s a member of the jury that convicted Mr. Watts today, I have a few comments to make. The jury's task was not to decide who we liked better. The job of the jury was to decide whether Mr. Watts "obstructed/resisted" the custom officials. Assault was not one of the charges. What it boiled down to was Mr. Watts did not follow the instructions of the customs agents. Period. He was not violent, he was not intimidating, he was not stopping them from searching his car. He did, however, refuse to follow the commands by his non compliance. He's not a bad man by any stretch of the imagination. The customs agents escalted the situation with sarcasm and miscommunication. Unfortunately, we were not asked to convict those agents with a crime, although, in my opinion, they did commit offenses against Mr. Watts. Two wrongs don't make a right, so we had to follow the instructions as set forth to us by the judge.
"I have no complaints about the judge, a seventysomething Irish dude with a fondness for St Patrick’s Day who drives a blood-red ‘vette."
So it sounds like the jury thought Watts was getting the shaft, the customs agents were assholes, but that Watts was guilty of the crap they charged him with. That's a reasonable position.
Looks like juries are turning into authoritarian assholes, too.
So, he had no right to refuse a search, and did so anyway. Then he got out of the car, got in the officers face and refused to get on the ground.
Needless to say, these stunts by the TSA are harming the industry. The US Travel Association may be a good place to crawl for stats. Their numbers indicate that these abuses are costing the US hundreds of thousands of jobs and many hundreds of billions of dollars.
Some have wondered why I’d ask what was going on in the first place, and why I would have to leave the vehicle to do that. After all, wasn’t it obvious what was going on? I answered these questions on the stand but the reportage seems a bit deficient in that area (the Times-Herald simply claimed that I felt that “the officers were required to answer my questions”), so I’ll get it out here:
There were two seriously weird things about this stop. Firstly, we were being pulled over while trying to leave the US, which in my experience was unprecedented (usually you expect to be stopped by officials from the country you’re entering). Secondly, the search began without my knowledge, without anyone asking me to “pop the trunk” so to speak. This was absolutely contrary to official protocols. Ron Smith, a spokesperson for the Port Huron detachment, confirmed this when commenting about this very case: “Of course they would have told the driver beforehand” (“Canadians Don’t Forfeit Right to Privacy at the Border”, C. Clarke, pA5 of the Dec 14 ‘09 edition of The Globe and Mail). But they did not. The first I knew of it was when I turned to see guards at every door, already going through our stuff.
I turned back to ask Behrendt what was going on, but she had moved away from the car and was talking to someone else at a distance. So I got out to ask what was going on; that was when everything went pear-shaped.
The point is, this was not a routine border check. In my experience, it was extremely unusual.
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