly bear on the matter at hand it is illustrative. The local police in my town are notorious for “profiling” teenagers out after midnight. My oldest son has had encounters with the law. In each case my son performed the above mentioned actions and when asked by the officer if he would permit a search of his car he told the officer in civil manner that he could observe everything that was in plain sight but that he could not search the vehicle without cause or warrant. Needless to say each officer was stunned that a teenager understood what was required of him in the situation and the limits of the officer’s authority. In each case my son was sent on his way. Law enforcement officers are like vampires. They can’t eat you unless you invite them in.

    Now if my mouthy and impetuous teenager has the presence of mind and maturity to pull off this stunt not once but three times then I am sure Dr. Watts could have managed his situation much better.

    I have experience as a safety investigator for aviation mishaps and what I have discovered is that shit does not just happen. It is caused. In almost every case the guy or gal behind the instrument panel could have done something better to improve the outcome.

    For all the Canadians that have been shocked and awed I would say that it is unfair to characterize an entire country by anecdotal events they’ve heard about or scenes that they’ve driven past. It is perfectly natural to have a vague sense of unease when in another country. Like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home. I would also like to point out that while you were here you probably had thousands of interactions with Americans that were professional, courteous, and friendly. In any case, there are far more interesting things to see and do in the States than go to Disneyland. Sure if you have kids make the pilgrimage once but then take some time and see the real America.

  325. Lilith

    Dr Watts, I am shocked and saddened by this result.
    I hope the sentencing judge has enough of a sense of justice to grant you a non-custodial sentence.

  326. david stelly

    two words, “jury nulificaiton”

  327. negator

    we all belong in jail.

  328. JohnB

    The publicity material says “Land of the free, home of the brave”, the reality is a Police State.
    Sadly many decent Americans simply keep getting fed the bullshit and don’t know how incompetent their border officials are.
    Sorry to hear about Peter Watt’s experience, it could happen to anyone who has the temerity to try to clarify what’s going on.

  329. keanani

    @Rafe ~ 🙂 Deep breaths and calmed down. I don’t usually swear that bad. Yes, I just found his words so despicable. No one deserves to be wished that, even the bad criminals that many may think do.

    @Mike. Hey. 🙂 Glad you came back. Yes, so right. I was momentarily shocked by what I was reading.
    You sound like you are a great father to your kids and I must commend you for being a 20 year veteran of the armed services. Being the daughter of a retired Military Officer (30 years) myself, it can be a tough life to live, most notably and especially in a time of war. (My father was in Vietnam had helped evacuate refugees during the fall of Saigon.)

    I think that along with myself, many people are saddened by the way the world is turning. I would have hoped that we humans would be getting better in our dealings with one another and this increasingly crowded, resource depleted, conflicted and violent planet we are living on. People are indeed living their lives in fear, of the outside and the within.

    I love my country and know that most Americans are good and decent folk. This is true for the majority of the humans on the face of this planet. I have traveled to and lived in many places across this globe and got along well with everyone. One thing that was a common thread throughout, and this goes from the 1970s into the 1990s, is that many people outside would have some negative view of the U.S.A., and it was broadbrush painted over all of us. (Although, when they discovered where I was from, somehow that made me not-so-American, therefore I was alright, but this was strange to me.)

    It saddens, and yes even angers me, when people talk trash about the U.S.A. and the people within her. I am a supporter of those who serve in the Military, Police Forces, Coast Guard, National Guard and Border Patrol and Guards. But not the mentality that they are right with might no matter what.

    We are in a time of serious threat that is no longer easily identifiable, and does not just come from outside. The attempt to balance the rights secured by our Constitution, our freedoms and privileges with the need, the necessity, to make sure we are all safe and secure from the very real and present threat that, I believe, will never go away, is certainly a difficult thing to do.

    My own home state has seen an ever increasingly rising rate of violent crime, where criminals come over from mainland states and other countries, and establish their criminal gang dealing in weapons, drugs, prostitution, gang slayings, murder, home invasions, among other bad things. Coupled with the state of the economy, the growing homeless population and the increasingly higher unaffordable cost of living, something has got to give. We have even had a series of police officers almost being run down by cars, driven by people committing crimes without a care for whom they hurt.

    I remember how life used to be, when it seemed so simpler and innocent. When you did not feel you had to be careful and so aware of others and your surroundings. People are terribly stressed, living paycheck to paycheck, working two, sometimes three jobs, just to pay the bills, and are finding it harder to be generous and kind to their fellow man.

    At my workplace, part of my job includes serving the public, as well as working in conjunction with the police, among other things, and we went through a big scary cut down of people and positions. I was spared, but some of my friends weren’t. Along with this staff shortage, we also took a paycut. Now, of course, we are in a pickle because we have duties needing doing, but the people who used to do it are no longer around. So the solution was, everyone has to help and take on more work.

    Well, not everyone is in the mood to volunteer doing so. The way I see it is that we are all in this together therefore we all need to pitch in and help. Some have and some were told to, but still some just don’t want to make that effort. So someone from another division who I have known for several years asked me if I would be open to doing stuff that at least three other people used to do. So I said yes. I am already pulling 12 hour days, at a paycut salary with increased costs of living, while at the same time trying to help keep my sister and her family afloat. And I still make time for and donations to charities, to help others who are in really dire straits.

    It is about perspective and seeing beyond yourself.

    My point being, we are all in this together. Whether on the local level, national level or global level.

    The basic courtesies, lovely politeness, warm friendliness, caring and sharing – this is all being lost or drowned out by the fear, anger, danger, stress, greed, selfishness and mistrust so many people seem to possess.

    My natural way of being is to treat EVERYONE with respect and politeness as fellow human beings. Does not matter whether someone is the Governor, police officer, the bus driver, janitor, homeless person or garbageman. All “same same” as humans.

    (I have the tendency of being friendly to pretty much anyone and everyone, therefore not judging them in any way although I admit that where I live, we are a bit more isolated from the harsher realities that exist in other U.S. States.)

    As to past deeds coming back to haunt, well, this whole idea that something having happened so many years ago by “person A” being connected to the present day issue has an equivalency to something “person B” did a year or so ago connected to something in the present day, does not seem at all right as to fairness and balance. “Person B” is the one more likely to be a candidate for scrutiny.

    There is a cognitive dissonance in grappling with how a known sexual predator could be under the radar of California authorities such that he, along with his “wife”, were able to hold hostage an abducted child (Jaycee D.) for 18 years, fathering two daughters with her, and no one noticed, investigated or bothered to look at the strange garbage pile encampment in the backyard of a home in a residential area.

    Contrasted against the right of that Westboro Kansas Church family who go to the funerals of slain military soldiers in the line of duty for their country, and proceed to rant and rave such despicable things all throughout the funeral, as somehow, being acceptable because it is “freedom of speech”.

    The balancing of our freedoms with that of not really knowing whom, or what the truly bad people are doing, unfortunately catches a whole lot of innocent people in the tripwire between.

    As we can see, the horrors of what has been happening in Ciudad Juarez, where hundreds of women were slain, mutilated, among other atrocities, and buried, across years, and the drug-gang-criminal violence that is killing, harming and scaring our neighbors in Mexico, is coming closer to our landshores.

    I lived in the desert over there in Southern California, as a child, and I had a grandma who was Mexican, not by blood, but by the Hawaii way of adopting people like they are family. Wow, that was another time and another place, that was so safe, free and wonderful. Not at all what it is like now.

    I just find it so very wrong to treat another human being so harshly when his life, reputation and fate are at stake as if it is something easily bandied about, dismissed and justified, because a few, (many of whom were involved with this incident and it’s aftermath), don’t like the person, or his personality, or what I believe is the real, true issue, that being they don’t like that he and his friends gave voice to their (the Border Guards and others) wrongdoing so the whole world will potentially know, of whom they assaulted beyond what should be tolerated, and the Border Guards, enabled by others, then proceed to falsify the facts, events and testimony, and get way with it just because they have power and authority.

    I learned a long time ago the harsh realities of how people can treat you badly. I was three when my own father made an attempt to abandon me, not sure if it was some lesson a three year old is supposed to learn, perhaps it was a joke, but it is not at all hard to remember. Along with the wonderful memories of my sister (five at the time) and I living in California for a few years, catching horned toads and looking for snakes, I starkly remember the three of us in a car driving off into some deserted area where there was no one else about.

    My sister and I were out in a desolate scrubby bush area far from the car, walking and wandering about, and then my father called my sister back to the car, and I remember my father looking at me, and then both of them getting back in that car.

    Then he drove off kicking dust and dirt. I remember running after the car for a while that was a bit much for a three year old. He stopped the car and just laughed.

    My point being, my father was a college graduate and a Marine Corps Officer. He was and still is a bad human being. But he is my father.

    This was not the only thing my father did, just the earliest one I remember.

    I did not let this make me a bad person or crush me.

    My point being, my father is truly a bad person. Dr. Peter Watts is not.

    It is really a choice of how we deal and what we do with the things that we experience, endure and live through, not letting it get in the way of living our lives and being the best human beings we can be, despite what fate seemingly hands out.

    The journey is what it is all about and not the destination. Life is indeed an ongoing learning experience and we are meant to grow and evolve.

  330. Matt

    I still can’t get my head around this story. To be honest, it sickens me on just about every level, and I have difficulty believing that anybody thinks it’s ok to treat people this way. I think that if somebody had just repeatedly punched me in the face for no good reason, I might have failed to comply with my next instruction as well.

    Peter- part of me hopes that you appeal- but equally, I fear for what might happen to you if you do appeal and get nowhere. This is a horrible story- and although I know in my head that several neanderthals with badges and guns do not equal “all of America”- in my heart, this story reflects badly on America- which is a terrible shame.

    There are certain people in this world that are simply not sufficiently evolved to be cops, border guards or- even security guards at a petting zoo. They shouldn’t be given badges and they definitely shouldn’t be given guns. To my mind, anybody doing a job of this sort, that can’t hold their temper, needs removing from their job. Quickly.

    Best of luck, Peter.

  331. Tomás Sánchez Tejero

    The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath .The same applies to law. I don’t fully agree with you. Despite what your laws say, they should be interpreted to suit justice. That’s the reason they are still in the hands of men and not mere computers. Those were neither judge, nor jurors, just fool automatons.

  332. LionHell

    Sorry for your treatment, ol’ man. These actions will continue, and probably increase in intensity and frequency, till they are stopped.

  333. alwen

    (I’m embarrassed for my state.)

  334. David Ker Thomson

    Absolute support for Dr. Watts, of course.

  335. anonymous

    Just curious: Why are some people allowed to be anonymous and others have their “name” turned into links? If you don’t want anonymous posters then please just require a confirmed registration before you allow any individual to post.

    As to the topic at hand I will await the actual sentencing to see if the punishment fits the crime.

  336. Peter Watts convicted « Second Draft

    […] and fellow workshop-member Peter Watts is now a convicted felon, for having committed the crime of asking a U.S. border guard a question.  He faces the possibility of up to three years in jail, and may never be allowed into the United […]

  337. Starfish Fan

    Mr. Watts,

    I’m saddened by this event, and I hope you won’t judge all of the United States, and it’s Customs Service/Border Patrol, by this, though you would be justified if you did. Please appeal the conviction. The only way bad law becomes better is through challenge and appeal.


    Starfish Fan

  338. GW Gere

    “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.”

    Sorry, but Bullspit! That’s exactly what the jury is supposed to be doing, but the lawyers and judges will not tell them about Jury Nullification of stupid and idiotic laws.

    Google articles about same by Lysander Spooner and L.Neil Smith for starters.

    Sadly I’d hoped to go camping to the US this summer, now I’m not so sure I ever want to go the USA again. Convicted of “failure to grovel” is not just a crying shame, it’s criminal. The USSA’s Police State in all its glory.

    The frigging terrorists have won. The People let the courts and cops get away with anything these days, including murder.

  339. Mr. Topp and the Big Bad Blog » Illegal border crossings

    […] of the above are what happened to Peter Watts — you can find his initial take on the verdict here, with further information in this follow-up […]

  340. Eva

    This is not the kind of blog post I like finding in my post-weekend blog catch-up reading. =(

    But I’m very, very, very impressed with the fact that you’ve been sending everyone a personal response to their kibble fund donation, That’s over the top and unnecessary, but classy beyond belief.

  341. letscallhimray


    I understand your skepticism, seeing as you don’t know Peter personally. Those of us who do have unanimously sided with him, which should tell you at least a little of the regard he is held in on issues of character. (This probably surprises the hell out of him, to boot.)

    “I wonder why Dr. Watt’s passenger wasn’t beaten, abused, or charged. Is it because he sat in the car and waited like a prudent individual would?”

    I went to Port Huron a few days after to retrieve his personal effects. When I explained my particular reason for visiting the US (always kind of weird, considering I’m a citizen), the border officer dealing with me asked, “You’re the one who behaved?” She had only heard of the incident, through whatever passes for locker-room talk there, and mistook me for the other passenger. The one who behaved.

    That moment, I think, neatly sums the attitude which so enrages those of us who aren’t quite so enamored of law and order. The guards who attacked Peter (and frankly, when even the jury who convicted him insists he wasn’t violent by any stretch, an attack is what it was) are convinced they must be obeyed, and are petulant with pepperspray when they are not. That attitude is a dangerous one to have in law enforcement, as I’m sure you know, and it is most dangerous in the hands of those who may hide behind a statute (750.81D1) which felonizes failure to comply.

    And as this trial proved, failure to comply with a lawful order does not allow for time nor opportunity to determine if the order was indeed lawful. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if you’ve just been assaulted (or so I hear).

  342. Hljóðlegur
  343. former FL, USA resident

    RE from above post on Florida: “They don’t put things like *that* on the postcards.”

    There’s a lot about Florida they don’t put on the postcards. For example, did you know:

    If you are driving in Florida and pulled over, and the police lie, and tell you they think you are DUI, and order you to blow — and you refuse because you think the police are corrupt — and this happens twice, your refusal to blow, then, guess what? YOu are automatically a convicted felon under the law in that state.

    Now, never mind that you weren’t DUI, you had absolutely nothing to drink, you took absolutely no drugs; they had no evidence whatsoever that you violated that law.

    The mere fact that you refused to blow — even because you may have rightfully believed the police were totally corrupt and were about to lie their heads off as to the result of your breath test (for example, you should have blown a zero but you suspect, correctly, they were about to lie about what the machined reading said); never mind about any of that: you are now guilty of a felony if you refused, twice, in two instances to blow.

    Well, who in their right mind would want to drive in Florida knowing that? Police do lie. It has happened. Police can lie about the readings on these machines — it’s not the machines at fault when it’s deliberate human misrepresentation by authority.

    But, do it twice — refuse to blow — and you are now a felon. That’s right.

    What happened to due process? The US Constitution? The Bill of Rights? It seems these documents are being used as toilet paper by those who call themselves “lawmakers.”

    Yet, you go into court, any court in the US, and when the judge instructs the jury about how to regard the testimony of police, the judge always instructs: you are not to give greater weight to the testimony of police; you the jury can throw out the testimony of police (or words to that effect).

    So, the net result is this: while the judge is telling you the jury in any court room not to give greater weight to police testimony, the lawmakers are busy passing laws that give COMPLETE absolution to what may be a corrupt police officer who pulls you over twice and demands you blow for no reason, so you refuse twice.

    And, who is the “felon” in Florida under those cirucmstances? The FL law says you the innocent person are the felon. Period.

    If you had blown, you would have helped create false evidence of DUI since the police can lie about your breath results; if you don’t blow you are one step away from being a felon should you get pulled over again.

    Very, very frightening what is happening in the state of Florida. It seems like a police state to me. One I do not plan to ever visit again because: I am an innocent person. And people like me don’t stand a chance in a police state. It’s very scary. Very scary.

  344. Neville

    Dear Dukester, I’m sure you’re a troll who’s trying to get people riled up, but let me just say this, from the bottom of my heart: I hope you end up in a similar situation, get arrested, convicted and sent to prison, and then anally raped by a large man named Bubba. I further hope that your mother comes to visit you in prison, and says to you “NONE of this even happens if you weren’t such a full-of-yourself blowhard.”

    What a great way to deal with Peter’s imminent sentencing, by wishing that Dukester gets arrested and then raped-are you Floyd Robertson on SCTV News, joking about Earl Camembert’s rape during an interview? What Dukester said was crass and stupid, yes, but what you said was also crass and stupid as well. Prison rape is nasty and disgusting, and is just as bad as rape committed outside prison. I realize that you’re angry about what happened to Peter, and that this troll is full of it, but I think that you should choose your words carefully next time.

  345. Other Mike

    Just wanted to add my condolences to Peter in regards to this whole sorry situation. Border guards and airport security people are absolute scum. I’ve even gotten hassled while traveling in uniform (CF). They are just power-tripping assholes.

  346. Mike


    It’s good to have friends especially those that will support you without reservation. He’s fortunate to have you. All of the blogs I’ve read on the subject have offered their support to him so that does offer testimony to the measure of the man.

    This is only the second time I’ve participated in a blog. The first time was an utter disaster because I had the temerity to respectfully disagree on the prevailing opinion. It is good to see that the blog’s owner will permit a bit of dissent or doubt to propel the debate forward in a civil manner. Right about now I feel like I have to say something just to keep the discussion relevant. Prison rape? DUI felons? All mixed up with jury nullification and police state paranoia? I thought that most readers of the blog were writers and therefore capable of much higher level of discourse. Maybe its time to kill the thread.

    I’ve had a few encounters with the police. In all but one I was just flat-assed wrong. I ran the red light. I exceeded the speed limit. What can I say? I’m a criminal mastermind. The one time I felt I unjustly pulled over was for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. I explained to the officer that, No I didn’t see the ambulance because his vehicle was directly behind me and when he changed lanes and the ambulance came into my field of view I was hemmed in by traffic on both sides of me. I couldn’t move. Logic had no play in the debate. He was a pimple-faced deputy sheriff half my age and didn’t have the maturity to think that perhaps his particular perception didn’t quite jibe with reality. Getting read the riot act by someone I could have baby sat for pissed me off especially since I had my whole family with me, but I was never under the impression that it was a Rosa Parks moment. I have a pretty good idea how Dr. Watts feels minus the pepper spray. I would have liked my encounter with the officer to be on much more equal footing but I think everyone has to agree it can’t be that way. I, like Dr. Watts, am not dangerous. But I could be.

    As angry as I was over my puny incident I understood how dangerous and thankless this young man’s job was. If he was blogging he would be telling you the story of the idiot that didn’t yield. One day I hope wisdom and experience catch up to his natural aggression. Of course, by then he will be taken out of the field leaving us again with a young and highly aggressive field operative.

    For the most part, high-stakes security work is a young man’s job. Since their working conditions require them to come into violent conflict consequently the flight instinct is trained out of them and it’s all fight. These are the guys that run to danger.

    Here is a weird analogy. I don’t know if it is true but it seems to make intuitive sense. A younger poisonous snake is far more dangerous than its adult counterpart. It will poison you every time it bites because it can’t exercise the degree of self-control that comes with experience. A mature poisonous snake knows it can’t eat you so it may give you a dry bite at first just to make you go away. I’m betting Dr. Watts got bit by a young snake.

    I don’t want to come off as too much of an apologist for security forces, but I have a few friends that work as pilots for the border patrol, customs, and coast guard. In some cases they have worked on the ground and I will vouch for them as a friend just as vehemently as any of Dr. Watt’s friends. I know there are bad apples hiding behind bad or at least poorly defined laws. (Especially the DUI ones in Florida. I’ve been a Florida resident for over twenty years and this is new to me.)

    In my opinion, this incident is a small part of much larger issue. Even as a former military officer I think the pendulum has swung too far towards national security and away from personal freedoms. Just the name “Patriot Act” sounds sinister and more akin to a Soviet era propaganda statement. But to be clear, I believe in the existence of evil, not the soul-stealing grasping tentacle evil I love reading about but the banal human kind that thinks nothing of immolating a few thousand people (or punching a defenseless person in the face.)

    On 9/11 I was at the hold short line waiting to take off, oddly enough with a Canadian student that had joined the U.S. Navy. We were talking about the relative merits of Tim Horton’s donuts versus Krispy Kreme donuts, when the entire U.S. airspace system shut down. Back in the ready room, I watched 3000 people die on national television and a good many of them were rushing into the buildings to help others. Cut to a CNN broadcast of Palestinians dancing in the streets. Dancing in the streets! Are you kidding me? A spontaneous celebration of mass murder? I know it wasn’t all of them but it was enough. (I have a friend that was killed at the Pentagon. If you go to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida look at the statue of the WWII aviator in the lobby. He was the model.) I think a strong case can be made that it was that singular event that pushed the American psyche over the edge and caused us to cash in a little freedom for security. Another successful attack will push it even further.

  347. Mike Holmes

    “Their job is not to rewrite laws, or ignore stupid ones”

    I believe that in fact it is. Certainly in Britain we’ve had laws changed because of juries refusing to convict, even when all but ordered to do so by judges (see the modern Ponting case for an example which led to a change in the Official Secrets laws).

    In the US, see the Fully informed Jury Amendment (FIJA) website for details on people who believe it a duty incumbent on jurors to judge the law as well as the case.

  348. Oh really?

    Mike, you wrote: “it was that singular event that pushed the American psyche over the edge and caused us to cash in a little freedom for security. Another successful attack will push it even further”.

    Well, then Benjamin Franklin must have been right after all: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

    How much further are we willing to go down that road before there is none left at all?

  349. Johnny

    I apologize if this question has been answered elsewhere, but how is it possible that the video was not produced as evidence by either side? Will the FOIA request be granted now that the investigation is complete?

  350. Peter Watts

    The video was shown. Check out subsequent post (Point 6) for details.

  351. keanani

    Sadly, this song seems to no longer be as relevant is it once was:

  352. Vad


    I think you are too kind to all the participants of this travesty of justice.

    Think about it this way: if this was all OK, and indeed the statute was sufficient to put you in jail for two years, as you imply, then why would the state have to come up with these false allegations about choking and “aggressive stance”? don’t you think that they did it because without it it was absolutely unprecedented to win this? and they did not even hope? and this conviction that they just received is such a big nice surprise for them all, and worst of all, it does create an absolutely horrible precedent. If this is not overturned, then any officer anywhere will be able to arrest anyone practically after the 1st order, at once, as it will be always possible to say that the reaction was not immediate, and that’s noncompliance. Don’t you think?

    I’m also wondering, why your oh so nice attorney did not sue the state for all these false allegations, and why there was no motion to react on contempt of court when they were lying right there to the jury about the choking etc. Didn’t they just take the oath? last time I heard, lying witness is committing a crime. So how is it that they can commit as many crimes as they want, attacking you, but that somehow does not count, while the slightest deviation on your part does? is that the justice? and you are now saying that it’s only the statute to blame, and everyone else is helpless victim of the bad statute, but otherwise oh such a nice guy? those border guards you don’t have complaints about – they all were lying trying to put you in jail on false charges. No complaints?

    You know Peter, well, if you indeed don’t have complaints when others are performing crime after crime against you, then maybe these two years in jail is indeed what you need in order to grow some spine. Sorry.

  353. Val

    On behalf of Vals everywhere, I would like to point out that we are not responsible for anything Vad says.

    On a personal note…UGH….


  354. Dystopia now: the new normal for convicted novelist Peter Watts | Toronto Explosive Bolts: speculative fiction | Toronto NewsFIX

    […] a blog entry posted shortly after his trial, Watts stated, “Basically, everything from asking ‘Why?’ right […]

  355. Mike

    Oh Really?,

    I’m familiar with the Franklin Quote. Down here in the south it is a pretty popular bumper sticker.

    To answer your question, I would have to say in all fairness I don’t know how far I have to be pushed before I do….what? Water the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants? I’m paraphrasing Jefferson, an equally popular contributor to gun show bumper stickers.

    I already vote, write my elected officials, send letters to the editor, fund my favorite charities, pass on my values to my children, volunteer my time, help my neighbors and the occasional random stranger, struggle as a writer, try to avoid Wal-mart, compost my lawn clippings, recycle my cans, pay my bills, conserve energy, stay reasonably sober, and now I participate in blogs that catch my interest. Holy crap, what the hell else does a man have to do to get by. Oh yeah, I’ve also volunteered the best years of my life to military service. These things have to count for something.

    So short of armed uprising, what’s left that is appropriate to the situation?

    Am I going to participate in a candle light vigil or million author march? No, but it would be cool to watch.

    Am I going to offer my best advice to Dr. Watts? No, wise men don’t need it and fools won’t heed it. (I’m not saying he is either.)

    Am I going to send my hard earned money for his fund? No, my family needs it for their defense fund. If he wants my money he can write a book. He has a good track record with me. I think I have all them in trade paperback.

    With the support of his friends, professional colleagues, and sympathetic strangers, Dr. Watts will get by this, then he can go back to writing books and I can go back to reading them. I don’t think there will be any jail time involved so in the end he will have spent money and time and emotion.

    Anyway, that is what I am doing. It might not be enough for some but it is all I am capable of at the moment. In about 12 years I should be an empty nester so that will free up some time unless one of the kids boomerang on me. So here is a question for you: What are you doing? You can answer if you want but it was meant rhetorically. Your life is your business.

  356. letscallhimray


    I don’t think anyone in the US really knows right now how far they’ll go when pushed by their own government. The focus is still on external enemies, impossible entanglements disguised as wars, growing threats, two madmen left on the Axis, nuclear proliferation, et cetera ad nauseam. And it’s been a slow crawl towards tyranny – insert parable about frog and pot.

    I’m sure there will be something down the line, some injustice, some unconscionable excess that will finally spur the riots and rebellions. But not yet. The towers are still too fresh, still recallable in detail instead of myth (the event gets used and abused by pundits, populists and warmongers all the time, but people such as yourself still remember their own reaction, not the hivemind’s). Many of the problems used to justify the authoritarian creep are at least halfway legitimate, and all of them are complex enough to dodge easy answers. Which means there won’t be any marches anytime soon.

    For now, your list of what you’re doing seems pretty good to me. (Except maybe the sober part – I like my vices.) My list is pretty similar, minus lawn, kids and military service, switch neighbours for friends, and add a heavy dose of infosharing typical of my generation (a decade before your kids, if I’m doing the implied math right). So carry on.

    But if and when the rebellions come, we could probably use you on our side.

  357. Wrong on the Jury's job

    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,

  358. Militant Libertarian » Peter Watts, Canadian writer, guilty of felony for arguing with U.S. border officer

    […] allow conviction for anything that might rub a law-enforcement officer the wrong way. As Watts wrote on his blog: What constitutes “failure to comply with a lawful command” is open to interpretation. The […]

  359. The Less Interesting Times » Blog Archive   » פיטר ווטס הואשם

    […] המוזר של הסופר הקנדי במעבר הגבול בשעת לילה מאוחרת הגיע לסיומו, או לפחות לסוג של אבן […]

  360. China (And Other) Border Guards. Hate ‘Em At Your Own Peril. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. | Manufacturer China

    […] to Watts, who wrote of the incident on his blog, the following occurred: What constitutes “failure to comply with a lawful command” is […]

  361. oceanblue

    In short, stay in Canada. I’m an American citizen and even I know that the terms “freedom” and “democracy” are terms used very loosely here in the states – we were among the first to create them, and sometimes I wonder if we are among the first to throw them away. The fact is that America – since 9/11 – has failed to identify the enemy, and as you can see from the Bush years, that basically means that everybody is the enemy, Canadians and US citizens alike. Take a note from someone like me who truly loves his country but cringes when he looks out and sees what it has become in the last ten years – stay low, keep under the radar and don’t do anything that would give them cause to make them look your way, because the truth is is that they might already be looking and you don’t know it. Not saying we are living the 1984 life here, but we are sure close, closer then in any other time in history.

    I would like to say that in the end I hope justice prevails, but more often then not we shoot first and ask questions later (metaphorically speaking), and once justice has been delivered, we rarely look back, if ever.

    It’s not as import to have justice as it is to deliver it, meaning in the end somebody has to pay.

    In what other country amongst all the other countries in the world can you be arrested for not jumping when you are told to jump. It’s is truly as sad day for this country; it is simply another low point to add to our ever increasing list.

  362. Hugo-Nominated Sci-Fi Author Convicted In Border Melee | Kotaku Australia

    […] hearing the verdict from the jurors, Watts wrote a lengthy post on his blog reacting to the verdict, claiming to hold no ill will towards any of the trail’s participants […]

  363. letscallhimray


    Technically, it could be worse. We could be run over by tanks if we don’t jump, and then have two decades of whitewash and obfuscation to follow. And then have the biggest challenge to said be a guy on the internet who was born in the Soviet Union, instead of our own elected officials…

  364. vad


    whoever was born in the Soviet Union, has a very healthy inherent advantage: he will know the hypocrisy instantly by the gut, and will always assume that the state is peoples’ enemy until proven otherwise in each particular case. There’s absolutely no way that the jury would have awarded a case like this to the state in Soviet Union, had there been a jury: incidentally, the juries did not exist in Russia from 1917 till 1993, i.e. exactly as long as Soviet Union existed.

  365. John

    That’s horrible and I wish you the best of luck. I do think the jury should have voted in your favor, however, jury nullification is an option, and one the juror’s should have utilized.

  366. Blue

    I just found out about this now (not that knowing sooner would have made a difference). I wanted to say something really coherent expressing my sympathies but all I can keep thinking is “This shouldn’t happen. You’re a fucking writer for Christ’s sake.” and similarly incoherent things.

    Much love (in place of anything of real use).

  367. letscallhimray


    Those of us who try to learn the relevant history (everyone’s, not just our own) get that same instinct pretty quick.

  368. Brandon H. Bell

    A bit late, but just wanted to say I’m sorry to hear the outcome of this. Best wishes.


  369. jeremy jones

    Sorry to hear about that frustrating turn of events sir; may you avoid the retribution of repressed violent behavior in the years to come.

  370. chops

    Let us know if there’s anything you need.

    – a sad Sarnian

  371. Darrell Schweitzer

    I am so sorry to hear how things turned out. Is there anything Americans can do? I should think the very least anyone can do is publicize this far & wide, so as to embarrass the US authorities. It should not be allowed to fade away into silence. More incidents like this and fewer people will WANT to cross the US border. Maybe that’s what the authorities want? If you never return to the US again, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s a shame because you’d be welcomed at a lot of American conventions.

  372. keanani

    Vad, on March 23rd, 2010 at 9:41 am Said: “…then maybe these two years in jail is indeed what you need in order to grow some spine. Sorry.”

    It is actually those who wronged Dr. Watts, especially those who knowingly lied, knowingly allowed the lies to lay, and knowingly presented the lie tainted case against Dr. Watts who lack a backbone.

    Having a backbone is not about having, expressing, lodging, “complaints about” those who have “wronged you”. It is having the courage and integrity to stand up for what is right and the grace, restraint and fortitude to do so without resorting to the low road of revenge, retaliation and directional payback.

    Backbone jellyfish are those in this sorry mess who lacked the courage and conscience to stand up for what is right.

  373. Uplinktruck

    P.S. I do consider it a failing that only one of those in the media writing about you contacted you. However, if read from story to story, you will find that it went out over the wire services and was rewritten for their publication. Many of those stories went straight off the wire and on to their sights or presses with no changes at all.

  374. Uplinktruck

    I have no idea how that post ended up on this page. It should have been under undemocratic Journalism. I’ll post it there too.

  375. » Blog Archive » Peter Watts, Canadian writer, guilty of felony for arguing with U.S. border officer

    […] allow conviction for anything that might rub a law-enforcement officer the wrong way. As Watts wrote on his blog: What constitutes “failure to comply with a lawful command” is open to interpretation. The […]

  376. LFSPrez

    @uplinktruck, You said to @Dominick Grace “Jury nullification is not legal in most states. The Michigan Jury instructions do not leave the door open for true jury nullification.”

    The legal status of jury nullification is not via encoded statutes, it is *merely* common low, routinely upheld by judges. They refuse to explain it (in all US states IIRC), and deny the truth of it, but they don’t overrule juries that find the accused to be innocent. It takes a stalwart jury to follow this route, because the judge will deny to the jury that they have the authority to determine what the law says, what the law means, or whether the law applies. If the jury rules for innocence in the face of the manifest facts, the judge may send them back saying they “have no choice”. But if they stick to their guns, the judge may not overrule them.

  377. Oh Really

    I told you so, Peter. You didn’t want to listen when you were stopped, and you didn’t want to listen afterwards. Now you’ve been convicted of a felony, which is going to get you hard time in the United States. And once you are finished with your sentence, you will be barred from re-entry.

    Hope you’re satisfied with yourself. Now you’ll find out what every other criminal learns: Everyone else will move on. Your sympathizers will cluck soothingly for a while, and then they’ll forget about you. And you’ll be left with the consequences. Now tell me, was this really worth it? How utterly stupid could you be? How old are you, 12?

  378. Oh Really

    Firstly, appeal – even if you don’t intend to keep fighting this, it gives you negotiating leverage to get a plea-bargain. Assuming you’ve no previous record, you should be able to get away with either probation plus time served or something like a halfway house.

    You don’t appeal a verdict. You can only appeal errors by the judge, or a defect in the law. Unfortunately for Peter, the law is clear, and the trial was simple and straightforward. He has no grounds for appeal. As for a “plea bargain,” they do those before a trial, not after you’ve been convicted. Peter had better hope that he does his time in a county lockup and not a Michigan state prison. Idiot.

    Just follow instructions like the other hundreds of thousands of people that cross that border and NONE of it ever happens. You’ve yet to explain why that was just so damned DIFFICULT for you. Frankly, you come across as a holier-than-thou asshole who is above such petty things as rules and regulations. Those are for the “little people,” right?

    I couldn’t possibly agree more with that.

    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?”

    Pesky thing, the law. Peter, you don’t get to do whatever you want here. I wasn’t aware of your prior conviction in Canada for a run-in with a police officer, but it appears you didn’t learn your lesson the first time. This time you will.

    You refused to get out of the car when told – you admitted this. It was a lawful order. You did not deny this. You confessed, in other words.

    Yup, Peter convicted himself before he ever stepped foot in court.

    I find it hard to believe in the perfect storm of a highly educated accomplished author encountering evil incarnate in a uniform and a patently malicious judicial system. I also find it disturbing that this may have happened to you before. You could be striking blows for freedom in two different countries or you could just have a problem with law enforcement officers.

    I think Peter’s got a problem with law enforcement officers. He thinks he’s better than they are. Peter’s arrogance has seeped through all of his comments on the matter.

    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.

    Facts are truly a bitch, Peter.

  379. Oh Really

    If Peter is really lucky, the judge won’t take Peter’s other conviction into account and will let him off with a fine. However, I don’t think he’s going to be really lucky.

  380. keanani

    Oh Really, on March 28th, 2010 at 10:51 am Said:
    “I told you so, Peter. You didn’t want to listen when you were stopped, and you didn’t want to listen afterwards.”

    So you were there went this all went down? I take it you are one of the wrongdoing border guards
    then? At least have the courage and integrity to create your own username instead of cockaroaching
    someone else’s’.

    “Hope you’re satisfied with yourself. Now you’ll find out what every other criminal learns: Everyone else
    will move on. Your sympathizers will cluck soothingly for a while, and then they’ll forget about you.”

    Actually, it is the people who stand up for what is right in the face of fear, bullying and violence who will
    continue to stand by those who have been harmed by those such as yourself. You see, your words are
    truly a reflection of your particular mentality and the heart and soul that is embedded within your flesh. It
    is you who would toss aside, discard and abandon another human being as if they were yesterday’s
    trash. You very words merely speak of what you truly are as a human being.

    Also, how dare you. Not only do you continue to attack Dr. Watts, but you also attack every single
    person, whether Dr. Watts’ family, loved ones, colleagues, fans, readers, strangers and anyone and
    everyone who does care about how bullies continue to assert that they have a right to bully any and all
    humans into fearful submission.

    The mark of a true bully indeed. Demean and denigrate any and all human beings who believe that
    standing up for what is right, true and just is somehow, in your mean, violence, forcible compliance, lack
    of honor, lack of integrity, lack of honesty, lack of truth and basic humanity filled mind, something to
    mock, denigrate and discredit.

    “And you’ll be left with the consequences. Now tell me, was this really worth it? How utterly stupid could
    you be? How old are you, 12?”

    I would rather be called stupid and possess honor, integrity, honesty, courage, reason, rationality,
    balance, unwavering belief that the truth is always the right way, and championing human values and
    qualities that speak to all that is indeed good and beautiful in the humanity that ultimately triumphs over
    the evil and bullies that we will continue to have to face.

    I am grateful that one of my ancestors was William The Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (and his wife
    Isabelle de Clare). You see, he was “the greatest knight of the Middle Ages”, because he withstood the
    treachery of his King, King John (another one of my ancestors, the one reviled in the Robin Hood
    stories) and held steadfastly to his integrity and honor in the face of attacks upon himself and having his
    sons held hostage for not caving in. Perhaps you should take a gander and see what it truly means to
    be a man of valor, honor, courage and integrity.

    (Elizabeth Chadwick’s “The Greatest Knight: The Unsung Story of the Queen’s Champion”, and “The
    Scarlet Lion”.)

    Those who refuse to “truly see” beyond their own warped and twisted mentality are really the ones who
    arguably, are stupid. You certainly have proven this on Dr. Watts’ blog. You don’t realize that, do you? That you very own subconscious mind is revealing exactly what you are through your own words.

  381. AmyCat =^.^=

    This SUCKS, as does the law which criminalizes asking a question instead of instantly grovelling in the snow to kiss some uniformed thug’s boots.

    We’ve had two cases in my town (Eugene, OR) of unarmed, non-threatening people (one a skinny 19-year-old already face-down on the ground, the other a Chinese student in a sleeping-bag, in his skivvies, IN HIS OWN APARTMENT, and being wakened from sleep by an armed man, in the dark, yelling at him in a foreign language) being Tased by cops and having the Taser use ruled “legitimate”… Seems to be the same idea: if you’re dazed and confused from being punched in the face, or being slammed face-first (hard enough to cause concussion) onto pavement, or from being half-asleep and not understanding the language… your “slow compliance” then “justifies” use of force. (Our local cops here claimed they’d have been “justified” using GUNS, not Tasers, in the case of the Chinese student, because they “couldn’t see his hands” and he might’ve had a weapon in his sleeping-bag. So, they say, he’s LUCKY they “only” zapped him hard enough to cause convulsions.)

    I hope you have some way to appeal the verdict… A law that criminalizes ASKING A QUESTION should be overturned.

  382. Oh Really

    @keanani, I am greatly impressed that you have aristocratic blood. I am descended from peasants. We must have been the daring kind. Maybe we we criminals, for all I know.

    @Army Cat, a check of MapQuest tells me that Port Huron, Michigan is 2,460.93 miles from Eugene, Oregon.

  383. Danny

    @Keanani – you forgot *David* Duke.

    Anyway, what you should always do in a situation like that –

    as soon as you’re out of the car, drop to the ground and put your hands on your head. Just in case.

    No matter what.

  384. Letter Of The Law

    There are two aspects to every law: The letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The letter of the law without the spirit of the law results in a police state. The U.S. threw out the spirit of the law a couple decades ago – people are just now noticing. It typically takes about 8 to 10 years for high-level changes to take effect across a nation.

    I apologize for the sad country that you have encountered. You have the sympathy of the Internet. The morons who posted that the actions taken against you were justified for “simply asking a question because you are a foreigner and don’t know our legal system” are the sort of people who should be shot for their traitorous words. This country wasn’t created with blood for morons who only follow the letter of the law.

    The way this country is going down the toilet, a lot of people have basically already signed up for Civil War II.

  385. Sky Captain

    I’m sorry, Peter.

    To any Americans: I presume that, being here, you tend to be more rational and scientific in your decision-making than the norm for this nation. Many of you find Peter’s situation deplorable, and are itching to find a way to fix it, or to prevent it from happening to another person with innocent intentions. It seems to me there’s a pretty clear way to fix it.

    We need to get ourselves elected.

    I’m not kidding. As abhorrent as the idea of entering politics may be, it seems clear to me that applying the formal problem-solving frameworks used in science and engineering to policy-making would result in a significant boost to the effectiveness and sanity of our government. Getting elected is likely the surest way of ensuring that your elected official shares your views and experience. If you’re able to do so, I urge you to consider running for office.

    Of course, there’s also the great concept of voting for and helping to put in power the opposition parties that are around now (the Green Party & the Socialist Party). Go to their webisites, see what they have to offer and what you can do to get them elected in any election-city, state, country. Get involved and get them in power, and maybe things like Peter Watts’s trial won’t be happening ever again.

    As for the assinine comment by Letter of The Law: you might want a Civil War II, or think that one’s going to happen, but if it does, dependiing on what part of the USA has nuclear missiles, it will become a very nasty World War III. Think about that next time talk about it, and maybe try to work for a better America where it won’t happen.

  386. Peter Watts: Post Verdict Thoughts and Observations - Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel.

    […] 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. Peter Watt's Blog: Guilty […]

  387. Peter Watts NOT Guilty of Assault, Guilty of Perfectly Reasonable Query | Pittsburgh Alpha to Omega

    […] Guilty, in other words, of addressing a Control-infected minion as one would a baseline Human (done it before, myself; you live and learn). […]

  388. Immigration « Something should go here, maybe later.

    […] then charged with assault for questioning the whim of a border-thug (the victim in that case is now facing two years jail for “obstruction”, meaning “failure to comply promptly and without […]

  389. bblackmoor

    “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.”

    Actually, in the USA, the job of the jury is to judge both the facts and the law. If the “law as written” is unjust, it is the jury’s right and duty to refuse to convict.

  390. Adriel Ickler

    A jury is responsible for keeping the government in check, not just being puppets of the state.

    Read the article.

  391. John Westerman

    Dr. Watts,

    Very sorry to hear that things turned out this way. I think you get all the potential implications at play here so I won’t rehash them, but I feel like I get it as well. Fairness seems to have become a lost value.

    In this situation there is very little that I can do, but what I can and will do is buy your books – they already come with a recommendation from John Scalzi and Steven Shaviro, and their opinions tend to carry some weight with me at least.

    I hope there is another outcome to this at some point, clearly the law needs to be rewritten or abandoned.

    all my best to you in the future.

    john westerman

  392. David Neilson

    i have been following this story on Richard Morgan’s website (the author), from his comments and outbursts at the oddness and stupidness of this action against you.
    So sorr, to have heard that this has happened.

    “The law is an ass” and Dickins said.

  393. Henry Pelifian

    As you describe the incident it got out of hand because officers seem quick to take offense with anything verbal and will not tolerate anything but immediate obedience. From what I have been reading this kind of arrest and confrontation is becoming more common. Whether we are witnessing the birth of a police state or just not well-trained law enforcement is yet unknown.

    The was a story on the news last week about a woman at the airport who had been arrested with her 80 year old mother because she had a container of apple sauce that became contentious by the “Homeland Security” officer told her she had to throw away the container too. She did not comply and was cuffed and arrested. It took her $13,000 of legal fees to finally get “exonerated” because she would not plea bargain and she did not plea bargain. As she was telling the story on television the heart ache, near tears and plain stress of the episode could be visible.

    Police work or security at the airport is definitely tough and difficult work, but people have to be trained appropriately because if they are not, their shoddy professionalism may well create a more contentious and troubling society.

  394. Peter Watts avoids jailtime – Scribbles and Dreams

    […] border, beaten, pepper-sprayed, and locked up for the night simply for getting out of his car. He was then found guilty of 'failure to comply with a lawful command', which could have netted him up to two years in jail. Thankfully, the judge presiding saw sense […]

  395. Feathergirl

    If it makes you feel any better, I’m a writer who had a similar experience in AZ a year ago. Not fun, not particularly enlightening, and very frustrating. I chose to pursue a higher degree in another location afterward and will not return to AZ. There is something very, very wrong in the USA when it seems as though everyone is a potential prison customer.

    Cheers on your equanimity!

  396. Toronto writer sentenced to fine, beery conversation for non-compliance | Shelf Life |

    […] has blogged excellently and extensively about his travails, and explains his infractions thusly: So what it […]

  397. » On “Taking the First Amendment Global”

    […] as shown by the case of Peter Watts, beaten up by a US immigration official and then prosecuted and convicted for non-compliance with a border official when he asked why he was being assaulted, and the case of […]