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Suit filed by Richmond airport protester settled

  • July 10, 2013 - 1:20 PM

RICHMOND, Va. — A lawsuit filed by a man who was arrested after stripping to his running shorts at a Richmond airport checkpoint to protest security procedures has been settled.

Aaron Tobey of Charlottesville had claimed airport police and Transportation Security Administration officers violated his free-speech rights. Tobey was detained in December 2010 after partially disrobing to display the text of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment on his chest. The amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

The Rutherford Institute, which represented Tobey, said Wednesday that the settlement reached last month called for Richmond airport police to take part in a two-hour training course on the First and Fourth Amendment rights of passengers and others, using materials provided by the institute's attorneys. Airport officials also agreed to review rules affecting free speech.

Airport spokesman Troy Bell said the training for the police force of fewer than 40 officers already has been completed.

"Whether it is construed as different, unusual or bizarre, non-disruptive expressive protest — which is what Aaron Tobey engaged in — is at the core of protected First Amendment speech," said John W. Whitehead, executive director of the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute. "Frankly, the nation would be better served if all government officials were required to undertake a training course on what it means to respect the constitutional rights of the citizenry."

A federal judge in Richmond in August 2011 dismissed most of the constitutional claims raised by Tobey. A divided three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the complaint last January.

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