Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Whatever Happened To ... Part Two

In what seems to be a continuing theme of feckless law enforcement this week, we revisit the case of Starr Simpson. You may remember that she was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student who wore a decorative LED display into Logan Airport, and was nearly killed, then arrested, for the trouble:

Star Simpson, a 19-year-old MIT student, was arrested at gunpoint Friday morning at Boston's Logan Airport when officers suspected that a circuit board and battery she had pinned to her sweatshirt was a bomb. Indeed, every news outlet is now referring to the thing as a "fake bomb," and Simpson has been charged with possessing a "hoax device."

Is Star Simpson's "fake bomb" just an art jacket?

When I last checked on her, she had been indicted for that charge, and was awaiting trial. Her case was resolved about nine months ago, and not even remotely how it should have been:

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology student has apologized for the shirt that triggered a bomb scare at Logan Airport last fall, even as the possession of a hoax device charge against her was dismissed.

Star Simpson was arrested after the lighted shirt she was wearing triggered a bomb scare at Logan Airport on Septemner 21, 2007. Prosecutors determined that they could not move forward on that count and dismissed it to the disorderly conduct charge because they could find no evidence of intent on Simpson's part to cause a scare.

Simpson will do 50 hours of pre-trial community service, If she completes the service, charges against her will be dismissed.

Hoax charges dropped against apologetic MIT student

In other words, the court figured out the obvious when it came to the hoax charge. Even so, and despite the obvious fact that this was a mistake, they made her do more than six days of community service.

That this ever came to a court in the first place ought to irritate anyone who pays taxes in that area. It was an utter waste of time that seems to have more to do with cowing people into looking and behaving a certain way so that law enforcement people don't have to worry than it does to with effective law enforcement. This isn't only case of these people overreacting because they were taken outside their comfort zone, either. As I wrote at the time this happened:

Consider this scenario - you're in an airport waiting for your flight. You see something suspicious for a moment. A moment is probably all you'll have, because I can't imagine that anyone who has planned a terrorist plot carefully is going to look suspicious for long. Let's further suppose that whatever you've seen was done by someone who doesn't look like he comes from the Middle East. Do you report it? Don't forget, it could turn out to be nothing at all. Making a false report is a crime, and while it may be obvious that you're not doing so to the people you report it to, it also might not. You could spend the night in jail for your troubles, and be charged with a patently false offense, just as Star Simpson was. If you're smart, you'll keep your mouth shut.

Is Anyone Else Tired Of This?

As I wrote recently, part of the trust a public has for its law enforcement comes from being able to trust their judgment. When they seem to be more interested in what causes them trouble at that moment, rather than taking a long view, they do themselves and the public no favors.

If I were a taxpayer in that neck of the woods, I think I'd be demanding that the people responsible for this decision should be doing community service.


One Fly said...

I agree but the 9 volt doesn't fit the design.

Cujo359 said...

Depends how many LEDs you have in series. You need at least a couple of AA's to have enough voltage for one LED. Put two or three in a row, and that ought to come pretty close to 9V.

Or were you speaking from an esthetic perspective?

One Fly said...

I have no taste but the battery detracts from something that's interesting.