Saturday, June 19, 2004

Going Overboard

I am so glad to see that our law enforcement agencies are hard at work going after evil-doers who threaten our homeland security. I sleep better knowing that we will go to the ends of the earth to track them down and bring them to justice.

Teacher’s aide in mess gets judge’s apology

A shackled teacher’s aide tried to explain her predicament to a Miami judge through tears Friday.

Vacationing from Riverton, Wyo., Hope Clarke said she had been rousted by federal agents at her cruise ship cabin door at 6:30 a.m. She was put in handcuffs on a bench warrant for failing to put away her marshmallows and hot chocolate while staying at Yellowstone National Park last year.

Clarke said she had to pay the $50 fine the same day for the federal offense of improper food storage before she was allowed to leave the park. Nonetheless, a warrant claiming she had not paid went into the federal law enforcement database.

Back in Miami from Cozumel, Mexico, on Carnival’s Fascination cruise ship, Clarke was awakened, cuffed, turned over to federal marshals and brought to court in leg shackles and short shorts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Outerbridge conceded there were some “discrepancies.” He suggested Clarke should be released to appear in court in Wyoming to clear up the warrant.

U.S. Magistrate John O’Sullivan had a copy of her citation indicating the fine had been paid and thought that her time in jail more than covered the offense even if she hadn’t paid.

“We apologize for what happened,” the judge told Clarke. Turning to the prosecutor, he said, “This is a serious matter.” He wants the U.S. attorney’s office to follow up to determine what went wrong.

Customs agents meet all cruise ships arriving from foreign ports and run random checks for warrants on passengers lists.

Zach Mann, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called the arrest “an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

He added, “We were acting on what we believed was accurate information.”

Clarke was let go more than nine hours after her rude awakening. [Miami Herald]

You can’t be too careful with marshmallows and hot chocolate. In the paws of certain creatures they can become Weapons of Mass Destruction.