NASHVILLE, TN – A mother who refused to allow TSA airport screeners to pat down her 14 year old daughter last year has been convicted of “disorderly conduct”. The court sentenced Andrea Fornella Abbott of Clarksville, TN to one year probation.
Abbott was arrested by Nashville airport authorities in July 2011 after protesting the procedure. According to the official police report, she refused to allow her daughter to be “touched inappropriately” or have her “crotch grabbed”.
Ms Abbot also refused to be scanned, because she “did not want her or her daughters’ naked bodies revealed by the scanner”. The report also noted she was prevented by TSA screeners from taking video of the happenings. When Nashville police arrived on the scene, Abbot also was said to have called the TSA agents pedophiles and then cursed at the police. This led to the arrest for disorderly conduct.
The prosecution’s chief argument was that Abbott’s behavior “prevented others from carrying out their lawful activities,” causing movement in two security lines to be delayed for thirty minutes. “You can speak your mind, but you can’t do it in an illegal manner,’ said Assistant District Attorney Megan King, adding “What the defendant did was a crime.”
Abbot’s defense argued that she was simply exercising her right to free speech. “Telling a police officer your opinion, even in strong language, to me that’s a First Amendment right,” her attorney Brent Horst told reporters. Abbott admitted that she may have cursed at police officers, but considered the exchange to be a “normal conversation” considering what being done to her child.
The defense offered surveillance video of the incident it said showed Abbot was the one being yelled at by police. The video had no audio but did show that other passengers were walking around Abbot and the police officers with security lines were still moving.
“It’s clear from the video … she wasn’t preventing anything,” said Horst. In closing arguments the attorney stated “Since 9/11, we’re losing a lot of freedom, and we have to draw the line somewhere.”
It has been documented in many sources that people who opt out of body scanners or those who fail to display the proper level of compliance to TSA screeners are routinely subjected to detainment and invasive grope downs as well as other forms of retaliation.
Journalists who are critical of the TSA have also been singled out for retribution. CNN journalist Drew Griffin was put on a TSA watch list immediately after he filed reports critical of the organization back in 2008. TSA claimed that he was unlucky enough to share the name with another Drew Griffin who had been legitimately placed on the list, but then denied that he was on the list at all and blamed the airlines.