Rick Case's Pen: Grand Theft Charge Adds to Anti-TSA Ire

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Our cover story this week deals with a subject on which pretty much everyone has a strong opinion: the Transportation Security Administration, tasked with frisking, scanning, and searching you before you get on a plane.

It was about this time last year when the "Don't touch my junk" guy, John Tyner, got his 15 minutes of fame at San Diego International Airport. And radio host Meg McLain said she was treated abusively when she opted out of the new backscatter "porno scanners." Then, in July 2011, Fort Lauderdale TSA Officer Nelson Santiago stuffed a passenger's iPad into his pants, getting national attention.

So when the story broke that Toussain Puddie, another Fort Lauderdale screener, had casually grabbed a stray pen that was sitting by the sign-out sheet, public opinion was already stacked against him.

Our first blog on the story garnered over 100 comments in a couple of days. Peopler were split between supporters of Puddie and those who seemed ready to burn a TSA agent at the stake, regardless of what he had done.

Commenter "blu15_03" wrote:

When I started reading this article I thought it was a joke. You're telling me that this punishment fits the "alleged crime"? An employee picks up what seems to be a stray pen, not left in "lost and found" but on a cabinet and he not only loses his job but also serves time in jail and faces those type of charges. This is extremely unfair and a waste of time.

Compare that with commenter "jojowan:"

Good.  All TSA agents need to be prosecuted for any and all crimes to the fullest extent of the law.  They should be ashamed of what they do.  They are poor excuses for human beings.

Later, after Puddie sought counsel, his lawyer revealed that the state had no intention of dropping the charges. By then, Puddie had lost his job, and his life was forever changed because of Rick Case's $450 pen.

We'd encourage you to form your own opinion by reading the article -- including Puddie's admission that once he realized he had the pen that people were looking for, he didn't return it immediately because he was scared of the consequences. There's a big moral gray area here, which doesn't fit neatly into the highly contentious issue of who's groping you before you fly.

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