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MIT student picking up friend at airport nearly shot, charged with "infernal machine" crime

An MIT student named Star Simpson was apparently picking up a friend at 
Boston Logan airport and wore a sweatshirt with a breadboard and some 
LEDs and a 9V battery. She had created it for a student career day.

Big mistake. She was nearly killed by police (armed with semiautomatic 
weapons that some jurisdictions prevent law-abiding Americans from 
owning) who surrounded her. State Police Maj. Scott Pare actually told 
the press that she was "extremely lucky she followed the instructions or 
deadly force would have been used... She's lucky to be in a cell as 
opposed to the morgue."

Star was charged with violating the state's hoax device/infernal machine 
law, which shows you just how officious -- and perhaps even crazed -- 
police and prosecutors are nowadays. That law provides up to five years 
in prison.

As I wrote back in February after the Aqua Teen Hunger Force incident, 
for prosecutors to win their case, they must prove that (1) Star 
transported the LED-sweatshirt (2) "with the intent to cause anxiety, 
unrest, fear or personal discomfort." (3) Also, a person must 
"reasonably" believe that the LED-sweatshirt was (4) a "device for 
endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire 
or explosion." See:
http://politechbot.com/docs/massachusetts.infernal.hoax.device.020107.txt

Obviously the state will lose this case, but filing charges is more 
politically convenient than admitting the cops made an error, or at the 
very least admitting that the student was just wearing a harmless 
sweatshirt. Here are the "infernal machine" cases in which the state 
*did* win -- when the devices actually were dangerous:
http://politechbot.com/docs/massachusetts.infernal.machine.cases.020107.txt

More:
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/09/21/mit-student-arrested.html
http://wbztv.com/topstories/local_story_264104114.html
http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/21/1849208
http://www.politechbot.com/2007/02/02/aqua-teen-hunger/

-Declan

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Sep 21, 2007 in category free-speech


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