Judge drops airport case

GLENDALE — A judge on Tuesday agreed to toss out a misdemeanor battery charge against a 58-year-old Camarillo woman who refused to relinquish a cooler containing applesauce and other snacks for her ailing mother last year at Bob Hope Airport.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Fred Rotenberg said he would dismiss the case against Nadine Kay Hays only if the grandmother of six stays out of trouble for the next six months. Prosecutors had no objections during the hearing at a Glendale courthouse.

Hays, who was traveling to Nashville, Tenn., with her 93-year-old mother, was charged with misdemeanor battery after the tussle with Transportation Security Administration agents last April. The trial this week was moved from Burbank to Pasadena and then to Glendale over scheduling difficulties and challenges by Hays’ attorney, Mary Frances Prevost.

“It’s obviously a major burden off of my shoulders. I think I can get my life back together again,” Hays said outside the courtroom. “As far as being good for six months, I think I can handle that no problem.”

The case generated national attention, drawing the ire of talk-radio hosts who railed against the TSA agents and challenged how confiscating a disabled woman’s applesauce would improve national security.

“I think it shows the corruption in the government, the inability of many judges to challenge prosecutors and a huge waste of taxpayer money,” Prevost said.

“Finally a judge with some common sense put his hands on the case and made an intelligent suggestion.”

Prosecutors on Monday indicated that they had lined up several witnesses to take the stand in what was expected to be a five-day trial.

Olga Baker, representing the Burbank city attorney’s office, objected to “derogatory remarks” made to the media and assertions from court filings.

Hays, who along with her mother and a caregiver were scheduled to fly to Nashville for her nephew’s wedding, was stopped about 12:55 p.m. at a security checkpoint.

A TSA supervisor told officers that Hays made a fist and struck her on the hand as they tugged at an ice chest containing the snacks, according to the arrest report.

Hays has denied hitting the agent, maintaining that she brought down her hand to keep agents from taking away her mother’s applesauce, cheese and milk.

In an e-mail sent to TSA officials before they embarked on the trip, Hays informed the agency that she planned to take the snacks and milk onboard, asking them to “please advise, as I do not want to have complications at the airport.”

TSA officials responded five days after her arrest with a form letter that the agency permits certain liquids needed by people with disabilities and medical conditions. More than 3 ounces are also acceptable as long a passengers declare them at the gate.

TSA spokeswoman Suzanne Treviño would not comment on the incident until the case is officially closed.

Hays is scheduled to appear before a judge Oct. 18 in Burbank.

Agents told Hays she had to surrender the contents or transfer them to her check-in luggage, then began to remove the items, including a six-pack of diet soda from the cooler, according to court records.

As Hays informed the agents about her mother’s condition, she became “uncooperative and was yelling” at the TSA screener, according to the arrest report.

She then removed a soda from the cooler before being told to stop, the report states.

TSA protocols bar travelers from reaching into luggage that is being searched or opening food and beverage containers in the screening area.

Hays wrested away the ice chest, then walked over to a trash bin, emptied the contents and informed the agents that she was holding them responsible for her mother’s well-being.

Agents then informed her that she was a threat to other passengers before she was arrested and taken to the Burbank Police Jail.

In the last year, Hays said she’s spent more than $15,000 on legal bills and $2,600 on airfare from Los Angeles International Airport to the wedding.

Hays said she can finally resume activities, such as camping and sailing with her family.

“I know that my mom would be proud of what I did,” she said.

“But the reason why I hung on, even without family support for the last year, is I am a person of principle. I set an example for my children, and I want them to know that you don’t just go with something because it’s the easy way out. If you know something to be right and true, you stick to it.”

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