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Peter Watts, Reloaded

Barb wire

Thanks to uplinktruck , I was attuned to this latest addendum in the ongoing saga of Canadian science-fiction author Peter Watts:

A March 16 jury trial has been scheduled for a 51-year-old Toronto author charged with assaulting a Customs and Border Protection officer Dec. 8.

Commentary on the original event (from Watts, Cory Doctorow and numerous others) has gone positively viral, further clouding the blogosphere with flurries of indignant outrage.  I weighed in and offered what I hoped was a real-world perspective on the events as reported by Peter Watts himself and was surprised by the response.  Re-reading my own remarks, I am quick to characterize my tone as somewhat heavy-handed (although uplinktruck  disagrees).  My own upset was occasioned not by any personal animosity toward Peter himself (or delight at his misfortune) but rather by the quasi-hysteria force-fed into the furnace by so many ivory tower-types who have never worn a uniform, stood a post, been involved in a critical incident or arrested anyone in their lives. 

I should have known better than to pop their self-righteous balloons.  From now on, I'll save the reality checks for my short stories.

Upon revisiting the issue, I thought: Peter's in a pickle.  He deserves our sympathy.  Standing before a Circuit Court judge is no fun.  I said as much in my exchange with the Truck-Meister before adding that I suspected "a good deal of cultural elitism [might be] involved. After all - big time sci-fi authors are decidedly educated and upper-middle-class, while the stupid proles who defend national borders are just misguided puppets of the military-industrial complex. Too stupid to know better, they should have shut up and taken orders from their elders and betters. Good help is hard to find, eh?"

Then, in the interest of fairness, I winged over to Peter's blog to get his version.

His characterization of the judge forced to postpone proceedings due to medical issues:

Same judge as before, so whatever laid him low the first time around was obviously closer to the bad-burrito end of the scale.

His characterization of border security personnel:

... littermate of last December’s Brotherhood of the Baton (21 Jan) ... belligerent dead-eyed stereotypes (25 Jan) ... pissed-off army ants (25 Jan) ...

Did somebody mention cultural elitism?  If this is any indication of Peter's attitude toward law enforcement, I can only imagine how he probably acted during the stop.

uplinktruck  hopes to attend the trial.  I was going to urge people to contribute to Peter's legal defense fund.  But scratch that.  Send lunch money to uplinktruck .  He'll need it to sustain his efforts to offer an unbiased view of proceedings.  (Assuming he can keep lunch down in the face of all that cultural elitism ...)
 

Comments

( 28 comments )
megasquid
Feb. 17th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
Hi. Peter Watts here. Came across your blog while egosurfing.

I think maybe one of the reasons Cory et al are so stridently supportive of my cause is because they know me personally; they know I'm not the kind of guy who'd pick a fight with anyone, much less half a dozen border guards. You, on the other hand, don't know me from Clifford Olsen; you're naturally more skeptical. Fair enough. I'd like to clarify a couple of things, though, with regards to this "cultural elitism" of which you speak. You're making some unwarranted assumptions.

For one thing, I don't know where you got the idea that I'm a "big-time science fiction writer". I'm not. I'm an obscure midlister who turned out to have some high-profile friends, and I was as surprised as anyone by their reaction to my predicament. And while I am educated, I've never been "upper-middle class". Never even been middle. I rent a one-bedroom apartment in one of the more down-in-the-dumps parts of Toronto, and that's pretty much been my standard of living from grad school to the present. You're an sf writer, evidently: you must know what people make at this gig. If I ever was a cultural elitist, I can't think of a better way than my average annual income to knock me down a few notches.

You don't know me. You're not describing me.

Regarding the quotes from my blog (thanks for dropping by, btw), I'm not following your reaction to the bad-burrito line. It's completely innocuous as far as I can tell; after all, this judge had been forced to cancel proceedings a few days earlier in mid-session, due to something that was only described to me as a "medical emergency". I mentioned at the time it might have been anything from a heart attack to a bad burrito; the fact that he seemed hale and hearty a few days later implied the latter. How is this an elitist or offensive thing to say?

As for my comments about the border guards, yeah, I said those things. I meant them. I mean them. These are the people who shitkicked and incarcerated me for asking what was going on; these are the people who chained my friend to a rail for six hours, telling him (when he wanted to use the john) that he could piss his in pants for all they cared (and that dude didn't even ask a question). You're not seeing elitism here, cultural or otherwise. You're seeing anger in the wake of assault. I suspect your feelings might trend the same way under similar circumstances.

I've been characterized throughout this mess as "irate" and "aggressive" and "belligerent", but I've yet to see a single quote attributed to me that supports any of those adjectives. I doubt that I will, unless the other side resorts to outright perjury; I never raised a fist, never raised my voice, never used profanity during the whole damn takedown. (And no, I didn't "choke" anyone, either.)

You don't know me, of course. I could be full of shit for all you know; you have every right to be skeptical. So I kind of welcome Uplink's on-site perspective. It'll be good to get this stuff out.

Thanks for the pixels,
P.
timesygn
Feb. 18th, 2010 08:47 am (UTC)

Peter. Nice of you to drop by.

You're quite correct, of course. I don't know you. I'm forced to draw conclusions about you based on your (own) characterization of events as related in your (own) blog. And from these I have constructed a profile based on my own experiences as a security and enforcement professional, the sci-fi thing being strictly a sideline and very new, so compared to me you are a big time sci-fi writer (and so is Clifford Olson - whoever he is).

My two cents, comments and amplifications and answers to your questions. You deserve no less.

... I'm not the kind of guy who'd pick a fight with anyone, much less half a dozen border guards.

I'm sure you're a peach. But you must have done something, Peter, else you wouldn't be in this mess. People in the enforcement field work under very strict guidelines and it's easy for us to lose our jobs - for even the slightest misuse of force. Most of us simply won't risk it. Given the chance to walk away, we usually do. Are you telling me these guards willingly put their livelihoods on the line simply to pull a power trip on an obscure midlister who rents a one room apartment? C'mon. There must be more to the story.

You don't know me. You're not describing me.

Would never presume to. But I'm more than willing to get to know you and hear your side of things.

I mentioned at the time it might have been anything from a heart attack to a bad burrito; the fact that he seemed hale and hearty a few days later implied the latter. How is this an elitist or offensive thing to say?

This is the guy who's going to decide your fate. Given my experience with the law and courts, if I was you, I wouldn't talk about him at all.

As for my comments about the border guards, yeah, I said those things. I meant them. I mean them.

You're pissed. Understandable. But they've got guns. And the power to put you away for a couple of years. Again, if I was you: I wouldn't talk about them at all. Comments made in public forums (such as blogs) are admissable as character evidence in court. The prosecution will try and paint you as a wild-eyed loose cannon who has issues with authority. Why give them fodder? (Rope. Enough. Hang self. Catch my drift?)

I suspect your feelings might trend the same way under similar circumstances.

What was that quote? Oh yeah ... "You don't know me. You're not describing me."

What I've experienced and not experienced in terms of violence, oppression, enforcement, critical incidents, surveillance and torture (really) might surprise you. Those experiences mark the difference between how I reacted under similar (and worse) circumstances and how you did. Chalk it up to a practical education in the realpolitik of law enFORCEment (like the one you're unfortunately receiving right now). Rather than get into a pissing contest about who has suffered more, riddle me this: Given your experiences, might you react differently now under similar circumstances? How so?

Intelligent answers to those questions are the kind of thing you want read into the record.

these are the people who chained my friend to a rail for six hours, telling him (when he wanted to use the john) that he could piss his in pants for all they cared

Unpleasant. But they could have shot him. Or you. Or both. That happens sometimes. Seriously. Count your blessings.

To quote Dylan: "This world is ruled by violence." It's ugly and sick and sad but Might Makes Right in the world or law and order. My point: when confronting the Man, be obedient and cooperative. You'll save yourself a lot of time and pain. And money. And jail time - something most people want to avoid. Unless you're Gandhi. Or Thoreau. And have some amazing point you intend to bring to the world by sacrificing your freedom. If you see yourself in their league, then I take my hat off to you. But to me, the world just ain't worth it.

Sincere best wishes and good luck.
uplinktruck
Feb. 19th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
Good points in both posts. I don't think I can add to either side. If my overseers permit, I'll be there on the 17th.

Edited at 2010-02-19 12:06 am (UTC)
megasquid
Feb. 20th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
What was that quote? Oh yeah ... "You don't know me. You're not describing me."

Touché. In my defense, I did describe my presumption as a mere suspicion.

That said, though, I'm having difficulty reconciling your claim that

"People in the enforcement field work under very strict guidelines and it's easy for us to lose our jobs - for even the slightest misuse of force. Most of us simply won't risk it."

with your subsequent statement that

"they could have shot him. Or you. Or both. That happens sometimes."

And, yeah; the public record seems to be that it does happen. Whether it's Polish immigrants tasered to death in Vancouver, First-Nations folks abandoned in snowdrifts during the "Starlight Tours" on the Prairies, or here in Toronto when some poor Jamaican dude gets beaten up and arrested after waiting for the police to appear (following an incident he wasn't even involved in) so that he could offer his services as a witness — I see no great evidence that LEOs feel any great fear of losing their jobs over such behavior. More often than not, it's only the fortuitous presence of bystanders with cell phones that even gets these incidents it into the public eye in the first place. (And that's only up here in genteel Canada; New York and LA and a myriad points between have their own scandals, as I'm sure you know.)

I've no first-hand insights about what it's like to serve in Law Enforcement (my grandfather was a Mountie, but that was a different time). I have followed the mainstream coverage of various independent commissions and reports that have occurred in the wake of various incidents over the years, though (the Toronto PD is especially newsworthy in this regard). The common conclusion seems to be that these problems are endemic to the whole system; that while the infamous "few bad apples" may be responsible for most of the outright assaults, they are protected by a police culture that demands absolute loyalty to your fellows. I can see why this persists; you can't function in dangerous situations without knowing that the other guy has your back. But it does seem like a shield for a lot of abuse, and as someone with an inside view of the culture I'd welcome your thoughts.

The fact is, though, that while I've always been aware that this kind of behavior existed, I never really internalized it on a personal level because it had never happened to me before. It had a kind of theoretical sheen to it. I didn't get out of the car because I was trying to pick a fight; I got out of the car because it never occurred to me that a fight was even in the cards. I wanted to know what was going on; I assumed I'd be safe in asking, at least at first.

To quote Dylan: "This world is ruled by violence." It's ugly and sick and sad but Might Makes Right in the world or law and order. My point: when confronting the Man, be obedient and cooperative. You'll save yourself a lot of time and pain. And money. And jail time - something most people want to avoid.

I can't disagree with any of this — but then again, you no longer seem to be telling me that I'm a cultural elitist who might make Uplinktruck lose his lunch (and I'm grateful for that). What you are telling me is that it doesn't matter that I wasn't doing anything wrong; I simply shouldn't have engaged these folks as equals. I should have kept my eyes down and my mouth shut, no matter how reasonable my questions, no matter how odd the circumstances that provoked them.

Pragmatically, in hindsight, it's hard to disagree. But these are the rules one uses for dealing with biker gangs and grizzly bears. If we're at a point where we also have to apply them to those charged with upholding the law, something is seriously fucked somewhere.

Cheers,
P.
timesygn
Feb. 20th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
First off (all verbal jousting aside): how are you holding up? Regardless of the cause(s) of your experiences, no doubt your plod through the legal labyrinth has been exhausting.

To your points ...

The common conclusion seems to be that these problems are endemic to ... a police culture that demands absolute loyalty to your fellows.

What I see that is unique about the security/police nanocosm is its hyper-compartmentalization and veneration of hierarchy. Little fiefdoms sprout up and people at the top turn a blind eye to abuses except when Things go Horribly Wrong. Then they react swiftly and decisively (and accoridng to SOPs) to protect their jobs. This breeds paranoia. Bluntly? Fear keeps the entire works greased and functioning.

I admit that my take on your plight was influenced by my own survival instincts within that culture - honed to a razor's edge due to my being something of an independent thinker (definitely endangered in that milieu - I've lost jobs because of it).

But. The same siege mentality that makes it tricky to step out of line ensures ranks close swiftly when trouble arises. Just remember: these guys aren't geniuses. They don't have to be. They simply must be capable of reacting swiftly according to a checklist. It keeps the peace, but can lead to trouble (as you discovered).

I didn't get out of the car because I was trying to pick a fight ... I wanted to know what was going on; I assumed I'd be safe in asking ...

Perfectly reasonable - except when one considers context (border, post-9/11, all that.) And it's a perfect storm. Writer Guy thinks: Shit, this is crazy. I'm perfectly harmless! I just wanna know what's going on. Security Guy thinks: Failure to comply. Checklist ... Shit, now he's getting out of the fucking car! Escalate! And there you are, suddenly in handcuffs.

From an insider's perspective, this:

I recently engaged in a confrontation with a guy at my place of work. He had come in a few weeks before and had an altercation with an employee during which he threatened to hit her. So I captured his image on CCTV and, when he came back, I stopped him and bluntly told him to get out and never come back. When I dealt with him, I didn't - couldn't - think about anything except the fact that he had threatened one of my protectees. If the guy had so much as twitched, I would have trashed him. (My partner, in fact, came close.) Blinders went on. It's the nature of the work.

What you are telling me is that ... I should have kept my eyes down and my mouth shut ...

Yeah. But I think you've figured that out. Let the judge know.

If we're at a point where we also have to apply them to those charged with upholding the law, something is seriously fucked somewhere.

Yeah. It's partially the System. But it's something else, too. At the risk of sounding a little dramatic ...

See, Peter, there really is a war going on. Two wars, actually. An extrernal one against terrorists and an internal one against criminals. Because both will stop at nothing, cops and security folks like us kind of have to be hard-asses. In the past four years, and I've been in upwards of 75+ physical confrontations. Got the scars to prove it, too. Cops got more. Soldiers and national security people - way more. That's what's fucked up - the lengths to which bad guys will go to bring the war to us, the people charged with protecting your safety.

And then there's folks like you who walk into the middle of the things and get hit. Collateral damage. But it could have been worse. You could have gotten seriously creamed (as in killed). Rules of engagement at the American border are essentially military. It is my understanding that civil law does not apply within the fifty miles of the so-called Border Security Zone. You were roughed up, jailed, terrorized and humiliated. But thank God they didn't deem you a national security risk.

But you're still in a tough spot. I'll do anything I can to help, even if it's just to offer moral support.

Count on it.

~j.
uplinktruck
Feb. 22nd, 2010 05:06 am (UTC)
Part I
There are a couple of things that trouble me about Peter's perceptions of how things really work.

Peter questions Jamie's assertion that law enforcement agents can be fired for breaking rules and that this is especially true when it comes to excessive force complaints.

I will second Jamie's version. The officers I know dread getting excessive use of force complaints. Even unsubstantiated reports go into their permanent files and can effect their careers.

An effective complaint does not require a video camera. In some cases, all it needs is a good lawyer.

Yes, Peter or his acquaintance could have ended up shot. Police shootings have occurred under more ridiculous conditions then someone jumping out of a car and refusing to get back in it.

Yes, if it is a bad shooting the officer involved is fired and in most cases criminally charged in the matter. But the point is, the person shot is still shot. No amount of shooting board findings, disciplinary actions and criminal charges is going to undo that.

Neither Jamie nor myself are telling Peter to put up with abusive authority. What we are saying is that there is a right way and a wrong way to make that challenge.

As for not being familiar with what it is like to be in law enforcement, that's easy. Go on a few ride-a-longs. Sign up, get in the car, open your mind and your eyes and prepare to have your view of the world forever changed.

There is no better education then to see it for yourself.

Peter's thought about having to treat law enforcement with downcast eyes is not accurate. You can treat them as equals to a point. You can chat with them, even joke with them. I know I do.

But again, there is a time and place for everything. Stopped in traffic and exiting your car while they are trying to keep the line moving is not that time.

I don't know what Peter's attitude was when he got out of the car that night. But one thing is clear regardless of his attitude, when the officers said, "Get back in your car," he did not.

That was not the time to chat, joke around or seriously question the motives of the officers on the scene. This is especially true with the 20/20 hindsight knowledge that their reasons would have been cheerfully given once the car was parked.

There was no way Peter was going to win that argument right there on the street. Not then, not now, not ever.

Jamie hit the nail on the head when he wrote, "Writer Guy thinks: Shit, this is crazy. I'm perfectly harmless! I just wanna know what's going on. Security Guy thinks: Failure to comply. Checklist ... Shit, now he's getting out of the fucking car! Escalate! And there you are, suddenly in handcuffs."

This is a matter of perceptions. Peter, who unquestionably knows himself to be no threat to anyone, sees no problem with jumping out of the car to point out the incredible stupidity of stopping the mild mannered, law abiding writer. The Border Officers who see a guy that got out of his car, is demanding answers to questions right then and now, probably blocking the line (not sure on that one) and ignoring repeated commands to return to the vehicle.

Like Jamie said, the perfect storm.

He and I are not the only ones that agree with this. The comments on this blog entry include a couple entries from law enforcement along with one that flamed me unmercifully in your honor.
uplinktruck
Feb. 22nd, 2010 05:07 am (UTC)
Part II
Peter may very well have been unjustly and unmercifully assaulted at the border. If that is the case, I'm all in favor of justice for him and retribution against those who did it.

But if there is the slightest chance Peter bears more then a fairly small fraction of the responsibility for what happened, it is my strongest recommendation that he pursue the first deal that guarantees no jail time. As a first offender it is possible to get a deferred prosecution that will leave no record and the freedom to come go across the border in pursuit of his career.

It is my sincere hope that Peter work exclusively in his own interest in this case. He should not let the people that so love to hate the United States and its policies pressure him into a fight that he cannot win simply because a lot of people want to see it. Those that would love to hold Peter up as a martyr to the cause win if Peter wins. They win even bigger if Peter loses.

But when it is all over and done with, Peter is the one on the hook here. The angered masses will go on with their lives just as before no matter what happens to Peter.

Edited at 2010-02-22 05:08 am (UTC)
timesygn
Feb. 22nd, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Part II

Police shootings have occurred under more ridiculous conditions then someone jumping out of a car and refusing to get back in it.

Sadly true. For any who doubt, two words: Amadou Diallo.

Neither Jamie nor myself are telling Peter to put up with abusive authority. What we are saying is that there is a right way and a wrong way to make that challenge.

Amen. If those DHS officers were actively screwing with Peter, then he'll find no stronger champion than yours truly. When it comes to abuse of citizens, victims have surprisingly vocal and effective allies within the enforcement/security community. But tapping that resource (such as IAD Divisions, citizens advocate groups, etc.) involves reaching out. Nobody who does this job with anything resembling a conscience or heart wants to see the people we protect harmed. Nobody.

But if there is the slightest chance Peter bears more then a fairly small fraction of the responsibility for what happened, it is my strongest recommendation that he pursue the first deal that guarantees no jail time.

YES. Now here is my main concern regarding Peter and his situation ...

Charges of assault against officers are rarely pursued. (Think about it. If cops and security folks pressed charges every time we were assaulted, we would spend the majority of our shifts in court.) We know when we sign on that we're going to take our lumps and most of us are fine with that. In my experience, charges are usually only pressed when the authorities wish to make an example of somebody.

In such cases, guilt or innocence is fundamentally irrelevant. (Two more words: Leonard Peltier.) Bottom line? An officer was hurt/maimed/killed and "somebody has to pay." I don't want to see Peter maneuvered into such a position.

I believe Peter can get out of this, but he needs to step lightly and grab any lifelines thrown his way by the court. I don't want to see him suffer. Nothing would make me happier than to see him back in his apartment, banging away at his next novel. That's where he belongs.

The angered masses will go on with their lives just as before no matter what happens to Peter.

Yup.
uplinktruck
Feb. 22nd, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Part II
A friend and I were just discussing this. If the DA and or the Judge are aware of the category three net storm swirling around this matter, Peter may have a problem catching a deal here.

Peter's public statements on the matter as well as those adding their two cents worth in the comment section could be prejudicial to the prosecution. These deals are purely discretionary. There is no law that says they have to do anything in the way of deals.

The US Border Patrol may be looking for vindication after being publicly painted with the Peter's version of events across two countries. They, who work with the District Attorney on a daily basis, may ask that no quarter be given on this one. The defendant is not the only one that can demand their day in court.

I hadn't considered that aspect of this whole thing when I wrote the above comment. This could prove to be an interesting ride after all.
megasquid
Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
OK, there's a character limit on these comments. Huh. I'll post in two parts.

First off (all verbal jousting aside): how are you holding up?

Eh. Up and down. It kind of sits in your stomach like a small rock, even when you're out having a good time; there's always this subliminal awareness that something's not quite right. On the up side, I have a kick-ass exculpatory witness who was right there in the car, and the Prosecution's star witness floundered and reversed himself on a couple of key points during pretrial. On the down side, the opposition seems to be gunning for me all out of proportion even to their own charges; and my torn shirt and laptop came back to me in Homeland Security baggies, which as you can imagine just filled me with sunshine.

"What you are telling me is that ... I should have kept my eyes down and my mouth shut ..."
Yeah. But I think you've figured that out. Let the judge know.

Except I can't, not honestly, not in the I-was-wrong-and-I've-learned-my-lesson sense. I know that this is the way these things happen; but I don't think that's the way they should happen, and so penitence would be hypocritical. Dammit, we shouldn't have to treat these guys like bikers.

See, Peter, there really is a war going on. Two wars, actually. An extrernal one against terrorists and an internal one against criminals. Because both will stop at nothing, cops and security folks like us kind of have to be hard-asses. In the past four years, and I've been in upwards of 75+ physical confrontations. Got the scars to prove it, too. Cops got more. Soldiers and national security people - way more. That's what's fucked up - the lengths to which bad guys will go to bring the war to us, the people charged with protecting your safety.

Okay, I can buy this, as far as it goes. But I'd like to make two points. Firstly (and I'm sure you know this better than I) law enforcement does, I think, attract that subset of people who just like to throw their weight around. The War provides a reasonable excuse, but some people just get off on this stuff; without going into details, there are some indications that this was an element at play in my case.

Secondly — and without in any way denying the very real danger you guys find yourselves facing on an ongoing basis — my understanding is that there are even more dangerous jobs out there, and we as a society don't cut those folks any extra slack. Most involve Man Against Nature — Fishing and Timber-cutting are the two most hazardous professions according to a study that came out about a decade ago — so they don't really count. But down at #5 you've got Cab Drivers, who die at ten times the rate of the workforce at large; and the leading cause of those deaths, 70% of them, is homicide. Security guards have only a quarter that fatality rate; and law enforcement professions of any kind don't even show up in the top 10.

But if some cabbie should beat the shit out of his fare, would we cut him any slack because he works in a statistically-dangerous profession? Maybe we should, given the cabbie homicide rate. But we don't. There's a double standard here, and it makes me dubious of the whole War-Against-the-Bad-Guys rationale. (I also have the good grace to be dubious about bringing this up to a guy who actually does operate in law enforcement, because neither sf-writer nor marine-biologist have fatality rates close to either of the groups I'm pontificating on. I don't want to lecture someone who lives the life when all I'm doing is parroting stats that I've read about it; but dammit, if those stats are right, something's not adding up.)
megasquid
Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
Continued...

...It is my understanding that civil law does not apply within the fifty miles of the so-called Border Security Zone. You were roughed up, jailed, terrorized and humiliated. But thank God they didn't deem you a national security risk.

Amen. And the fact that border guards have so much more latitude than regular cops is something I was woefully ignorant of. I've been reading about ICE, and the kind of things they can get away with. In that sense I actually do feel lucky; I was told by the guard running my cell block that I was liable to get rearrested by ICE upon my release — even though I'd posted bail — then reincarcerated just to keep me in the country. That didn't happen, fortunately; but I was, for some reason, reassigned to General Pop after having paid my bail, only to be released an hour or two later. (I found out later that that was the hour or two during which the jail started getting calls from the Globe & Mail and the Canadian Consulate.)

But you're still in a tough spot. I'll do anything I can to help, even if it's just to offer moral support.

Thanks. Your perspective is really helpful to me right now; it's nice to be able to talk to someone who is both a) an LE insider, and b) doesn't actively want to see me ass-raped for being a smart-ass.

At least, I'm hoping condition b applies…
timesygn
Feb. 23rd, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
That this ordeal should be a weight on you is understandable. The System (particularly in the U.S.) gains cooperation by imposition of stress. There is a term in the enforcement/security world: pain compliance. We're taught to use it sparingly, but we do use it. The batons courts and judge wield are longer - I'm sorry their reach has extended into your private moments.

I'm glad that our discussions are proving useful. I mentioned your plight to my boss yesterday and asked for his perspective. Before coming to work for us, he ran a squad of detectives for the Calgary PD. A 30-year veteran of law enforcement, he's seen the inside of more courtrooms than many lawyers. I'll share his thoughts in a moment. But a brief detour is in order ...

You should know that I'm not a cop. (Nor do I have any legal training beyond that which is necessary for me to do my job.) I no longer hold peace officer status, but now work in the security division of a large private corporation with global reach. My background is primarily in the private sector (I'm currently licensed as a PI/LPO/SO). My history in security and enforcement has included detours into by-law enforcement, health-care security and corrections. As for my current posting, this: we're a fairly elite undercover service that works with the cops extensively. (Part of my job, in fact, involves surveillance, investigation and working with the Crown on prosecution.) I just want to be clear on these points because you have a right to know who you are dealing with.

You should also know that I cannot divulge the name of the company I work for. But my boss is aware of our discussion. And approves.

He expressed sympathy for your plight. (Like a lot of law enforcement types with a long work history, L.'s youthful machismo has given way to a weary compassion.) He pointed out the differences between the U.S. and Canadian models of enforcement and security and identified these as contributing to the problem. He mentioned the fact that beating the System in the U.S. is essentially impossible and that you are in a tough spot. I asked what advice he would offer.

"Apologize," L. said. "Profusely. Mitigate the damage. Get clear of it. Move on."

(He wasn't familiar with Peter Watts the sci-fi author. L. is more of a Clive Cussler-type. But let's not hold that against him ...)
timesygn
Feb. 23rd, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)

Continued ...

Of course, I hear what you're saying - about being reluctant to show contrition. You're a smart guy who knows that things should not operate the way they do. (And by the way, most cops I know would agree with yout that we shouldn't have to treat law enforcement like bikers.) That's a worthy discussion and one we should have in a free society. But I'm not sure that your trial is the correct forum. Ideally, it should be (Socrates and all that). But it doesn't work out that way in practice.

I mentioned corrections earlier ...

I've done an internship in the warden's office of a for-profit prison in Arizona (- I lived in the U.S. for 22 years before returning to Canada). I've attended corrections officer training (in medium security settings in Canada, which included orientation on maximum security). And my mother and father both went to prison. So I know a thing or two about the world "behind the wire" ...

And you don't want to go there. Trust me.

I don't know what your lawyer is telling you. But if s/he is counseling you to cut a deal, apologize, what-have-you: take it. Seriously. I'm not you, of course, and so don't know the facts "on the ground," but if there's a way out of this mess short of handing over your first-born, I'd take it in a heartbeat. For the record, I do not want to see you ass-raped. Being a smart-ass is a comparatively small fault (just ask my boss L., who puts up with it from me on a fairly consistent basis). But there are things about prison that I wouldn't wish on anyone - things that are not apparent until you've spent extensive time inside. Things that combine to make the experience of incarceration more horrific than, well ...

The character limit on these comments seems to be getting shorter. If you're continuing to find this useful, then I can start a new thread on the blog, we can move to e-mail or if you like, I can provide you more direct contact info. One thing I'd encourage you to do if you haven't already is to read uplinktruck's comments. He's a sharp guy and his insights may also prove useful.

I feel moved to add this. As regards anyone who may be pushing you to make a fight of this, remember: it's easy for THEM to sacrifice YOUR freedom.

Just a thought.
uplinktruck
Mar. 5th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
Peter,

I know of no other way to reach you other then through this blog. Something has gone wrong. Call your attorney ASAP.

In reviewing your case on line this afternoon I found that there was to be some kind of plea hearing today. Neither you nor your lawyer showed up. Your bond was revoked and the judge issued a bench warrant for you.

Check it out for yourself:
- http://www.stclaircounty.org/DCS/search.aspx
- Put in your case number: 09-003320-FH -OR- enter you name and take the second link that comes up which gets you to circuit court.
- Click on events.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page.
16
3/5/2010
MISCELLANOUS HEARING
DEFENDANT DID NOT PLEA; PLEA
ONLY AS CHARGED; BENCH
WARRANT TO BE ISSUED; BOND IS
REVOKED
CED

Someone, hopefully not you or your attorney, screwed up here. You need to get this taken care of before you try to come back here. You could be arrested at the border trying to go court.

P.S. I just talked to the court clerk, (810) 985-2031. She said this is not a clerical error. I don't want to see anyone hosed twice for the same mistake. I'm going to call your lawyer as well.

Once you read this, post a note. Jamie will probably kill it off for you.




Edited at 2010-03-05 07:40 pm (UTC)
megasquid
Mar. 5th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
Hi. Thanks for the heads-up.

I just found out about this myself; got a call from my lawyer's associate asking if I knew anything about it (I did not), and then, only a few minutes later, someone posted a LJ entry speculating that my failure to appear was some kind of political statement.

In fact, nobody told me of any scheduled appearance. And my lawyer is incommunicado on vacation all week, so he pretty obviously wasn't told either. I do not know what is going on here. It could be incompetence, it could be malice. I wish I could say there was no precedent for either in the history of this case.

Interesting times. Thanks again for the assist.

P.
uplinktruck
Mar. 5th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
Got to watch those fortune cookies and interesting times. Glad you found out about it.

Political statement indeed... We might not agree on a few things here and there, but I don't think you are an idiot. If you are still on for the 16th, it looks like I can make that.
uplinktruck
Mar. 5th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
P.S. Did you go through a bondsman or is this all in house? If you went through a bondsman, you might have bigger problems on your hands. A bondsman will come and collect you the minute he/she is notified that the bond is revoked.

Peter, this isn't right. Perhaps one of your lawyer's partner's can get to the bottom of this before the weekend starts?

Good luck.
megasquid
Mar. 6th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
In house, I think-- at least, I paid over the phone, talking to no one but the Visa representative.

No, it's not right. It hasn't been right since the word go; it's just been getting not-righter ever since (this isn't the first time the opposition has done, well, questionable things). But there was no hope of getting this resolved before the weekend; my lawyer is literally on an island, unreachable, until next week. The guy I spoke to knew nothing, and could do nothing. He called to ask if I knew what was going on.

Thanks for the wishes. And for not regarding me as an idiot. (I kinda wish more people would do that.)
timesygn
Mar. 5th, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)

I'm going to start calling you K. from now on.
megasquid
Mar. 6th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
What's especially troubling about this is that I was right there in the courtroom when my lawyer stated, on the record, that he would not be available this week. So we're not just talking about someone forgetting to inform the Defense; we're talking about someone scheduling an appearance during a time the Defense is explicitly unavailable, and then forgetting to inform them. Which, in combination, looks a little less like forgetfulness and a little more like something else.

I don't mean to sound paranoid (not that that's easy right about now), but since I'm going by K. anyway; it's been pointed out that if this doesn't get sorted out, I get arrested the moment I try to cross the border for my own trial. Which means that the Prosecution has the option of dragging me before the jury in shackles and an orange jumpsuit, rather than the nice button-down attire I'd otherwise be wearing. At the very least, I bet I'm gonna have a blast getting Visa to reverse the charges for the balance of my (now revoked) bail.
timesygn
Mar. 6th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)

The humor is, of course, intended only as a mild pain reliever. Nothing funny about your situation ... but there is something decidedly Kafka-esque going on here.

I read this turn of events as pure malice on the prosecution's part. It is hard for anyone who hasn't lived for an extended period in the States to fathom how the clout wielded by special interests can influence the System. I'll admit, Peter, that I was originally in the camp of those who saw you as having had the bad luck (and bad judgment) to simply run afoul of the law. But I have since modified this view. There's something going on here. I hate to say it, but I believe DHS has decided to use the Watts incident as a precedent-setting case. In other words, they're making an example of you. God only knows why.

Lawyers, like dentists, often designate colleagues to deal with client arisings in periods of absence. Perhaps yours ..?

You're not an idiot.

Enjoy the video.
uplinktruck
Mar. 7th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
I'm willing to bet the Category 3 internet storm surrounding this mess has a great deal to do with any hard nosed attitude by the prosecution. Very little of what has been written (regardless of where it rates on the factual scale) is going to set well with the officers or prosecutor. In fact, the trial hasn't even been heard yet and few have disparaged the judge and jury.

The officers are going to be pissed over being resented in such a bad light (whether or not they earned it). The prosecution and government are going to be more then a little bent over all the anti-authority/anti-border patrol/anti-US Government/pro-anarchy posts this brought out. The judge, if he's seen any of it, won't be entirely delighted with his portrayal either.

I just reread the events page posted by the court. The problem you are going to have is that this arraignment hearing was set back on 1/22/10. It was set at the the same time your trial was set.

It is kind of a head scratch moment. Logic would say you have already been arraigned on the matter (plead guilty or not guilty) since you have a jury trial slated on the 16th. Yet your failure to appear and warrant are stemming from missing your arraignment.

I don't get it. But I'm not a lawyer. Hopefully the record of that day will show that this some kind of mistake. You don't need additional charges stemming from a failure to appear.
timesygn
Mar. 5th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)

Peter has already posted about this at his own blog. He is apparently aware of the situation and believes it will be sorted out in due course (which is probably a safe assumption).

Caution, however, is very much in order. Following the obvious consultation with counsel, Peter might do well to make a pre-emptive call to Toronto PD informing them of his wherabouts and assuring them of his absolute intention to keep them apprised of same. Since 9/11, the mechanics of cross-border transfers have been rendered into a fairly seamless rendition formula, so it's very possible for local Five-Oh to do their American cousins a favor and pick him up. Given the outlandish trajectory this entire situation has taken, an extra ounce of prevention at this end would not be amiss.
(Deleted comment)
timesygn
Feb. 19th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Re: забавапано

I have no idea who belanna is - nor do I speak Russian. However, Babelfish translates the above-captioned comment thusly:

very interestingly although to the end and she did not understand) student orgies mom and daughter [porno] the stories

This is either a comment on some obscure story involving incest or a Web-porn ad-bot gone bersek. Regardless: thanks for playing.

uplinktruck
Feb. 21st, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: забавапано
It's a spam robot pushing Russian porn.
uplinktruck
Feb. 22nd, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC)
Re: забавапано
Awwwww... They killed off our friendly Russian porn spam bot. :(
timesygn
Feb. 23rd, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
Re: забавапано

Bastards! :)
uplinktruck
Mar. 10th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
Someone filed an emergency motion to set aside the warrant today. And the beat goes on...
( 28 comments )