John D. Watson
April 23, 2018
One afternoon in late 2014, I was served court papers in Florida summoning me to New Mexico to appear before the bench the following morning. With some change in my bank account, it was impossible to comply and, although I highly doubted there was a court in the country that was going to seriously prosecute me for using words like “coward” and “hypocrite” on Facebook, I needed to find counsel. There was not a single criminal lawyer in Las Cruces who was willing to represent me in a civil case. But after my legal team won a continuance out there, my friend, David Tenenbaum, finally found a lawyer working late one Saturday night who answered his phone and agreed to be my advocate. That was John D. Watson.
John Watson had a decades-long history as a civil attorney and master negotiator. We were both confident he would dispense with this malicious prosecution expeditiously. That was not the case. John stood next to me in court before a tyrannical megalomaniac in a black robe named Darren Kugler. This judge had decided to dispense with my rights and freedom way before I ever appeared in his court or opened my mouth. And he was relentless in abusing, berating, and belittling John and me in his courtroom. He repeatedly threw me in jail because he could. And he repeatedly admonished John because he could. My attorney genuinely felt bad that he couldn’t help me. But he wouldn’t abandon me either.
On several occasions, John kept my luggage for me while I was in jail. He gave me a couple of little puzzles that he made as keepsakes. He repeatedly picked me up from the airport and got me wherever I needed to be. Once I was locked up, he bought me some reading glasses and got them to me so at least I’d be able to read. He even sat for an interview in a documentary that was being filmed. The last time he picked me up from jail, he brought me a champagne-sized bottle of beer; one of his loves. And, after I paid him off the first few thousand dollars, he never sent me another invoice in four years — despite being there for everything from my several incarcerations through a lengthy appeals process. He was a genuinely warm and generous man, deeply religious and compassionate.
I only learned today that John passed away suddenly on February 14. He would have received the copy of my memoir that I promised him in a couple of weeks. When Darren Kugler was forced off the bench by the New Mexico Supreme Court, John sent me the opinions and it was vindication for both of us, as well as my entire legal team, when that judge was stripped of all authority, barred from ever seeking public office again, and may not even officiate at a wedding.
I don’t know if John was ill. But I often thought that he would be healthier all around if he had gone vegan; I wish it would have been. Several of my lawyers who stood by me while injustice relentlessly rained down upon me since 2012 have become very close friends. I can’t say John and I were friends; but I can say he saw me through some very difficult days.
He was a good man and will genuinely be missed.