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July 29th, 2004

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09:11 am - Well well
I don't think I can complain too much about MBTA bag searches (and what a search, they just make you open your bag and they look in; the only thing I saw confiscated were two large bags of ice) when, in our beloved Nation's capital, they're hard at work handcuffing and jailing people for eating candy bars on the Metro.

Registration for the Washington Post is required, so here, beneath the cut, is some prime copyright infringement:

Mouthful Gets Metro Passenger Handcuffs and Jail

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page A01

Stephanie Willett is a 45-year-old scientist for the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency from Bowie whose skirmishes with the law had largely
been limited to a couple of speeding tickets.

Until she was caught chewing inside a Metro station.

About 6:30 p.m. July 16, Willett was eating a PayDay candy bar while
riding the escalator from 11th Street NW into the Metro Center Station.
Metro Transit Police Officer Cherrail Curry-Hagler was riding up.

The police officer warned Willett to finish the candy before entering the
station because eating or drinking in the Metro system is illegal.

Willett nodded, kept chewing the peanut-and-caramel bar and stuffed the
last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into the trash can
near the station manager's kiosk, according to both Willett and

Curry-Hagler turned around and followed Willett into the station. Moments
after making a remark to the officer, Willett said, she was searched,
handcuffed and arrested for chewing the last bite of her candy bar after
she passed through the fare gates. She was released several hours later
after paying a $10 fine, pending a hearing.

"We've been doing our best to crack down on people who are consuming food
and beverages in our stations because we get so many complaints about it,"
said Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman. "In this instance, the woman was
given a warning, which she ignored, and she jammed the rest of the candy
bar into her mouth and continued to chew."

Willett said she was being unfairly punished because she made fun of the
police officer after Curry-Hagler issued a second warning before the

"Why don't you go and take care of some real crime?" Willett said she told
the officer while still swallowing the PayDay bar as she rode a second
escalator to catch her Orange Line train home.

The police officer ordered Willett to stop and produce identification. "I
said, 'For what?' and kept walking," Willett said.

In a report, Curry-Hagler said she wanted to issue a citation for eating
on the Metro but the PayDay lover refused to stop.

"Next thing I knew, she pushed me into the cement wall, calls for backup
and puts handcuffs on me," Willett said.

She said Curry-Hagler patted her down, running her hands around Willett's
bust, under her bra and around her waist. Two other officers appeared, and
the three took Willett to a waiting police cruiser.

At the D.C. police 1st District headquarters, Willett said, she was locked
in a cell with another person. At 9:30 p.m., after she paid a $10 fine,
Willett was released to her husband.

"It was humiliating," said Willett, who is to appear in court in October.
"It was a complete waste of taxpayers' money and the officers' time as
well as mine. It was just about her trying to retaliate against me because
I made a comment about how insignificant I thought the matter was."

"I understand the intent of them not wanting people to eat in the Metro,"
Willett said. "If anything, I was chewing in the Metro."

Farbstein said Willett violated the rules. "Chewing is eating," she said.

Sen. Leo E. Green (D-Prince George's) complained in writing to Metro Chief
Executive Richard A. White. "They have better things to do than arrest
someone for that," said Green, who has not received a response. "It just
seemed way out of bounds."

Metro occasionally has come under fire for what some considered extreme
enforcement of its no-eating rules. The best-known example was in 2000,
when a transit police officer handcuffed a 12-year-old girl for eating a
single french fry on a subway platform.

The incident catapulted Metro into the national spotlight, and talk radio
hosts debated whether the agency had gone too far in its devotion to
order. A federal judge later said the police were "foolish" to arrest the
girl but ruled that Metro did not violate her constitutional rights.

The candy bar arrest follows several recent decisions by Metro that have
angered passengers. Metro tried to run two-car trains late at night to
save money, but the cars became very crowded. And the transit agency
started requiring passengers to pay for parking with SmarTrip electronic
fare cards but soon found it was running out of cards.

2004 The Washington Post Company

(11 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 06:16 am (UTC)
Jeez. I think I need to be careful about where I eat my breakfast.

(Metro Center, incidentally, is where I get off for work).
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 12:55 pm (UTC)

where do you work?

i work at metro center also. right above (literally) the 13th street exit.

of course, i miss all these things, seeing that i have difficulty showing up to work before 11am.

[User Picture]
Date:July 30th, 2004 07:45 am (UTC)

Re: where do you work?

I work at 14th and New York. Of course, McPherson Square is closer, but I live on the Red Line, so walking the extra two blocks from Metro Center isn't really a problem. :)

We should hang out sometime!
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 06:20 am (UTC)
Yet another new reason why I can't stand DC. Let's see if they'll cuff a few 4-year-old nose-pickers.
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 06:29 am (UTC)
To be fair, while it is a waste of time, and I would consider her to have finished the candy bar--when a police officer gives you a warning--it's pretty stupid to turn around and make fun of them. Particularly when you are in fact breaking clearly posted rules. Kind of like when you get pulled over for speeding you do better not to argue and taunt the cop who has pulled you over.
Date:July 29th, 2004 09:49 am (UTC)
People are slobs and tend to leave their food wrappers (and, sometimes, parts of their food) all over the Metro. There are plenty of signs informing you that you're not allowed to eat.

So, while this was, perhaps, a bit harsh, at 45 she should know better than to lip off to a cop who just gave her a friendly warning.
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 10:43 am (UTC)
okay, so clearly, the rules are there to prevent people from littering the metro. if the food's in her mouth, it's rather unlikely that it's coming out.

it was stupid of her to mock the cop, but i can't say that i like the fact that the cop, instead of going back to prevent people who might actually have a chance at littering, decided to arrest this woman to defend her ego. i mean, seriously. people's tax dollars paid for the time it took her to arrest the woman, the time it took two other cops to get there and take the woman to headquarters, and any other time it might have taken to fill out any paperwork, etc. i doubt her $10 fine covered that. i'd add in the savings to the community of not having to deal with her litter, but there probably wasn't going to be any.

from a purely economic standpoint, this would piss me off if i were living in DC.
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 12:58 pm (UTC)

what you should be...

...pissed off by is that your tax dollars really wouldn't pay for metro if you lived here.

it's your fare dollars that do -- which puts metro unique among mass transit on the planet, and the main reason why we've had 2 fare hikes in two years, and probably will have another one next year.

the local governments don't want to pay up, the feds won't pay up, and yet everyone gets pissed at metro for raising fares.

for me, i pay minimum fare for almost everywhere i want to go (i live and work in the middle of the city), but there are some people who are paying almost 9 dollars a day for their commute. ugly.
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 01:23 pm (UTC)

Re: what you should be...

wow, that sucks.

have any local politicians run for office promising lower fares? i would think this would be a big enough issue that people would be willing to vote for it. though i imagine that much of the trouble stems from the fact that DC the city, not having a state government to turn to, might not be able to raise enough revenue in taxes to support the system. or it might just be politics in the sense that local governments don't think they should have to pay for a system that extends beyond the city proper. yuck.
Date:July 29th, 2004 09:40 pm (UTC)

Re: what you should be...

It wouldn't matter, because we're in two states and DC. So the local Maryland politicians throw a temper tantrum every time somebody wants to build a new station or otherwise improve the part of Metro in Virginia, and vice versa. We're supposed to be getting more train cars (they're usually overfull during rush hour, etc.) Tax funding to keep fares down is probably right out.

I don't see this changing in the near future as Maryland has a mildly loony Republican as governor, Virginia is broke and has too many anti-tax zealots in the state legislature, an initiative to raise the sales tax to pay for tranpsortation lost, and DC's budget is controlled by Congress.

Personally, I'm pulling for a commuter tax to be levied on the whole area to pay for a variety of things, including Metro.
[User Picture]
Date:July 29th, 2004 03:01 pm (UTC)
Sassing an officer is not the smartest thing to do in that set of circumstances, lord no, but the article mentions the woman threw away her wrapper before entering the station, using the garbage can conveniently provided for that purpose. The sass came only after the officer followed her into the station -- seems to me the officer was clearly waiting to see if chewing was occurring on the premises (golly this sounds so Seinfeldian all of a sudden.)

And cuffin' and friskin' and jailin' for even just sass isn't a fit punishment. Nor is talking with your mouth full, which is apparently what had to have happened here.

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