The Supreme Court’s controversial sentencing decision of last week has resulted in the early release of Washington, D.C.’s “tractor man.” The Washington Post reports that Dwight Watson, still wearing his navy blue jail uniform, was set free last night, nearly 16 months after driving his tractor onto the Mall and making a phony bomb threat in a protest that paralyzed traffic. The North Carolina tobacco farmer was assailed by federal prosecutors as a domestic terrorist after his 47-hour standoff with police. One of his attorneys, A.J. Kramer, quoted Watson as saying, “if he had to do it all over again, he would have never done it.
A federal appellate court rejected the Justice Department’s last-chance effort to keep him locked up. U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson cut Watson’s sentence six-year sentence to 16 months. With credit for good behavior, the term was over. In a 5 to 4 ruling in an unrelated case, the high court said judges cannot increase sentences beyond statutory guidelines for factors not proved to a jury. Jackson had done that, adding time for the disruption Watson caused, as well as for lies he allegedly told the jury.