Mother found guilty in airport pat-down case
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A woman was found guilty Tuesday of disorderly conduct for berating security officers trying to pat down her teenage daughter and then refusing to submit to the procedure herself at a Tennessee airport.
Jurors deliberated four hours before convicting Andrea Abbott. She had faced up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine for her conduct in the July 2011 confrontation at Nashville International Airport, but the judge placed her on probation for a year because she has no criminal record.
Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr., warned the 42-year-old "to be certain you don't get into any further problems with the law."
Abbott didn't talk to reporters outside the courtroom. Her defense attorney, Brent Horst, said she was disappointed in the verdict, but felt she got a fair trial.
"She just wanted to stand on principle, because she felt that she had done nothing wrong," said Horst, who handled the case pro bono. "And I admire her for that."
The prosecution said Abbott's behavior "prevented others from carrying out their lawful activities," which is part of the definition of disorderly conduct under state law. Abbott testified during the first day of the trial on Monday that she was not unruly but did yell at officers. She said she was "irritated, but not arguing."
However, Assistant District Attorney Megan King said in closing arguments Tuesday that Abbott's behavior caused two security lanes to be halted and made a normally one-minute security check a 30-minute ordeal.
"The defendant should have been aware that her behavior would prevent others from carrying out their lawful activities," King said.
Horst said his client may have been loud, but she was only exercising her right to free speech.
"Telling a police officer your opinion, even in strong language, to me that's a First Amendment right," Horst told reporters.
According to an affidavit, Abbott first refused to allow her daughter — then 14 — to go through a body scan machine, saying she didn't want "someone to see our bodies naked."
Abbott and her daughter went through a metal detector and TSA Officer Karen King was sent to conduct a pat-down. King testified that before the pat-down, Abbott yelled in her face that she didn't want anyone "touching her daughter's crotch."
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