WHITAKERS, N.C. — Friends of Dwight Watson say a six-year prison sentence handed down to the Nash County farmer was too harsh.
Watson was convicted for his two-day standoff with police last year that shut down part of Washington, D.C. Friends and foes alike think his protest to raise awareness about tobacco issues was well intentioned, but over the top.
People in the small town of Whitakers, where Watson is from, never expected to get so much attention. He drove his tractor into a pond in Washington and claimed he had a bomb.
His reason for doing so? To draw attention to the struggle of tobacco farmers.
"Sadly enough, that did not get across," said Kay Fisher, Watson's friend and neighbor. "Only that a crazy farmer from Nash County went to Washington and drove in the Constitutional Pond."
Fisher said Watson felt the extreme protest was his only option. Fisher believes what Watson did was wrong, but said the 15 months he already has spent in jail is punishment enough.
"That's a long time out of somebody's life that did not set out to harm anyone bodily," Fisher said.
Just about everyone in Watson's Nash County community is talking about his case. Opinions on how he should be punished vary.
Neighbor George Parker said Watson is fortunate he only got six years.
"I think his sentence is fair in that Dwight had a point to get across, but I don't feel he went about it in the right way," Parker said.
Said Whitakers resident W.D. Williams: "When he went up there and threatened people that he had a bomb, he was kind of asking for it."
Many Nash County tobacco farmers hope Watson's protest did not misrepresent them because they all are hoping for some government help.
Watson's brother called WRAL late Thursday afternoon and said the family thinks Dwight has served enough time for his actions.