Portland OR Feb 25 2019 Following one day of trial testimony, a federal judge on Friday morning threw out a case against a 30-year-old man accused of ducking past security officials at Portland International Airport.U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez found there was no evidence that Badr Ziti, 30, ever entered the so-called “sterile area” of the airport and so Ziti could never be convicted of the misdemeanor charge — entering an airport area in violation of security requirements.
The judge’s ruling occurred just before prosecutors and Ziti, who was representing himself with a standby counsel, were set to give closing arguments to a 12-member jury.“I think I just got my justice,” said Ziti, after the judge granted his motion for acquittal.Ziti said he believed the FBI “got really excited” about his case, partly because he’s Muslim.“I’m innocent. I’m proud to be a Muslim,” he said.According to prosecutors, Ziti ducked under the security cordons, avoiding Transportation Security Administration officers checking tickets, and was stopped in the baggage and personal screening area.
He had a Washington driver’s license, his passport from Morocco and a green card but no boarding ticket.Ziti never gave an explanation of what his plans were that day. In a videotaped interview with an FBI agent played for the jury, he said he just wanted to go home and visit with his brother. He said he didn’t know why he didn’t have a ticket. He said he had slept in the airport and described being “confused,” “stressed” and not remembering things when contacted by TSA officers.
When arrested, he insisted he did nothing wrong but acknowledged he didn’t wait in the security line to present his documents and didn’t have a boarding ticket or money to buy a ticket. He said he had lived in the United States since he was 21 or 22, but was homeless at the time of his arrest.Since Ziti bypassed the document checkpoint, that was enough to show that he entered the airport’s “sterile area,” in violation of the law, prosecutors argued.
“Here, if the sterile area is interpreted to only apply to airport areas where physical searches occur, then anyone, like defendant, could enter a sterile area without purchasing a ticket or being vetted against the Watch List and the prohibition in (federal regulations) would be meaningless,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney wrote in his objection to Ziti’s motion for an acquittal.
Ziti and his standby counsel, Robert Hamilton, prevailed, citing federal regulations that define “sterile area.” No one can entire a sterile area of the airport without submitting to the screening and inspection of their person or property, Ziti argued Friday morning. The sterile area of the airport is beyond the baggage screening area, Ziti said.“I did not enter the sterile area,” Ziti told the judge.