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The Courts Books Canada Sci-Fi United States Politics

Writer Peter Watts Sentenced; No Jail Time 299

shadowbearer writes "SF writer Peter Watts, a Canadian citizen, whose story we have read about before in these pages, was sentenced three days ago in a Port Huron, MI court. There's not a lot of detail in the story, and although he is still being treated like a terrorist (cannot enter or pass through the US, DNA samples) he was not ordered to do any time in jail, was freed, and has returned home to his family. The judge in the case was, I believe, as sympathetic as the legal system would allow him to be."
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Writer Peter Watts Sentenced; No Jail Time

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  • by ChipMonk ( 711367 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:57PM (#32053112) Journal
    Two different officers gave him contradictory orders. No matter which one he obeyed, he was "failing to comply" with the other one. On this pretense, they gave him the "bad outcome" they wanted so desperately.

    That nobody involved directly with the case mentioned "entrapment" is an epic fail. His defense lawyer should be disbarred for incompetence.
  • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:08PM (#32053150)

    "This law includes offenses ranging from assault and battery to simply standing too close to an officer..."

    "Standing too close to an officer" is a crime? OK, that's about the walking definition of a bad law.

    What was Watts' crime? He asked the officers what they were doing.

    He didn't strike anyone. He didn't kick anyone. According to the record he didn't even use harsh language. Apparently our law enforcement community has become so vicious and cowardly they'll beat people bloody just for looking at them wrong.

    Peter Watts is a geek scifi writer. Judging from his photos, he weighs about 160. My wife could smack him around. He's about as threatening as a tuna sandwich.

    But somehow, these law enforcement officers felt they needed to beat him senseless, leave his blood all over the pavement, and then mace him for good measure when honestly, a wedgie probably would have been overkill.

    Scifi novelists, small-town mayors, Chinese diplomats, 75-year-old grandmas, epileptics having a seizure -- Is there ANYONE law enforcement doesn't want to beat bloody before talking to them any more?

  • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:48PM (#32053422)

    So you don't like police officers because their policies and procedures allow them to be safe.

    To quote Peter himself, "... taxicab drivers suffer three times the homicide rate of any law enforcement category, that being a cabbie is the fifth-most-dangerous job in the US while Law Enforcement doesn’t even make the Top 10. If the risks associated with border patrol can be invoked to excuse the kind of violence I experienced, should we not extend the same immunity to cabbies?"

  • Re:Common Sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:12AM (#32053566)

    Yes, they are. Despite that fact, the border guards in this case did lie, claiming that Watts tried to choke one of them. The evidence showed that this was a lie. Despite the fact that the guards were lying, he still got convicted for failing to lie down quickly enough when they ordered him to (after they had already punched him in the head).

  • by Protoslo ( 752870 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:41AM (#32053766)
    I owned (and had read) first editions of all five (or four and a half) of his novels before the first story about him, so I don't think that he's that obscure. There are plenty of more popular authors whose books aren't as good. And now, because of a felony "non-compliance" conviction, he will be unable to enter the United States again. That's quite a hefty punishment for getting out of your car at a border checkpoint (especially with a superfluous beatdown in the bargain). Is that the result of a "good" law? You might see him at WorldCon 2010, but he'll be SOL if he wins a Hugo in 2011 (Nevada). A felony conviction will fuck over an American citizen.

    Most importantly (for slashdot), he has released all of his novels and a number of shorts for free on the web [] under a Creative Commons license. That makes him as slashdot-worthy as Hans Reiser.
  • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:32AM (#32054288)

    Check Peter's history. He has a previous conviction for being belligerent to a cop.

    From Peter's blog []: I do not have a criminal record in Canada. I have never been convicted of anything in Canada; those of you who want to find evidence to the contrary, knock yourselves out and good luck.

    So cite proof or retract.

  • by Schoenlepel ( 1751646 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:57AM (#32054708)

    Problem is: if an officer testifies against one of his coworkers, he gets the whole force on his neck. If he leaves the force for not agreeing with that kind of misbehavior, he gets the whole force in his neck. If he moves to another jurisdiction, he just gets that whole force in his neck.

    The problem isn't corruption in itself, the problem is fear of harassment among the officers. In addition the law enforcement is above the law, which seems fine, but actually helps corruption and abuse quite a bit. The rules are 200 years behind in relation to the needs of today.

  • by wzzzzrd ( 886091 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:02AM (#32054732)

    Standing too close to an officer is clearly not by necessity a crime. However if it is done in a threatening manner...

    Uhm? I'd understand that threatening an officer could be a crime, but standing close to one "in a threatening manner", come on. It wouldn't even make a good threat: "If you go on with syntactical arguments, I'll stand close to you in a threatening manner my friend!" Whooo, shivers.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:26AM (#32054804) Journal

    That may be Watts' claim or your interpretation, but the charges for which he was convinced were assaulting/resisting/obstructing an officer, including both refusing to obey directions (get back in the car) and later choking an officer. This obviously does not jive with what Watts' claimed, though I found his original summary and the nauseating prose linked to in the article totally totally unsympathetic. I guess there was no video of the border crossing...I was hoping it would come out so the truth would be readily apparent.

    You need to catch up on the story. The choking thing was shown to be a complete fabrication on cross-examination. The only thing that he was convicted of was not getting back into his car immediately.

    nobody is going to assume that there is no knife, gun, etc present.

    That is exactly what they should do. When the SAS was deployed to Northern Ireland, they were specifically told that if they shot someone who didn't turn out to have a gun, they would have no defence against a murder conviction. You should assume that somoene does not have a knife or gun until it becomes apparent that they actually do.

  • by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:27AM (#32054808)

    In some states a policeman will pull a gun on you if you get out of your car when he pulls you over. THEY think it's aggressive behavior, likely because it's hard to draw a gun -- either you or he -- seated in a car.

    I doubt very much the original intention was the driver's safety. Lawmakers don't give a damn about your safety, they want power.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @06:27AM (#32054990) Homepage

    he was convinced were assaulting/resisting/obstructing an officer, including both refusing to obey directions (get back in the car) and later choking an officer.

    He was charged with assault. He was convicted only of not obeying ze orders. The trial evidence was that he was beaten down by a short-assed goon who charged into the situation, sprayed first and didn't ask questions afterwards. The assault charges were fabricated to protect said goon from retribution for inflicting a punishment beating - take that up with the jury, who convicted him on the least of the charges, and the judge, who let him walk.

  • by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:34AM (#32055972)
    I was pulled over once near a gas station, so I pulled into the lot to get off of the street. When I pulled up, I got out of my car to talk to the officer. He FREAKED out, pulled out his gun, and told me to put my hands on my head and lay on the ground.

    After he patted me down I asked him what the fuck was the problem. My license was expired. He told me not to get out of the car in the future because that makes them 'nervous'.

    Don't get out of your car.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker