Peter Watts Receives Suspended Sentence

On April 26 Canadian author Peter Watts was sentenced to a 60-day jail term suspended upon payment of court assessments — $68 state minimum costs, $60 victim rights, $1000 court costs and $500 fines, according to the St. Clair County Court database.

This past March 19 a jury found Watts guilty of violating Michigan state law Section 750.81d “Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty.”

Watts had gone into the morning prepared for the worst after seeing the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. According to the Port Huron Times Herald:   

Information [in] 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.

Watts posted his reaction over the weekend before heading for Port Huron for this morning’s hearing:

After receiving some very positive indications from the Prosecution earlier this week — she wasn’t going to push for jail time, she doubted the judge would hand any out, the guy writing the presentencing recommendations was “very mild” — I’ve just been hit with a presentencing report that recommends jail time. Four to six months of it….

Of course, in a rational system this would have ended the moment the Feds decided not to press charges. In this system, there’s now a significant chance that I go into Port Huron on the 26th and simply don’t come out again. I’ve therefore been running around for the past couple of days making arrangements for the paying of bills and the feeding of cats should I go dark.

Fortunately, he has avoided the worst case scenario and hopefully is on his way home.

18 thoughts on “Peter Watts Receives Suspended Sentence

  1. An officer testified at trial that Watts tried to choke him.

    I love how this is STILL being reported as though he actually had tried to choke the officer instead of it being that the officer lied.

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  4. This is great to hear if it’s true, but where did you find out that his sentencing has been announced? That isn’t supposed to happen until 2:00 p.m. today, and I couldn’t find anything on the court database you linked to.

    Can you confirm where you found this?

  5. I just did some further digging, and found the details you were referring to. I hope this is true!!

  6. You have to dig a bit to get to it. Put his name into the search form, and then click on the first document of the two it brings up (the one of type “FH”), and then inside that click on “Events” and scroll all the way down. It’s spelled out there.

  7. NOTE TO MODERATOR: On the comment I posted just previously, could you strike out my “Whew, what a relief.” from the end? The more I look at things, the less clear to me it is that this is the *actual* sentencing outcome. I think that 60-day suspension thing might simply be *applicable* to the actual final sentence, whatever it may be. I hope I’m wrong, of course. Thank you.

  8. Follow the link, click “New Search”, search by his name. Click the first result then select “Events” and scroll to the bottom.

  9. Jason: It doesn’t appear to be possible to save a direct link to the specific page on the court’s web site. Go to the search page to which Mike linked, then search for case 09-003320-FH, then select Events. Event 31 is the actual sentencing.

    Peter has briefly confirmed that he is free — at least as free as one can be with a suspended sentence and a felony conviction on one’s record.

  10. I apologize for the handling of this story, even though the report that Watts will serve no jail time has proven correct.

    Remembering it was the day of the sentencing hearing, I looked to see if anybody had posted a story yet, and found none. So I accessed the St. Clair County courts database and in Watts’ record the entry for April 26 events said (more or less) SENTENCING: SUSPENDED 60 DAYS, PLUS ASSESSMENTS. If there was anything on the line that now reads “Sentence jail” etc. I didn’t notice at the time.

    The Port Huron Times Herald had a story about the sentence requested by the prosecution, “180 days in jail with credit for one day served and 60 days suspended.” I looked at Peter Watts’ post about that on his website. And I went ahead and wrote my story.

    I kept checking the Port Huron Times Herald for a follow-up story. Eventually the fact stared me in the face that the sentencing hearing was for 2 p.m. — couldn’t even have happened yet when I wrote my post.

    I revisited the court database — now the record had been changed, the original phrase was gone, and now it was clearly an entry about the recommended sentence. I even wondered if the change meant the judge had given him the max. And there was my stupid story all over the internet.

    Still nothing in the Times Herald. Nor anywhere else, til the “Devil’s Exercise Yard” blogger posted that he and Watts had just got out of court and Peter was free. And eventually Watts put up his laconic post “Coming Home. More tomorrow.”

    I looked at the court database once again — and it had been changed to show “JAIL TERM SUSPENDED UPON PAYMENT OF COURT ASSESSMENTS; DNA TESTING” and the “Sentence Jail” line under “minimum” now showed 60 days.

    Had I realized from the beginning that the hearing had yet to come, upon seeing the original version of the database record I would have phoned the court to ask if the judge had called the case earlier than announced — and I would have been told no. And I’d have waited to write the post.

    But the way it has played out I can only speculate about the changing court record. Rather than a notation from the sentencing report (180 days of jail time, plus 60 more days to be suspended), it might also have been a premature entry of the judge’s decision — otherwise, why would there need to have been a change before the results were announced at he hearing?

    As it stands, we do know that Peter Watts went home to Canada and I will read his blog tomorrow for the rest of the legal byplay.

  11. Exactly as I said it would happen.
    Letting Peter go scott free would have left them open to LAW SUITS.
    That wasn’t going to happen.

  12. @Shelly: When I was researching an earlier post about the Watts trial I found an October 2009 article in the San Jose Mercury News investigating “resisting arrest” cases in that city which included this comment:

    “Around the nation, many departments closely monitor cases of resisting arrest because of a concern that the loosely defined crime is a ‘cover charge’ used by errant cops to justify unnecessary force. San Jose police officials last month said, in response to Mercury News questions, that they were instituting a policy to begin tracking such arrests.”

  13. Mike: I sympathize with your troubles in writing this post. This is one of the unfortunate side effects of “instant news”. Had you been writing for even a fast-and-frequent weekly fanzine of yore, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

  14. Hi Peter, Congratulations! I’m very happy to found the good news on April 26′s sentencing. I’ll go buy your book and stay my final project with you to show my support to you.

    Often a little power wants to show a big power that is how we inicent people get hurt. Not fair.

    Best, hailun

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