After nearly four months of court proceedings, Kraig Jacobson, 26, was released from Canadian custody after pleading guilty to failing to report his firearm at a Canadian border checkpoint.
Jacobson, along with his brother Kevin, traveled by motorcycle across the United States, raising awareness for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Jacobson brought a handgun as protection against wild animals as they spent most of their nights camping. When crossing the Canadian border into Ontario, Jacobson was asked if he was carrying any weapons, forgetting about the handgun he said no. At the second checkpoint Jacobson remembered the handgun and tried to report it.
“I didn’t declare it at the first checkpoint, but I did at the second, but it was already too late by then,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson was taken into custody and given the impression that proceedings wouldn’t take long. What happened was weeks of delayed court appearances and bureaucratic procedures.
“They would have court dates weeks and weeks apart,” Jacobson said. “I’d have court dates where they would just set another court date.”
Jacobson was assigned his final court appearance for Jan. 28, 2013, over six months after his arrest on July 15, 2012. Friends and family of Jacobson began a petition online hoping to free him from what they saw as his unjust and excessive imprisonment. A Canadian attorney specializing in border and firearm laws saw the petition online and offered to help.
“I did have to pay a lot more money [for the new lawyer],” Jacobson said. “We decided to plead guilty and just bargain for a shorter sentence, which I didn’t even know was a possibility.”
Jacobson’s first task was to find a way to post bail.
“Bail is different in Canada than it is here. In Canada they have to approve the person bailing you out and then you have to live with them,” Jacobson said. “So, I lived with some family friends that just happened to be up there.”
Jacobson was released on Nov. 2 after nearly four months in Canada. During those four months, Jacobson spent his time doing service and working to sell T-shirts to earn money for his court costs.
“It was really boring,” Jacobson said. “I spent a lot of time talking with friends and family online and I really liked watching ‘The X-Files’, because the Canadian Netflix had like nothing on it, it’s pretty barren.”
The international media attention Jacobson received may have negatively affected how long he was detained.
“They all had an impact, but it kind of backfired,” Jacobson said. “When the prosecuting attorney heard that I was with a fundraiser for cancer and whatnot, he considered lessening the punishment, but because he was mentioned by name in the news he couldn’t switch the requested sentencing of four to six months or it would have made him look bad. Luckily the judge saw through that.”
In the end Jacobson was sentenced a fine, which, combined with his legal fees, adds up to nearly $10,000.
“I’ll be paying that off for years to come,” Jacobson said.
In addition to the fine, Jacobson is never allowed to enter Canada again, though when asked if he’d ever want to go back, he said no.
“I’d like to see Banff National Park, but I hear that the Montana side of it is just as pretty, so that’s good enough I guess,” Jacobson said.
Nicole Shepard @NicoleEShepard