Friday, September 24, 2004

Woman Arrested Over Bookmark

JAY CRIDLIN, ST PETERSBURG TIMES - For the past month, Kathryn Harrington has stared down the possibility of a criminal trial, a $10,000 fine and the stigma of being deemed a security risk at Tampa International Airport. The reason? She had a bookmark with her as she passed through airport security screening.

"It was a bookmark," Harrington said. "It's not a weapon. I could not understand why I was being handcuffed and put into a police car. I cried for hours." . . .

Harrington and her college-aged sons were flying home from a vacation in Orlando and Sarasota Aug. 17 when airport screeners found the bookmark - an 8.5-inch green leather strap with lead weights at each end - in Harrington's purse on Aug. 17. She'd carried the $9.99 bookmark on several flights since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, even through Tampa International Airport, but screeners had never noticed it.

This time, screeners thought the bookmark resembled a weighted police weapon, known as a sap or slungshot, used to knock suspects unconscious. . . . Harrington was questioned about the bookmark, then handcuffed and driven to an airport police holding cell. . .

According to the TSA's official prohibited items list, anyone who brings any banned item to a screening checkpoint, even accidentally, may be criminally or civilly prosecuted. Even items that are not specifically listed, but could be considered dangerous, are illegal.

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