SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man’s motorcycle visit to Niagara Falls turned into a nightmare when Canadian border agents found him packing a gun that his father said Monday his son didn’t know was prohibited in that country.
Kraig Jacobson was jailed for 18 days and ordered to wait months for a trial, and a Canadian prosecutor is demanding he serve four to six months in prison for smuggling and lying to a border agent, Gordon Jacobson told The Associated Press.
“He’s feeling like he’s in the `Twilight Zone,”‘ Gordon Jacobson said, adding that his son made an honest mistake July 15 at a border station at Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Kraig Jacobson said he was carrying the handgun for protection from animals while camping on his six-week road trip and wilderness outing, and planned to enter Canada to view Niagara Falls only for minutes before turning around.
“It’s just really hard to prove I didn’t have criminal intent to sell guns up here,” said the 26-year-old college student. “There are a lot of Americans being held up here in the same situation.”
Kraig Jacobson said he met other Americans being held in Canadian jail on similar gun charges — people he said were on vacation and unaware of the country’s handgun prohibitions. He said handguns are strictly regulated in Ontario and can be transported by Canadians only to a gun range after notice to police.
“The mentality up here is people only have handguns to commit crimes. That’s how they view me,” he said. “If we can make other Americans aware of this, maybe others won’t fall in the same trap.”
Canadian prosecutors refused to answer any questions about Jacobson’s legal status. His defense lawyer Bobbie A. Walker didn’t immediately return a message.
Kraig Jacobson said he initially failed to declare the gun in a locked trunk behind the seat of his Kawasaki motorcycle but disclosed it to a second border agent when he was pulled over for a search.
He was arrested, held at Niagara Detention Centre, then released on bail on the condition he remains in Ontario for a trial scheduled for Jan. 24. He is staying with Canadian relatives of his Utah neighbors. Jacobson is from Alpine, a town 23 miles south of Salt Lake City.
His family believed he would be fined and deported, not held for months stuck in a country he can’t leave and facing possible prison time. His friends have started a petition seeking his release by Canadian authorities.
Jacobson, who turns 27 on Wednesday, was initially charged with a gun violation, malicious smuggling and lying to a border agent. Canadian authorities dropped the gun charge, his father said, because they didn’t believe he intended to violate gun laws.
Kraig Jacobson and his brother Kevin were 10 days into their motorcycle adventure when they crossed the bridge into Canada. The brother was not arrested.