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Prank Gets Student in Trouble at Airport

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - A man who wrote the 4th Amendment on his chest and stripped to his shorts so security officers could read it at an airport checkpoint claims the Homeland Security Department arrested him and maliciously prosecuted him for his protest.

Aaron Tobey, 21, was a student at the University of Cincinnati when federal officials arrested him at Richmond International Airport on Dec. 30, 2010, he says in his federal complaint.

Tobey, who was trying to catch a flight to Wisconsin to go to his grandfather's funeral, had prepared for the airport search by writing on his chest in black marker: "Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated."

Tobey says he did it to object to the Transportation Security Administration's search policies: "Under TSA's enhanced secondary screening policy, passengers are offered a choice of submitting to either an Advanced Imaging Technology scan (AIT), which produces a highly detailed picture of the passenger's unclothed body; or a full-body pat-down search, which involves TSA agents using the front of their hands to feel the passenger's body," the complaint states.

Tobey says that TSA agent John Smith ordered him to go through an advanced imaging technology unit, where Tobey stripped down to his socks and running shorts, "to express his view that enhanced screening procedures were not constitutional."

He says he stripped down despite Smith's telling him "that removal of clothing was not necessary."

"Smith then suspended all screening in the area, directed plaintiff to stay where he was in front of the AIT unit, and radioed for assistance."

Tobey claims that another officer "immediately seized plaintiff from behind and forced him through the AIT unit, escorting him to a side area where the plaintiff was handcuffed with his arms behind his back and was informed that he was being placed under arrest for allegedly 'creating a public disturbance.'"

Tobey says he was taken to the airport police station and was "questioned concerning his age, residency, and education, and in the process the interrogators sought to intimidate plaintiff, accusing him of being inconsiderate of other travelers, suggesting that his conduct would blow up in his face and have repercussions, and informing him that they would make sure that he would have a permanent criminal record as a result of his actions."

When the officers learned he was a student at the University of Cincinnati, they "contacted the University of Cincinnati Police and informed them of plaintiff's arrest and prosecution and suggested that the university police notify the Dean of Students in an attempt to defame the name and good reputation of plaintiff in his academic pursuits and within the university community," Tobey says.

During his 90-minute interrogation, during which Tobey wore just his shorts and socks, an officer told him "that by purchasing a ticket and commencing the screening procedures, he had surrendered his Fourth Amendment rights and consented to a search of his person," according to the complaint.

Tobey adds that a federal air marshal asked him "about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were."

Finally, Tobey says, he was allowed to get on a flight to go to his grandpa's funeral.

The Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney dropped the charges against him insufficient evidence on Jan. 10.

Tobey claims he was unconstitutionally arrested and questioned, and that the rhubarb also was "contrary to rules and regulations" at Richmond International Airport.

He also sued the Capital Region Airport Commission, which operates Richmond International Airport.

Tobey seeks declaratory judgment and $250,000 in compensatory damages and legal fees.

His lead counsel is James Knicely with Knicely & Associates of Williamsburg, Va.

Follow @jamierossCNS
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