Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Airport security case goes to federal court

By John Nolan
The Associated Press

        BURLINGTON — Federal authorities on Monday took over the prosecution of a man whose statements to security screeners at Cincinnati's airport led to a shutdown of the terminal May 12.

        Police at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport had charged Charles Cowsert, 40, with misdemeanor offenses of having marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Those charges were dropped Monday in Boone County Circuit Court to allow federal authorities to take over.

        A federal complaint filed on Friday in U.S. District Court charged Mr. Cowsert with giving false information about having a weapon while attempting to board an aircraft. The felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

        Federal authorities also charged Mr. Cowsert with possession of 12.5 grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor.

        Mr. Cowsert was being transferred to federal custody. He awaits an initial appearance this morning in U.S. District Court in Covington, said E.J. Walbourn, an assistant U.S. attorney.

        The federal Transportation Security Administration said last week that it would leave prosecution of Mr. Cowsert to state authorities because, despite his statements that he had a knife, no weapon was found. The FBI said it would consult with federal prosecutors about whether to pursue charges against Mr. Cowsert.

        Mr. Walbourn declined comment on the change.

        Police said Mr. Cowsert walked away from security screeners at a Comair gate at the airport, then told authorities when he returned that he had given a pen knife to a one-armed man in a wheelchair.


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