Skip to comments.Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border
Posted on 12/12/2009 9:34:58 AM PST by Hank KerchiefEdited on 12/13/2009 6:59:02 AM PST by Admin Moderator. [history]
My friend, the wonderful sf writer Peter Watts was beaten without provocation and arrested by US border guards on Tuesday. I heard about it early Wednesday morning in London and called Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She worked her contacts to get in touch with civil rights lawyers in Michigan, and we mobilized with Caitlin Sweet (Peter's partner) and David Nickle (Peter's friend) and Peter was arraigned and bailed out later that day.
But now Peter faces a felony rap for "assaulting a federal officer" (Peter and the witness in the car say he didn't do a thing, and I believe them). Defending this charge will cost a fortune, and an inadequate defense could cost Peter his home, his livelihood and his liberty.
Peter's friends are raising money for his legal defense. I just sent him CAD$1,000, because this is absolutely my biggest nightmare: imprisoned in a foreign country for a trumped-up offense against untouchable border cops. I would want my friends to help me out if it ever happened to me.
Update: Here's more from Peter, in his own words: "Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, [expletive deleted by Mod], handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three [expletive deleted by Mod] hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario's first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.
"In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face."
Sf writer David Nickle writes,
Hugo-award-nominated science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts is in serious legal trouble after he was beaten, pepper-sprayed and imprisoned by American border guards at a Canada U.S. border crossing December 8. This is a call to friends, fans and colleagues to help.
Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond
and walkedwas taken across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He's home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.
The charge is spurious. But it's also very serious. It could mean two years in prison in the United States, and a ban on travel in that country for the rest of Peter's life. Peter is mounting a vigorous defense, but it's going to be expensive - he's effectively going up against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he needs the best legal help that he can get.
He's got that help, courtesy of one of the top criminal lawyers in the State of Michigan. We, Peter's friends and colleagues here in Canada, want to make sure he gets the help he needs financially to come out of this nightmare whole.
The need for that help is real. While Peter is a critically successful science fiction writer, he is by no means a best-selling author. Without help, the weight of his legal fees could literally put him on the street by spring.
We can't let that happen. So there's going to be fundraising.
We're going to think of something suitable in the New Year - but immediately, anyone who wants to help can do so easily. Peter's website, rifters.com, has a link to a PayPal account, whimsically named the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund. He set it up years ago for fans of the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight and his Rifters books, to cover veterinary bills for the cats he habitually rescues from the mean streets of Toronto. Peter has made it clear that he doesn't want to use the veterinary money to cover his lawsuit. But until we can figure out a more graceful conduit for the legal fund, that's the best place to send donations for now. Just let Peter know that the donation's for his legal defense, and that's where it will go.
Here's the link to the backlist page on Peter's website, rifters.com, or you can just send a PayPal donation to email@example.com.
The link to the Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund is in the middle of the page. The page also links to Creative Commons editions of all his published work, which he's made available free. Peter would approve, we think, if you downloaded one or two or all of them. Whether you make a donation to the legal fund or not.
Update: David Nickle adds, "there's a very small correction I need to make to the account that's gone, erm, viral. I had thought that Peter had made his way back on foot; in fact, police released him in shirtsleeves at the Canadian side of the border. It was a winter storm, he was in shirtsleeves, but he didn't have to cross the bridge on foot.
I'd misunderstood Peter's account on that point. "
That is a bizarre story that, if true, doesn’t sound like the America I envision.
There’s more to this, I bet.
I would have a lot more sympathy if I didn’t see some lady called his “partner”. I have always hated that. If its a girlfriend, call her that geez. “Partner” means nothing at all.
Canadian? Sci-fi writer? Libertard X 2 ... kick him in the ass and deport him to Mexico.
It all happened in an alternate universe where anything can happen. All one has to do is dream it up...
Weird story. Next time he should wear a sheet, grow a long beard, and wear one of those funny knitted caps and they’ll probably wave him right through.
I think there’s a lot more to this story that this article is saying. This knucklehead got out of his car, did the officers ask him out or did he just get out on him own to be a bozo with the cops? I tend to think the later.
If you act stupid with the cops, you’ll pay the price.
I am not at all surprised. I travel internationally a lot and I dread crossing borders. The sad part I would almost rather cross any border than that of my own country.
“...He was on his way back to Canada when he was stopped by border guards...”
I live on the border. In the hundreds of times I have crossed into Canada, have never seen an exit inspection by US Customs/Border Security when leaving the United States.
dude most likely trying to generate publicity for himself.
The story really does sound like Sc-Fi.
If it is true he is either a smart ass or somebody didn’t
like his book.
I am sorry to be the one to say this, he got exactly what he deserved. When an officer of the law tells you to do something you do it. Protest later to his superiors if you feel your rights have been violated, but you comply first and complain later.
Given that this occured at an international border he should have been even more compliant.
I used to cross the US/ Canadian border on a regular basis both before and after 9/11. These people were always polite and profeswsional, but you did not mess with them before, and did not even think about it after. They are the fist line of defense in protecting the citizens of BOTH countries.
The has to be something else between here;
When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search...
...the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him.
Exactly. Ten to one he was interfering with the border guard in some way. F liberals.
Sorry, doesn’t ring true.
Just like with global “warming” - how about some real data instead of hearsay?
don’t forget, he is a sci-fi fiction writer
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