The Los Angeles Times Gets It Badly Wrong On A PATRIOT Act Story

Irksome, Law, Politics & Current Events

As a lawyer, and as someone who writes about legal issues as a hobby, I'm constantly frustrated by the fundamental legal illiteracy of the media. That illiteracy is made up of one part ignorance to two parts sheer laziness — most of the legal issues that the media gets wrong are not really that complex, and most reporters could get it right if the were just willing to do a bit of digging.

It would be bad enough if a legally illiterate media merely misinformed the public. But the media's illiteracy allows it to mislead and frighten the public with various legal chimeras. Case in point: a recent Los Angeles Times article suggesting that the PATRIOT Act has led to people being classified as terrorists for misbehaving on airplanes.

Now, I'm the first to admit that the post-9/11 mindset has led to some foolish, unconstitutional, and liberty-eroding measures in air security. We've blogged about them here. But journalists should be able to separate results of post-9/11 laws from results of previously prevailing legal norms . In its article "In-Flight Confrontations Can Lead To Charges Defined As Terrorism," the Los Angeles Times utterly fails to make that distinction. In fact, it affirmatively obscures that distinction.

The misinformation begins in the article's caption:

At least 200 passengers have been convicted of felonies under the Patriot Act, often for behavior involving raised voices and profanity. Some experts say airlines are misusing the law.

As you will see, that is substantially misleading.

Now, here's the hook, telling the story of how one woman was prosecuted for her conduct on a plane:

Tamera Jo Freeman was on a Frontier Airlines flight to Denver in 2007 when her two children began to quarrel over the window shade and then spilled a Bloody Mary into her lap.

She spanked each of them on the thigh with three swats. It was a small incident, but one that in the heightened anxiety after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would eventually have enormous ramifications for Freeman and her children.

A flight attendant confronted Freeman, who responded by hurling a few profanities and throwing what remained of a can of tomato juice on the floor.

The incident aboard the Frontier flight ultimately led to Freeman's arrest and conviction for a federal felony defined as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act, the controversial federal law enacted after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

"I had no idea I was breaking the law," said Freeman, 40, who spent three months in jail before pleading guilty.

Let's begin with some research into the evidence against Ms. Freeman. The article's description of her conduct is somewhat limited, and helps support the article's theme of a hapless individual who as a result of losing her cool on a bad day gets caught in a web of post-9/11 paranoia. Fortunately, other resources are available to us — and to the journalists who wrote this story. Specifically, there's the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against her, available online for pennies to anyone who opens a PACER account. That affidavit shows that witnesses described Ms. Freeman's conduct as rather more alarming:

3. The Denver Police Department immediately responded to the plane when itarrived at DIA and removed Tamera Freeman and her children, ages 2 and 4, from the plane. Additional law enforcement agents and I responded to DIA and interviewed the flight attendants, pilots and several passengers. Interviews of the witnesses and the victim flight attendant, Amy Fleming, revealed the following:

- Tamera Freeman appeared intoxicated and violent towards her children before she boarded the flight in San Francisco;

- During the flight, Freeman was observed by several passengers drinking additional alcohol and becoming verbally and physically abusive to her children;

-The passengers sitting near Freeman went to the flight attendants about this problem. When Flight Attendant (FA) Amy Fleming approached Freeman regarding her actions, Freeman became verbally abusive towards FA Fleming, demanding that FA Fleming mind her own business and provide her another alcoholic beverage;

-When denied further alcohol, Freeman threw a drink on the ground at FA Fleming. At one point, Freeman followed FA Fleming into a common area and began yelling and pointing her finger at FA Fleming. These actions by Freeman threatened FA Fleming to the point that FA Fleming moved into a defensive stance. FA Fleming talked Freeman into returning to her seat;

-FA Fleming, because of Freeman's actions towards her and Freeman's children, requested that a corrections officer who was a passenger on the plane assist by sitting near Freeman;

-FA Fleming also obtained restraining tape and had to physically stand near Freeman to prevent her from causing more problems on the flight or further assaulting her children;

-Freeman's actions prevented FA Fleming from performing her other duties as a flight attendant, which she then had to assign to other flight attendants.

4. I reviewed several statements provided by passengers seated near Freeman and her children. They provided the following information regarding Freeman's assaults on the children:

-Amy Grant observed Freeman hitting her children repeatedly and yelling profanities at her children and at the flight attendants. She observed Freeman swing with an opened hand down at the children and heard the children crying
after being struck;

-Carolyn DeRyder observed Freeman slapping her daughter on the legs 4 to 5 times, as well as yelling profanities at the children and the flight attendants. Deryder also observed Freeman drinking alcohol and throwing a drink on the floor
at the flight attendants's feet;

-In the San Francisco airport prior to the departure of the flight, Katie Shanahan observed Freeman drop her son on his back and head on the ground when he did not want to go to the bathroom with her. Freeman left her son on the ground crying for several minutes;

-Dianne Delverstoni was the passenger who first approached the flight attendants regarding Freeman's assaultive behavior toward the children. She observed Freeman hitting her son several times "over and over", using profanity to the flight attendant, and throwing a drink;

-Maria Aldeguer observed Freeman drinking alcohol on the flight, cursing and screaming at her children, and hitting the children with open fists on their shoulders and knees;

-Carrie Storin, who was sitting in front of Freeman on the flight, heard Freeman hitting her children "the entire flight", to the point where the children were trying to hide in a comer and on the floor;

-David Shipman stated that he observed Freeman hit her children with a closed fist during the flight.

Now, this is merely a government agent's claim about what witnesses said to him. But it provides a rather different picture than the one that the Los Angeles Times attempts to portray. Moreover, even the facts that Freeman admitted to in her plea agreement (which is also available to interested citizens and competent journalists) portray a substantially more volatile situation than the mild "few profanities" described in the article. In her plea agreement, she admitted to the following facts:

On July 16, 2007, the Defendant and her two young children were passengers on Frontier flight #1 08, an airplane in flight between San Francisco, Califomia and Denver, Colorado. During the flight, and within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, passengers observed the Defendant yelling, cursing, and striking her children. One passenger reported the Defendant's conduct to flight attendant Amy Fleming. Ms. Fleming attempted to intervene. When she contacted the Defendant, the Defendant began yelling at Ms. Fleming that she wanted another drink because hers had been spilled. Ms. Fleming refused to serve her another alcoholic drink. The Defendant continued to cause a disturbance, cursing at Ms. Fleming, telling her, "You fucking bitch,
get away from me."

Ms. Fleming asked another flight attendant to notify the Captain of the disturbance. When the Defendant got out of her seat to go to the lavatory, Ms. Fleming followed her. When the Defendant left the bathroom, she continued to curse and yell at Ms. Fleming with her hands flying and fingers pointing. Ms. Fleming felt threatened and got into a defensive stance at that point. Flight Attendant Fleming handed the Defendant a "red card" which Ms. Freeman threw back at her. Ms. Fleming then retrieved restraint tape and warned the Defendant she would physically restrain her if she hit the children again. Ms. Fleming also reseated a passenger who worked as a correctional officer across from the Defendant so that he could assist as necessary. Ms. Fleming would testify that the actions of the Defendant intimidated her and interfered with the performance of her assigned duties.

Once again, this account cost me pennies and took me a few minutes to find and download. That basic research also allowed me to determine why Ms. Freeman spent three months in jail. The article implies that this was a result of post-9/11 paranoia and legal overreaching. In fact, documents available to the public show that Ms. Freeman did not contest the government's request that she be detained:

Defendant is not contesting detention. Defendant reserves the right to address detention at a later date.

Freeman was later released on bond after she filed a motion for reconsideration of detention, a motion that strongly suggests that she had not been able to secure the family support necessary after her initial arrest.

So, records available to the public show that Tamera Freeman's actions — at least as reported by witnesses — were rather more alarming than the Los Angeles Times has chosen to report. What about the legal issue? Would Ms. Freeman have been prosecuted before the PATRIOT Act? The Los Angeles Times would like for you to conclude that she would not have been:

Freeman is one of at least 200 people on flights who have been convicted under the amended law. In most of the cases, there was no evidence that the passengers had attempted to hijack the airplane or physically attack any of the flight crew. Many have simply involved raised voices, foul language and drunken behavior.

Some security experts say the use of the law by airlines and their employees has run amok, criminalizing incidents that did not start out as a threat to public safety, much less an act of terrorism.

But this — like the article's caption suggesting that people are being convicted "under the PATRIOT Act" — is demonstrably misleading. Ms. Freeman's indictment charged her under two statutes: Interference with a flight attendant in violation of 49 U.S.C. section 46504 and assault within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 113(a)(5). She was allowed to plead guilty to only the interference charge. The PATRIOT Act only changed one rather minor aspect of the interference statute:

2001 Amendments. Pub.L. 107-56, § 811(i), inserted “or attempts or conspires to do such an act,” before “shall be fined”.

In other words, the PATRIOT Act made it illegal to attempt to do or conspire to do the things already prohibited by the statute. The Times attempts to portray this as a sinister expansion:

Sept. 11, however, changed everything. Within two months of the attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act, a sweeping attempt to improve the nation's defenses against international terrorism. It included broad new powers for law enforcement in such areas as electronic surveillance, money laundering and search warrants.

Included were two key provisions on airline security. The first defined disruptive behavior as a terrorist act, reflecting the seismic shift in airline security.

The second broadened the existing criminal law so that any attempt or conspiracy to interfere with a flight crew became a felony — a change that allowed flight personnel to act against suspicious passengers even if they hadn't begun an actual assault.

First of all, it is no doubt true that somewhere in the bowels of the PATRIOT Act a violation of 49 USC 46504 is listed as a possible example of terrorism. But this classification has little, if any, practical impact on a case like Freeman's. Freeman was sentenced to probation and three months time served. The government agreed to recommend the minimum sentence possible under the sentencing guidelines. Nothing in the text of section 46504 brands her as a terrorist. Her conditions of probation were not altered.

Second, the addition of the attempt and conspiracy language simply makes section 46504 consistent with other federal criminal statutes, most of which already include attempt or conspiracy provisions. Even if they didn't, a prosecutor can simply charge a defendant with a separate conspiracy to violate a specified federal law under 18 U.S.C. section 371. Moreover, the addition of the attempt and conspiracy language had no demonstrable impact on Freeman's case. The government charged, and Freeman admitted, that her actions actually interfered with a flight crew, not that she merely attempted to assault or interfere with a flight crew.

This is the heart of the article's legal illiteracy and/or willful scaremongering. People like Freeman are being prosecuted "under the PATRIOT Act" in only the most remote sense — they are being prosecuted under a statute that existed well before the PATRIOT Act, under elements established well before the PATRIOT Act, facing a sentencing guideline range not altered by the PATRIOT Act.

The Times also attempts to convince its readers that the airline industry, not the government, makes the call about whether a drunk lout on your flight to Newark gets prosecuted:

Some security experts say the use of the law by airlines and their employees has run amok, criminalizing incidents that did not start out as a threat to public safety, much less an act of terrorism.

. . .

For decades, airline personnel and law enforcement have had wide latitude in prosecuting unruly passengers, not only for assaults or threats but also for any behavior, including arguing, that disrupts a flight or "lessens the ability" of crew members to perform their jobs.

In practice, however, airlines have largely maintained order under Federal Aviation Administration rules, in which hundreds of unruly passengers are simply slapped with an infraction and fine each year.

According to FAA guidelines issued in 2007, "interference or intimidation of a crew member by itself is not chargeable under the [criminal] statute unless it rises to the level of physical assault, threatened physical assault or an act posing an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft or other individuals on the aircraft."

As a reporter who had achieved a baseline of legal literacy would know, neither the airlines nor the FAA prosecute cases. They have no "wide latitude" to do so. All that the airlines and the FAA can do is decide when to call the FBI so that they show up when the plane lands, and whether to "refer the case for prosecution" — that is, ask the local U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute the drunk lout. The U.S. Attorney, with the advice of the investigating FBI agent — not the pilot or the airline or the FAA — decides, based in part on guidelines established by the Department of Justice, whether the evidence warrants prosecution. That's how Freeman, and everyone else prosecuted for interference with a flight crew, winds up on the hook. And despite the Times' suggestion that there has been a sea change in the government's approach to such cases, the United States Attorney's Manual entry on interference with a flight crew has not been updated since 1999.

The Times would still like for you to believe that the government has suddenly started prosecuting far more people for mere profanities or misbehavior, not for assaults or some more grave form of interference. To the Times' credit, it concedes that statistically speaking, it is pulling this impression out of its ass:

The Justice Department does not keep data on how many such prosecutions or convictions have occurred, Boyd said. But according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse University program, the federal government has obtained 208 felony convictions for disrupting flights since 2003, when data first became available.

As they say, the plural of anecdote is not data. But I can tell you that in the 1990s, when I was a federal prosecutor, I saw many interference cases come through the office, and some — including one I prosecuted — did not involve assaults any more life-threatening than Ms. Freeman's chucking a drink and a red card at a flight attendant. Rather, as with Ms. Freeman, they involved people losing their shit and shouting at flight attendants and forcing the attendants to pay attention to them rather than running the flight. A slightly more legally literate reporter might have used Google to determine that the leading case interpreting the interference statute, United States v. Hicks, involved people swearing at flight attendants and refusing to surrender a boombox, not committing assaults or "terrorist acts." In short, the Times' claim that people are routinely being prosecuted for conduct that used to be excused routinely is highly dubious.

As a final touch, the Times implies that Ms. Freeman lost custody of her children because the government treated her like a terrorist:

After three months in jail, Freeman agreed to plead guilty in exchange for being released on probation. A court-appointed attorney told her that a plea deal would be the fastest way to see her children, who had been taken back to Hawaii and put into foster care.

Her probation required her to stay in Oklahoma City, where she grew up, and prohibited her from flying. Meanwhile, legal proceedings in Hawaii have begun to allow the children's foster parents to adopt them.

Freeman has been denied permission to attend custody hearings in Maui over the last six months, court records show.

"I have cried. I have cried for my children every day," Freeman said. "I feel the system is failing me."

No doubt the fact that Ms. Freeman was in jail for a time, and sustained a felony conviction, played some role. But bear in mind that she did not contest pretrial detention. Child custody cases are sealed, so the exact reasons that her children were taken from her, and that the State of Hawaii is considering stripping her of parental rights, are not available to us. But I don't think I'm going out on a limb to suggest that the allegations in the affidavit in support of the complaint — suggesting that she was beating the shit out of the poor kids — played a role. The Times, however, does not see fit to report those facts.

As I have often argued on this blog, citizens should remain vigilant about how our government uses the convenient excuse of the War on Terror to expand police powers and trammel rights in a manner unrelated to legitimate anti-terrorist efforts. The media does it job when it reports on genuine abuses and expansions of power. However, like the boy who cried wolf, the media does more harm than good when it does not do its homework before asserting that pre-existing norms and practices are actually new developments. And the media certainly doesn't do its job when it attempts to sanitize someone like Tamera Freeman.

By the way: the Times article tells the story of another prosecution as well. I did not bother to pull documents on that case — I may still do so, to see if the Times sanitized its facts in favor of the defendant as well.

Update: I am reliably informed that Keith Olbermann, in apparent credulous reliance on the L.A. Times story, named Frontier Airlines its runner-up "Worst Person in the World" based on this. Not inspiring.

Further update: Welcome to readers referred here from other blogs. A couple of comments by others worth noting:

Patterico, a Deputy District Attorney in my own fair city and a formidable critic of the L.A. Times, fact-checks the Times' description of the second case mentioned above and finds it also inaccurate.

The estimable Scott Greenfield at his blog Simple Justice thinks that I am too accepting of the court records, and disagrees with some other points as well. He knows what he's talking about, so it's well worth a read.

Commenter Jay L., below, digs up a newspaper story with some further details that may explain the pretrial detention decision.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

33 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Mary  •  Jan 22, 2009 @7:03 pm

    Ken,
    This is the first post I've read by you–just learned of this blog through Mark Bennett's Defending People blog.

    All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! It's so gratifying to know there are still people out there who care about the truth and are willing to roll up their sleeves and take on the liars. You were too gentile to call it lies, but..
    I'll be back.
    Mary

  2. Jay L.  •  Jan 22, 2009 @9:18 pm

    As a divorced, non-custodial father, I found her story to be heartbreaking, especially as it suggested that the children were now with complete strangers. However, digging more deeply (as you did too) showed that the Times may have whitewashed the story a bit. In addition to the FBI agent's report, there was also this article that suggested a *prior* conviction and jail time for abuse:

    Passenger pleads not guilty to charges
    Associated Press Friday, July 27, 2007

    DENVER — An airline passenger accused of repeatedly hitting her children and threatening a flight attendant on a San Francisco-to-Denver flight pleaded not guilty Thursday.

    Tamera Jo Freeman, 38, is charged with two counts of assault and one count of interfering with a flight attendant.

    Freeman was arrested July 16 when her Frontier Airlines flight landed in Denver. Other passengers said she hit her two young children on their legs, shoulders and knees, and that the children tried to hide from her, an arrest warrant affidavit said.

    Federal Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer ordered her to remain in jail, citing a lack of local ties to ensure she would show up for trial. He also cited "medical issues that I find problematic," but he did not elaborate.

    Neither Freeman nor her court-appointed lawyer, Martha Eskesen, asked that she be released on bond.

    In a hearing last week, Eskesen and prosecutors referred to a "situation" in Hawaii but did not elaborate.

    Records from the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center show a Tamera Freeman with the same birth date as the woman arrested in Denver was found guilty of abusing a family or household member in 2005 and sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year of probation.

    Eskesen requested that sensitive details in the case not be released to the public. Shaffer said he believed some information in Freeman's pretrial service report was private.

    Prosecutors earlier said that the pretrial service report recommended Freeman be released to a halfway house, but there was no space available.

    U.S. Attorney's spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Freeman would remain in jail indefinitely pending resolution of her case.

    Freeman's children, a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, have been placed in the custody of family members in California.

  3. Patterico  •  Jan 23, 2009 @1:34 am

    Excellent job. Great blog!

  4. howard432  •  Jan 23, 2009 @2:02 am

    Terrific piece. It seems that every day at least one more literate truth telling blog appears, so many in fact that I now find I don't have the time to read all of them. I'll put this site on my list to visit once a week, and thanx for the piece. BTW I'm not surprised at any misinformation promulgated by MSNBC or the LAT.

  5. Nicholas Donovan  •  Jan 23, 2009 @3:35 am

    All things being equal, this is NOT a matter of national security. It's a civil case and she should be charged with disorderly conduct, assault of a minor and whatever the appropriate statute is for unruly behavior.

    This is NOT, I repeat once a national security threat. Where does it end? When Joe and Bob and mikes bar get into a fight and start a fire? What if it's by a gas station? Watch out! It's a bomb! Maybe they planned it!

    Do you see what I mean? I'm pointing out the ridiculous by being ridiculous. In fact the legislation itself is just that…. ridiculous.

    Cheers,

    Nicholas Donovan

  6. Nicolas Martin  •  Jan 23, 2009 @6:54 am

    The public's ignorance of law would be less excusable if legal practice were not controlled by a state-licensed cartel. It isn't as though, by educating themselves, people can become wiser legal consumers, or that they can prevent the passage and enforcement of unjust laws. Becoming an informed consumer of a cartel's product or service is highly overrated, and becoming aware of the laws is merely depressing.

  7. Patrick  •  Jan 23, 2009 @7:11 am

    Scott Greenfield, at his fine blog Simple Justice, muddies the water a bit. Damned defense attorneys.

  8. Ken  •  Jan 23, 2009 @7:58 am

    All things being equal, this is NOT a matter of national security. It’s a civil case and she should be charged with disorderly conduct, assault of a minor and whatever the appropriate statute is for unruly behavior.

    Nicholas, that's a perfectly arguable position. My point in the post is that it's a position that just as easily could have been taken about the statute before it was amended by the USA PATRIOT Act — that the Times' spin about this as post-9/11 hysteria is substantially misleading.

  9. shg  •  Jan 23, 2009 @11:33 am

    Thank you Patrick. That's the nicest thing anyone's said about me all day.

  10. Dottie  •  Jan 23, 2009 @1:38 pm

    Have you tried sending this info to Keith Olbermann? He would probably correct it if he knew.There is a Twitter account, "ToryAtWork," which is supposedly a person that works on the Countdown show.

  11. Shipwreckedcrew  •  Jan 23, 2009 @2:14 pm

    You give Greenfield way too much credit. His post is nonsense.

    He doesn't even consider that a PSR exists — though admittedly not a public document — which would detail the underlying facts in much greater detail than would the plea agreement. The PSR isn't written by a law enforcement agent or a prosecutor — it's written by the Probation Officer for the benefit of the judge. The PSR facts better jibe with the plea agreement facts, or the Judge is going to have a lot of questions he wants answered. Defendants can object to facts set forth in the PSR, and demand an evidentiary hearing to have them resolved.

    Re the complaint affidavit, Greenfield doesn't even acknowledge that not only does the agent recount witness statements — he NAMES THE WITNESSES. The segment you excerpt above has no fewer than 8 witnesses listed by name who described the defendant's conduct. If the agent had so egegiously taken their comments out of context, presumably the defense lawyer would have made some effort in a court document to point that out.

    Finally, none of you get the bail issue right. This offense is classfied as a crime of violence with a maximum penalty of more than 10 years. That means under the Bail Reform Act detention is presumed. The defendant can overcome this presumption by clear and convincing evidence that she is not a flight risk or danger to the community. She wasn't ordered detained until 10 days after her arrest – even though she would have had her initial appearance withing 48 hours of her arrest. The detention hearing was clearly put over for a few days while all sides gathered more information. Ultimtely, her attorney could not put together a package of information that could satisfy the court that conditions of pretrial release could be fashioned. From the newspaper article it appears that the fligth was from Honolulu to Denver, but her ultimate destination was Oklahoma City. So she has no contacts to the Denver community where she will stand trial. But it is Denver Pretrial Services and her Denver attorneys that have to try and run down information on her behalf.

    Further, her prior Hawaii conviction was from two years earlier — meaning her oldest would have been 2 and she was either pregnant or had a newborn infant. There are no facts about that prior conviction, but if it involved either of the two children — which I suspect it did since the defense attorney didn't want the "sensitive" details of that case made public.

    There was the possibility that she could have been charged with child abuse under the assimilated crimes provisions. THat would have made the children "Victims" under the Bail Reform Act, and required another whole set of pretrial release conditions.

    The bottom line is that the public does not know what is contained in the PreTrial Services Report that recommended detention. A presumption attached based on the crime with which she was charged. So, for Greenfield to wonder "Why did the government even seek bail" is simply a statement of blantant ignorance about how these cases proceed EVERY DAY in federal court.

  12. Ken  •  Jan 23, 2009 @2:21 pm

    Shipwreckedcrew, though I disagreed with some of Scott Greenfield's points, I don't agree with all your criticism of them. The factual section of the PSR (Presentence Report, to the uninitiated) is, in my experience as a prosecutor and then a defense attorney, little more than a regurgitation of whatever incident reports the government gives to the Probation Officer. I've never had a judge comment when the facts in a plea agreement differ from those set forth in the PSR — and often the facts are either narrower or broader in some respect.

    You may be right on the rebuttable presumption of detention — I did not consider that angle.

    As you suggest, the article quoted earlier up the comments suggests that something in the Pretrial Services Report bothered the judge and had a hand in the detention.

  13. Shipwreckedcrew  •  Jan 23, 2009 @4:45 pm

    Ken — while I agree that the "offense conduct" section of the PreSentence report often mirrors the law enforcement reports, the fact remains that defendants have a chance to contest the offense conduct section if they think it inaccurately reports what happened. The fact that they usually don't does not, in my view, suggest that they don't care whether it is accurate or not (as Greenfield implies about plea agreements), but because they KNOW the facts set forth in both the PSR AND the Plea Agreement DO accurately reflect what happened.

    The simple reason the facts in the PSR are generally more broad than in the plea agreement relates to the difference purpose served by each document. The plea agreement simple establishes that facts exist to support the plea, whereas the PSR is to inform the judge of all the relevant factual considerations that should be taken into consideration in making a sentencing determination.

    Greenfield's criticisms amount to nothing more than a statement that because it was an FBI agent or prosecutor who memorialized the statements and observations of the witnesses, both accounts are unworthy of belief.

    That's nonsense. There are many opportunities for a criminal defendant to correct the factual record — or at least contest it — if it is untrue. The fact that they so rarely do so is much more of an acknowlegement of its accuracy than an acquiesence to their powerlessness to change it.

    Apart from all the above, I echo Patterico's endorsement of you blog, and I'll be a regular visitor. I'm a guest blogger on his site, and I'm going to suggest to him that we add this site to the blogroll over there consistent with you stated policy.

    Look forward to exchanging thougths often going forward.

  14. Patterico  •  Jan 24, 2009 @12:30 pm

    I have indeed added Popehat to my blogroll. It's a fine blog.

  15. Patrick  •  Jan 24, 2009 @2:19 pm

    Thank you, and reciprocated.

  16. patriotflier  •  Jan 24, 2009 @2:50 pm

    Thanks for showing up the lazy liberal A holes of the MSM. OLBERMAN needs to be flushed down the toilet where he csn join his ilk..

  17. Patrick  •  Jan 24, 2009 @3:42 pm

    I agree with you about the lazy part, Patriot, but not necessarily about the liberal. I'm rather conservative in a libertarian sort of way, and still have little faith in TSA or any other government branch.

    Bad journalism is a nonpartisan issue.

  18. Drew  •  Jan 25, 2009 @2:45 pm

    From your research, there is no doubt that she's a first class bitch and not the greatest mom in the world. However, her actions do begin to approach what a normal person would define as terrorism. This behavior, if done in another venue would have gotten her jail time at best. The charge of terrorism should be reserved for terrorists, lest it be watered down by cases like this. If you think its a smart thing to equate this woman with terrorists then you're not thinking of the legal ramifications and definitions to real terrorists that face trial.

  19. Ken  •  Jan 25, 2009 @3:27 pm

    But Drew, you missed the point of most of the blog post. The only one saying she's been branded a terrorist is the LA Times. She was convicted under a statute that existed before the USA PATRIOT Act for conduct that would have been prosecuted before the USA PATRIOT Act and received the same sentence she would have received before the USA PATRIOT Act. You will not find the word "terrorist" in her complaint, her indictment, her plea agreement, or the judgment and commitment order reflecting her conviction and sentence.

  20. Elatua  •  Jan 26, 2009 @8:40 am

    Hello Ken,

    Thank you for your excellent journalism and sane response to hysterical reporting. As a Purser Flight Attendant for a major airline, I knew there was a lot more to the story than was reported.

    Over the years, I have had a number of flights met by authorities or passengers removed beforehand and it is never without legitimate cause. And quite frankly, alcohol is usually a big factor.

    As stated in the affidavit:

    - Tamera Freeman appeared intoxicated and violent towards her children before she boarded the flight in San Francisco;

    Unfortunately, this entire incident could have been avoided simply by refusing Ms. Freeman boarding. It is absolutely a violation of FAA regulations to *knowingly* board any person who appears to be intoxicated and the airline can be levied hefty five-figure $ fines for doing so. The rule of thumb is that if behavior appears to be a problem on the ground, then it will be a problem in the air.

    I cannot tell you how many people have imploringly looked to me with fear in their eyes when a situation begins to escalate in flight. Post 911, we are more vigilant than ever and our passengers step up immediately to help if need be.

    Threatening, interfering with and/or failure to comply with flight crew member instructions is a Federal offense for good reason. There are too many things that can go wrong at 40,000 feet and safety protocols must be followed to be effective. When you are responsible for the safety and well-being of several hundred people and someone is behaving in a threatening manner – it is not personal – it is a threat to *everyone* on board.

  21. Matthew  •  Jan 27, 2009 @4:01 pm

    As for the main thrust of the post, which is the blatant slanting of the article, in my experience, most bad journalism is properly attributed to stupidity and sloth. Because of what has been happening to journalism as business, the amount of stupidity and sloth has grown faster than the decrease in journalists.

    In other words, not only are there fewer reporters, the ones that remain are lazier and dumber than in years past.

  22. joe  •  Apr 8, 2010 @6:56 pm

    Hay dumbass Republican's you are not safer on airlines becuase the Gov't uses the Patriot Act for trivial nonsense like this. The LA Times was very correct in there reporting. Welcome to the USSA

  23. Ken  •  Apr 8, 2010 @7:18 pm

    Aw, Joe, why would you use the email address of a local Libertarian Party official to leave a dumb, sub-literate troll comment like that?

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