Peter Watts won't go to jail

The absurd and awful saga of sf writer Dr Peter Watts's adventures with the US border are finally at a close, and the news is moderately good. For those of you who missed it the first time around: Peter is a Canadian marine biologist and sf writer. He helped a friend relocate to the US, and, while driving back, found that US customs officers had opened his trunk and begun to search his car while he was in it, without saying anything. Peter had never encountered a US search on his way out of America, let alone a completely unannounced one. So he got out of his car and said something like, "Hey, what's going on?" The customs officers ordered him to get back into his car and he said something like, "But what's going on?"

That's when they beat him to the slushy ground, gassed him with pepper spray and charged him with a felony ("obstruction"). He was held in wet clothes in an unheated cell overnight during a snowstorm, then released and told to come back for his trial, where he would face up to two years in prison for his crime.

At the trial, the guards gave ridiculous, self-contradictory testimony (they said Peter had fought them), and the videos showed that Peter's side of the story was the correct one. He got out of his car, asked a simple question, then failed to instantly obey the barked order of the customs officer. This failure to be instantly obedient is apparently all the statute required, and Peter was found guilty. His jurors subsequently found their way onto his blog and apologized, but said that the judge instructed them that they had to find guilty if Peter had been anything less than instantaneously and wholeheartedly cooperative.

Then came the sentencing recommendation. The prosecutor, after making noises about a suspended sentence, came back with a recommended six-month sentence.

That was where things stood yesterday, when Peter drove to Port Huron for his sentencing. But the judge saw some reason and suspended Peter's sentence.


Peter Watts is free

(Thanks to everyone who sent in this great news)