Monday, April 26, 2010

Peter Watts Sentencing - No Jail Time

Good news -- we heard a few minutes ago from Dave Nickle at Peter's sentencing hearing in Port Huron, MI that Peter won't be sent to jail. My understanding from Dave's partner Karen who relayed the news is that Peter was lectured extensively by the judge about how it is important to be nice to the police, and Peter will have to pay a fine. But no jail time, which is substantially better than the gloomy predictions we were making last week!

Dave and Madeline are going out for a beer with Doug Mulkoff, Peter's lawyer, and a group of other supporters. They'll be home in 5-6 hours, so expect first hand updates later this evening.

UPDATE - Dave has posted an initial report from the Quay Street Brewing Company.

The Port Huron Times-Herald had this on their website today:
Author Watts to be sentenced today

A Toronto author convicted March 19 of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a border officer at the Blue Water Bridge is expected to be sentenced today. Peter Watts is scheduled to be in St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Adair's courtroom at 2 p.m. Information his online court record shows the recommended sentence is 180 days in jail with credit for one day served and 60 days suspended upon payment of $1,600 in fines and costs. A jury found Watts guilty of refusing to comply with orders during a random inspection at the bridge. An officer testified at trial that Watts tried to choke him.

Although the Times-Herald, in keeping with their past performance, tries to cast Peter in the most negative possible light, I want to make it clear that Peter was cleared of the assault charge. The officer who "testified at trial that Watts tried to choke him" had his testimony discredited during the trial by an independent witness. No assault by Peter ever took place, although Peter himself was assaulted by being punched, pepper sprayed, and knocked to the ground.

Peter was convicted of non-compliance with the orders of the border officer. The jury evidently believed that being punched and pepper sprayed should not have affected Peter's ability to follow those orders. Peter talks about that on his blog.

Both NewsFix and Quill & Quire have news coverage that more accurately reflects actual events than the Port Huron Times-Herald. However, it is the Simple Justice blog of Scott H. Greenfield which provides the most succinct analysis of Peter's travails:
Like Cory Doctorow, I agree completely that Peter Watts' conviction is absurd and horrible. He was convicted for acting like a normal person under abnormal circumstances. He was convicted for lacking the understanding that when interacting with officials with guns and shields, one bows deeply like a supplicant, just to avoid irritating small minds.

There is no justice. It is all about maintaining order and conformity, because the system needs order and conformity. The Japanese aphorism about the nail that sticks out being hammered down is entirely apropos. What, you thought living in a democracy entitled you to more or less equal power relationships with officials? The people wearing the jackboots want you to remember that.

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