A 21-year-old Virginia man who wrote an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his body and stripped to his shorts at an airport security screening area is demanding $250,000 in damages for being detained on a disorderly conduct charge.
Aaron Tobey claims in a civil rights lawsuit (.pdf) that in December he was handcuffed and held for about 90 minutes by the Transportation Security Administration at the Richmond International Airport after he began removing his clothing to display on his chest a magic-marker protest of airport security measures.
Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated,” his chest and gut read.
The University of Cincinnati student didn’t want to go through the advanced imaging technology X-ray machines that are cropping up at airports nationwide. Instead, when it was his turn to be screened, he was going to opt for an intrusive pat-down — and remove most of his clothing in the process.
“He went there knowing he would not do the advanced imaging and do the pat-down instead,” his attorney, James Knicely, said in a telephone interview. “He was making it easy for them and in the process he wanted to communicate his objection for doing so.”
Among other things, the federal lawsuit claims wrongful detention and a breach of the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment. “He was held there for 90 minutes, and handcuffed behind his back,” Knicely said.
Tobey was on his way to Wisconsin for his grandmother’s funeral. Despite his detainment, he made his flight.
According to the suit, while under interrogation on December 30, the authorities wanted to know “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.”
Two weeks later, Henrico County prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charge.