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Sat, Aug 13, 2011

Arguments Heard In Virginia 'Strip Protest'

21-Year-Old Filed Suit Over His Treatment After Disrobing At Airport Checkpoint

Arguments were heard this week in the case of a lawsuit brought by a 21-year-old man who protested airport security screening by writing part of the Fourth Amendment on his body and stripping to underwear and socks in the checkpoint line at Richmond International Airport in Virginia December 30, 2011.

Aaron B. Tobey of Charlottesville, VA filed a lawsuit seeking $250,000, claiming the US Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and airport officials violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments. He claims he was falsely imprisoned, maliciously prosecuted, and "humiliated and punished...in direct retaliation for his protected act of peaceful protest." Court papers add that his belongings were repeatedly searched, and that some personal effects were seized and discarded.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports Carlotta P. Wells, an attorney for the US Department of Justice, argued Wednesday in favor of a motion to dismiss the suit, saying Tobey had made his point by removing his shirt to display words from the Fourth Amendment written on his body, but went too far when he disobeyed a command to pass through a security scanner. She asserted, "The TSA officers were clearly just following federal laws."

Anand Agneshwar, a lawyer representing Tobey, argued that his client obeyed the commands of authorities, and it was they who went too far by detaining Tobey for 90 minutes or more in handcuffs. Tobey did eventually board his flight to attend a funeral.

Henrico County authorities charged him with disorderly conduct, but later dropped the charge.

The paper reports Federal District Judge Henry E. Hudson said he hopes to rule within two weeks on the motion to dismiss, but also set a trial date of January 18, 2012 in the event the case goes forward.

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