Jury Finds Watts Guilty

The jury returned a guilty verdict in the Peter Watts case on March 19 reports the Port Huron Times Standard:

Toronto author Peter Watts has been found guilty of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

Jurors returned the verdict today in St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Adair’s courtroom. He faces up to two years in prison when sentenced April 26.

Court records show that in the meantime the judge has continued Watts’ bond and he remains free pending sentencing. His case has been referred to the probation department for a report. And the court will review the prosecution’s request for an enhanced sentence under Michigan’s habitual offender statute.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, “in Michigan anyone convicted of more than one felony can have his or her sentence lengthened if requested by the prosecutor and agreed to by the court. Prisoners serving under the habitual offender statute cannot be paroled prior to their calendar minimum.”

The news coverage from the case hasn’t made it clear whether this law is being invoked based on the multiple felony charges from the border-crossing case or a previous conviction.

Peter 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 resolve, then concludes:

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.

Update 3/19/2010: Added link to Peter Watts’ comments about the trial and verdict.

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10 thoughts on “Jury Finds Watts Guilty

  1. Before the jury was brought in at the beginning of the trial the previous event that brought the habitual offender problem to begin with was discussed. It stems from an incident in Oct. 1991. The prosecution and defense agreed that it would not come out during this trial and the prosecution would caution her witnesses not to mention it.

    I have not been able to find out what that original charge was. But in all honesty, I haven’t put that much effort into it. I think it would only be relevant to this matter if it involved another wrestling match with police officers.

  2. @David Klaus: I agree. Obviously cops lying even extends to border guards. A few more cases like this might even lead to legalizing the carrying of an AK-47 just to avoid getting beaten up by cops on a lark. Or at least videocameras as standard automobile accessories, so you don’t get beaten up in court afterward. Feh.

  3. Michigan law does not allow for jury nullification. That only works in a hand full of states. So unlike the 1970-something New Mexico verdict that made shooting someone caught in the act of cheating with the shooters spouse legal for a few weeks, in Michigan that would simply result in a miss trial.

    Their only options are to find him guilty, not guilty or hung jury.

  4. Reading through the comments on Peter Watts’ blog entry “Guilty” I’m appalled how many people’s so-called support for him includes cavalier references to cliches about prisoner abuse. Planting that picture in his head is definitely no way to help him cope with the situation.

  5. Two years does seem like a pretty stiff sentence for sassing the cops… as if a face full of mace wasn’t punishment enough. He might try to appeal for his sentence to be served in a Canadian prison, if I remember the law right. With good behaviour — which we will assume Mr. Watt’s is capable of — he might be out in 8 months or a year. In the Canadian penal system he might even be able to serve some of his time in a half-way house or minimum security facillity.

  6. Unless his prior brush with the law also involves going rounds with badges, he is not going to get two years. I would be surprised if he draws any time other then community service.

    Taral –> What makes you think a Canadian prison will be more bearable then a US Prison? Does Canada get a better class of prisoner?

  7. @Uplinktruck: I hope your prediction that Watts will get a light sentence is correct. But how likely is that when the prosecution has requested an enhanced sentence?

    Perhaps Taral meant his comment in the way you took it. However, I would bet that most people forced to serve a prison term would prefer to do so as close as possible to their family, friends and supporters.

  8. When mutli-millionaire Conrad Black was convicted of massive fraud a couple of years ago, he pulled every string he could to serve his time in Canada. I suppose there were several reaons.

    1) He likely hoped for more lieniency shown toward a Canadian in a Canadian prison. He may have been afraid of being forced to serve his time in harsher circumstances in the US.

    2) Some Canadian prisons are quite tough, but they don’t have the same reputation of some American pens. Whether this rep has been earned or not, I can’t say.

    3) I believe we have more liberal parole policies — it would likely have been easier for him to get time-off, early release, etc.

    In the end, Mr. Black was hoisted by his own petard. Years before he was arrested, Black renounced his Canadian citizenship so that he might accept a British title. Now that he was a guest of the American government, Canada was not too eager to extend him his citizenship back. Black’s requests to serve his time here were denied.

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