What happened to intent to commit a crime?
November 8, 2002 3:08 PM   Subscribe

What happened to intent to commit a crime? Jalbert, a resident of Pohenegamook, Que., was arrested on Oct. 11 after failing to stop at the local border crossing. He had crossed into a neighbouring Maine town to fill up his truck with gasoline before a weekend hunting trip. U.S. officials noticed a hunting rifle on his front seat. A subsequent computer search by American authorities revealed that he had a criminal record in Canada, related to a 12-year-old breaking and entering conviction. Now he's facing four months in jail. An editorial in the Maine newspaper The Portland Herald called the decision to keep Jalbert locked up "odd" and said he "is no threat to anyone (unless you're a duck)."
posted by Coop (22 comments total)
This article doesn't really state what crime he was charged with. Does anyone know how remote border crossing areas like this work?
posted by reverendX at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2002

The PPH editorial mentioned in the article (scroll down to the very bottom) gives some more background.

Apparently alien felons are not allowed to sneak across the border. Doesn't sound so unreasonable to me. Jail time does seem a little over the top, but on the other hand, given the times, we really don't want people sneaking across the Canadian border with guns.
posted by boltman at 3:30 PM on November 8, 2002

boltman: I'm not sure that a 12 year old breaking and entering conviction qualifies someone as a felon, I know for a fact it doesn't in NY.

Your use of the word 'sneak' also sounds a little off. Driving 15 meters to buy gas doesn't strike me as stealthy at all. The original linked article said the town straddles the border.

I too am curious about the layout of something like this... 15 meters is less than a block... do they draw a line across the street? What's this guy gonna do, assassinate a moose? We'll probably be hearing more about this, the editorial says the Feds are considering additional charges. either there is a lot more to this guy than they're saying or they picked a real bad test case.
posted by cedar at 4:25 PM on November 8, 2002

According to the Bangor Daily News the only paved road out of town is via the Canadian border. So whatever nefarious deeds this guy was going to do would have been limited to Estcourt Station.

I saw a news report about this. They showed the gas station and then the border station and they appeared to be quite close. The weird thing is that this seems to be an integrated community, so you would think that the border guard would know this guy to see him.
posted by smcniven at 4:30 PM on November 8, 2002

smciven: Thanks for the link, that adds some background... you know, like, "... for the last 12 years with the written blessing of the U.S. Customs Service - drive 150 feet into U.S. territory to buy gas without first checking in at the U.S. border station, another mile down the road. "

And for this he sits in jail missing hunting season and his family, what the hell were these Barney Fife woodchucks thinking arresting him and what are the courts thinking holding him. This is ridiculous.
posted by cedar at 4:52 PM on November 8, 2002

There can be zero tolerance in the fight against evil -- whether that evil is drugs, terrorism or Iraq. This man is where he belongs. I, for one, would feel a lot safer if they locked up all the Canadians. Commie pinko bastards.
posted by Slothrup at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2002

How does driving 45 feet across the border constiture "drugs, terrrorism, or Iraq"? He can't even go anywhere into the States from that gas station except back to Canada.
posted by Idea Factory at 5:40 PM on November 8, 2002

"I'm not sure that a 12 year old breaking and entering conviction qualifies someone as a felon, I know for a fact it doesn't in NY."

It was a conviction for burglary and possession of stolen property. I don't know the law in Maine, but in California, with that record it would be a felony for him to possess a gun, for any length of time, for any reason, for the rest of his life. I don't think California is unusual in that respect, either -- don't most states have laws against ex-felons possessing firearms?

Apparently the felony was enough to exclude him from entry under federal law, as well.
posted by xeney at 5:48 PM on November 8, 2002

I'm fairly sure that was meant as a joke, Idea Factory.

Coke > Nose > Monitor, by the way, Sloth
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 5:59 PM on November 8, 2002

It was a conviction for burglary and possession of stolen property.

This I wasn't aware of that, my use of 'breaking and entering' was based upon the initial link.

Nonetheless, (obligatory disclaimer: I am not a lawyer but I was a juvenile deliquent), in NY burglary 3rd and simple possesion of stolen property are both misdemeanors. Two such convictions do not prohibit ownership of a long gun.

On the other hand, I know about as much about Maine law as you do. As hard as that might be to believe, I know even less about Canadian law. Hell, I don't even know which apply, except I'm sure it's not NY or Cali.
posted by cedar at 6:01 PM on November 8, 2002

Lots of disturbing stuff going on lately. I tend to agree with the thought, ... posted by cedar "This is ridiculous."

For another look at ridiculous, Racine Wisconsin - 450 people cited and written tickets for about 1,000 [U.S. dollars] apiece, because they were at a party and they should have guessed drugs would be there and are therefor guilty.

This person was slammed on the pool table, roughed around, and forcibly handcuffed because he wouldn't sit down. Why? He has a metal rod in his leg, and he has to keep it straight, thus, sitting on the floor would be difficult. This person is also a member of DanceSafe.org. He had bruises and lacerations after this. Look at all the people that saw it happen right in front of them.

more at: hauntedhouseparty.com

Police Corral Hundreds...
posted by qui at 6:33 PM on November 8, 2002

I don't think Maine law has anything to do with it. Crossing the border from Canada is a federal thing, not state. Surely it's the U.S. deciding who gets to come in, not Maine?
posted by JanetLand at 7:07 PM on November 8, 2002

Oh, and this page, from the Canadian gov't, makes it quite clear that having any kind of conviction on your record can be baaaad news at the border, and it specifically mentions detention (scroll down about half way). If anybody wants to try searching the United States Code for the specific relevant law(s), it's here.
posted by JanetLand at 7:25 PM on November 8, 2002

Close the fucking border. Stick jobsworths in funny hats every 100 yards for the entire length of it. Build a big long wall: it worked for Hadrian, or the Chinese, or even the East Germans. After all, the Republicans are in control now.

For the benefit of Canada, of course.
posted by riviera at 7:27 PM on November 8, 2002

Reporter: "What about increased drug traffick at the border?"

Canadian PM Jean Chrétien: "Trucks? No problem! We'll take as many as possible!"

Bill Clinton: "hey we're talking about DRUGS!"

I saw that bit somewhere once... it's reportedly true.
posted by titboy at 8:11 PM on November 8, 2002

riviera: I gotta ask, it's driving me nuts. What's a 'jobsworth' ?
posted by cedar at 8:38 PM on November 8, 2002

Why not just send him back with a HUGE FINE? Why arrest him for four months? Something seems really stupid here.
posted by Idea Factory at 8:51 PM on November 8, 2002

cedar: sorry for the briticism. 'jobsworth' is slang for the kind of official, or manager, who refuses to bend the rules or deviate from the script because to judge things on their merits is 'more than my job's worth'. (Google is your friend here.)

I read one of Bill Bryson's books the other month (blame the Tube) and he talked about the way that American bureaucrats are much less likely to turn a blind eye. Now, it's understandable, post sept. 11th, that slack practice is frowned upon, but some random quebecker with a gun? Surely American Francophobia (PeePee excepted) doesn't go that far.
posted by riviera at 8:58 PM on November 8, 2002


The guy gets exactly what he deserved. First, if you commit crimes in a foreign country, you don't go back unless you want to pay the time.

Second, you're a fool if you bring rifles into foreign countries without considering the necessary licenses, etc.

The only other thing I can think to say to the Americans is "Why do you want to keep him there?" He's obviously a moron... one would think the US would just reject him and say "Get the hell back in Canada".

This all comes under the heading of "That's the price you pay for putting vehicle into motion before brain is in gear".
posted by shepd at 10:10 PM on November 8, 2002

Too many case examples, or others sacrificed to show how the law is working?

I sometimes think this is taking the heat off the administration and its lack to really get things done.

It also takes heat off the administration for the grand amount of debt all these case examples are costing us in the long run.

Sure they can arrest and quickly confine some average Joe, but they cannot find the important answers, can they?


On the other hand with words like Homeland Security[sounds awfully like some notorious regimes in world and power history], and special teams being made up[I won't even comment on what this sounds like] - I do believe some people on U.S. soil need to start using their heads or changing the lightbulb. But it will happen, eventually.
posted by qui at 4:43 AM on November 9, 2002

Having watched several TV news reports on this particular matter, I can report a few other important details that were left out of the CTV news article for brevity's sake. (I have also passed by Pohenegamook myself many times over the years...)

First of all, Pohenegamook is a very small village straddling the Canada-US border. You pass by the border, about 45-50 feet past it is the gas station in question and the actual customs buildings are about a kilometer farther down the road. For a number of years, and according to a letter from a high Customs official, residents are allowed to fill up with gas *without* having to go and report to the customs officers. (This exception was confirmed in a 1990 letter written by the district director of the U.S. Customs Service. *see links to article farther down) This has a lot to do with the fact that since Pohenegamook is such a tiny place, the customs office usually closes at 2-3pm. On quiet days, it can close as early as 1pm. So it's pretty hard to "report" to someone if the office isn't even open!!

Secondly, the day they arrested him, there were about 4-5 other people gassing up at the same station -- none of them were bothered or even questioned as to where they were from (ie: Canadian or American citizens). They went directly after this guy... coincidence? Or were they specifically hunting for someone with whom to make an example?

After the government memo was brought up showing that there had been an understanding about this cross-border gas purchases in Pohenegamook, that is when the arresting officials brought up the gun charge, not before.

They are detaining him in a prison over 5 hours drive from his home. His wife, who is 5 months pregnant, and takes care of their 5 year old daughter, has only seen him once or twice since his arrest, since she can't get there easily. Jalbert only speaks French and can't even communicate with his captors, nor was he able to understand anything the arresting officers said to him at the gas station.

Here are links to several articles, that might help to clarify some possible misconceptions concerning the details surrounding this case:

Canadian Who Filled Tank in U.S. Indicted (Globe and Mail)

Jailing Mr. Jalbert (Globe and Mail)

Free Michel Jalbert (Editorial, Bangor Daily News)

Lawyer Says 1990 Letter May Help Jailed Canadian (Portland Press Herald)

U.S. Approved Gas Trips For Quebeckers (Globe and Mail)

Charges Mount Against Canadian Jailed in Cross-border Gas Dispute
(CBC News)

In a related event:

The Quebec provincial police has opened an assault investigation after witnesses reported two Border Patrol agents beat up a Quebec man outside a bar, then rolled off in their official jeep. The incident occurred in the little border town of Daaquam, QC, about 100 kilometres down the border from Pohénégamook, QC, where forestry worker Michel Jalbert was arrested when he went 15 metres into U.S. territory to buy a tank of gas. Mr. Jalbert remains in prison in Maine but the Border Patrol officers are back in the U.S. - prompting outrage from local residents and local Liberal MP Gilbert Normand. (Globe and Mail)

Now, with these clarifying articles, perhaps Metafites can have a more educated and level-headed discussion about the matter, not just guesses and accusations... right folks?

posted by Jade Dragon at 9:56 AM on November 9, 2002

Thank-you for the personal experience and comprehensive links... the more I read about this case the stranger it seems.

... perhaps Metafites can have a more educated and level-headed discussion...

This is irony, right?
posted by cedar at 5:01 PM on November 9, 2002

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