- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

It was supposed to be a sentencing hearing for the man who used a tractor and a bomb threat to disrupt the District just days before the invasion of Iraq. But there was a sudden twist yesterday, with the judge instead ordering the suspect dubbed “Tractor Man” to undergo a mental evaluation at a federal prison hospital.

Sentencing for Dwight Ware Watson first was delayed four hours while all the parties met with U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.

When court reconvened, Judge Jackson announced he instead was sending Watson for a mental evaluation. Judge Jackson said since a pre-sentencing report was completed, he has received a large volume of correspondence — much of it from Watson.

On Sept. 26, jurors deliberated less than one hour before convicting Watson of making a false threat to detonate explosives, and destruction of federal property.

Watson’s 47-hour stunt caused gridlock in much of the District and parts of neighboring Northern Virginia, as U.S. Park Police closed roads for four consecutive rush hours.

Watson, 51, of Whitakers, N.C., obtained a permit for a legal demonstration on the Mall not far from the Washington Monument. But on March 17, as he made his way into the District with his tractor — plus a jeep and motorcycle loaded on a flatbed trailer — he veered onto federal parkland east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He then drove the tractor into the pond.

The incident began on the same day that the Department of Homeland Security elevated the terror threat level to Code Orange, a heightened state of alert that preceded the U.S.-led assault on Iraq on March 19.

Watson claimed to have organo-phosphate bombs in his possession. That prompted police to declare a security zone of 1,000 yards around the site. Along with road closures, it also prompted closures or detours at several major government agencies, including the State Department and the Federal Reserve.

A search of the tractor after Watson’s March 19 surrender turned up two aerosol insecticide foggers and a disabled practice grenade.

R. Edward Brock, a spokesman for the Watson family, said a Web site is being established to draw attention to the issues that brought Watson to the District. “The issue is the tobacco-allotment buyout,” said Mr. Brock.

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