Local News

Judge Reduces Sentence For Farmer In D.C. Protest

Posted June 30, 2004 12:16 p.m. EDT

— U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson held a hearing Wednesday morning in which he reduced Dwight Watson's prison sentence from six years to just 16 months.

Public defender A.J. Kramer, who filed the paperwork seeking a sentencing review, said Watson's release is imminent. Watson already has served 15 months following his arrest in March of 2003.

Watson, a tobacco farmer dubbed "Tractor Man" had been sentenced to six years in connection with an incident that brought traffic in Washington, D.C., to a standstill for two days.

Watson, 51, of Whitakers, N.C., was handed the prison time for his conviction on charges of making a false threat to detonate explosives and destruction of federal property.

Jackson pointed to a Supreme Court ruling that came one day after last week's initial sentencing.

The high court ruled that only juries -- not judges -- can lengthen prison terms beyond the maximum set out in state sentencing guidelines.

That ruling applies only to a Washington state case. But Jackson said he was bound by it and that what he did was illegal.