Toronto writer sentenced to fine, beery conversation for non-compliance

Toronto writer sentenced to fine, beery conversation for non-compliance

(Image: Boingboing) 

Most of us heave at least a little sigh of relief when we drive up to the Canadian border from New York or Michigan. We should probably cancel that sigh about now or at least delay it a few minutes longer. Last week, Toronto marine biologist turned science fiction writer Peter Watts received a suspended sentence with a $500 fine (and $1,128 in fees) after being convicted back in March of resisting and obstructing an American border patrol officer at the Port Huron border crossing.

His crime: not getting down on the ground fast enough when a border guard yelled at him to. And this was during an unannounced exit search (yes, they exist, and no, you might not be informed about it until it’s completed). The writer had apparently gotten out of his car to ask what was going on, which is when the trouble started.

Watts has blogged excellently and extensively about his travails, and explains his infractions thusly:

So what it came down to, ultimately, was those moments after I was repeatedly struck in the face by [the guard] (an event not in dispute, incidentally). After [the guard] had finished whaling on me in the car, and stepped outside, and ordered me out of the vehicle; after I’d complied with that, and was standing motionless beside the car, and [the guard] told me to get on the ground—I just stood there, saying “What is the problem?”, just before [the guard] maced me.

And that, said the Prosecutor in her final remarks, that, right there, was failure to comply. That was enough to convict.

Let this be a lesson to all border crossers in Michigan, then: never, ever get out of your car, and if you do, comply immediately with whatever the border officer tells you to do. Failure to do so won’t just get you detained. It can get you convicted as a felon, and barred from visiting the country ever again (not to mention as much as two years in jail).

Bizarrely, before he delivered his sentencing decision, Judge James Adair announced that Watts was the kind of guy he’d like to sit down and have a beer with.

Guilty [Watts’ blog]
Canadian sci-fi writer avoids jail time in Michigan [Globe and Mail]