“Tamera Jo Freeman was on a Frontier Airlines flight to Denver in 2007 when her two children began to quarrel over the window shade and then spilled a Bloody Mary into her lap.
“She spanked each of them on the thigh with three swats. It was a small incident, but one that in the heightened anxiety after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would eventually have enormous ramifications for Freeman and her children.
“A flight attendant confronted Freeman, who responded by hurling a few profanities and throwing what remained of a can of tomato juice on the floor.
“The incident aboard the Frontier flight ultimately led to Freeman’s arrest and conviction for a federal felony defined as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act, the controversial federal law enacted after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
“‘I had no idea I was breaking the law,’ said Freeman, 40, who spent three months in jail before pleading guilty.”
“The costs of a conviction can be enormous. In Tamera Freeman’s case, it cost her custody of her children.
“The confrontation on the Frontier Airlines flight to Denver was particularly harsh, recalled Amy Fleming, the flight attendant who told Freeman to stop spanking her children. In a recent interview, Fleming called Freeman the most unruly passenger she had seen in 11 years on the job.
“‘Absolutely she deserved a felony conviction,’ she said.
“But at least one passenger, John Carlson, a defense attorney who was seated near Freeman, said there was no threat. ‘There was a nasty, loud exchange,’ Carlson said. Then Freeman ‘capitulated and offered no resistance. My sympathy shifted to her.’
“A spokeswoman for Frontier said the airline has provided more training for flight attendants since 2001, including classes on ‘ways to calm a situation before it reaches a boiling point or physical confrontation.’
“After three months in jail, Freeman agreed to plead guilty in exchange for being released on probation. A court-appointed attorney told her that a plea deal would be the fastest way to see her children, who had been taken back to Hawaii and put into foster care.
“Her probation required her to stay in Oklahoma City, where she grew up, and prohibited her from flying. Meanwhile, legal proceedings in Hawaii have begun to allow the children’s foster parents to adopt them.
“Freeman has been denied permission to attend custody hearings in Maui over the last six months, court records show.
“‘I have cried. I have cried for my children every day,’ Freeman said. ‘I feel the system is failing me.'”
In-flight confrontations can lead to charges defined as terrorism, by By Ralph Vartabedian and Peter Pae, LA Times, January 20, 2009 (pdf in case it vanishes)
The Patriot Act just makes it easier to grab the kids and funnel them to more worthy indoctrinators. It’s also a graphic lesson for anyone with kids who might want to resist: forget it.