Poor judgment in `bomb' case keeps growing
August 29, 2006
By Eric Zorn
Today, most of the embarrassment and shame falls squarely onto the poor shoulders of Skokie resident Mardin Azad Amin.
The 29-year-old native of Iraq has become the subject of worldwide ridicule for an incident earlier this month in which authorities allege that he blurted out a bomb threat while passing through a security checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport in an ill-advised attempt to hide from his mother that he was carrying a marital aid in his knapsack.
"Embarrassed traveler tries to pass off sex aid as bomb," was the headline in the Scotsman (Britain).
"Embarrassed into terrorism," bannered The Washington Post.
"This guy's mom must be scary," chortled the headline writers at the Orlando Sentinel.
"Man tells security penis pump is bomb," said The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).
"No, That's Not a Penis Pump, Mom. Really," read the headline in more than two dozen U.S. papers.
The snarkiest dig came atop Amin's tale as told in the Toronto Sun: "Penis pump? On trip with mom!?"
But sooner or later the embarrassment and shame are likely to fall on the airport security officials and prosecutors and judge in Cook County who, in consort, are pressing on with felony disorderly conduct charges against Amin that could land him in prison for three years.
Because the case against Amin is ludicrous from beginning to end and it never should have gone beyond a careful inspection of his luggage and an apology for the delay.
His attorney, Eileen O'Neill-Burke of Chicago, says Amin admits attempting to carry the device through security and not wanting his mother, who was accompanying him and two children on a flight to Turkey, to hear his explanation to the guard.
"He told them it was a pump, a pump," O'Neill-Burke said. "But he has a very thick accent. It's so thick that I had to meet with him face to face before I could understand him."
Even still, she said, Amin's "pump" sounded to her a lot like "bomb."
"There is no `p' in Arabic, so `pump' would come out more like `bumb,'" said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The additional facts that any fool could see that the device itself wasn't a bomb and wasn't contraband and that any fool would know that an Arab man in his 20s with a clean record is the last person in the world who'd think that talking about bombs to airport security personnel is a good way to quietly and discreetly pass through the checkpoint did not dissuade our plucky authorities.
They are not just any fools. They questioned him for several hours, arrested and charged him, and then threw him upon the mercy of the rim-shot media, which couldn't resist mocking him first for his supposed stupidity and second for having a use for this particular device.
It just wouldn't have been as much fun to mock law enforcement for its absurd and continuing overreaction to an unfortunate misunderstanding, an overreaction that continued last week when Judge Gerald Winiecki allowed the case to go forward and set the next court date for Sept. 13.
The tale of a skittish guard who confuses "bumb" for "bomb" when she hears a man describe a penis pump isn't nearly as amusing as the tale of a man who panics when a guard discovers his penis pump and tells the guard it's a bomb.
I called Cook County State's Atty. Dick Devine's spokesman John Gorman and chided him: Surely, surely, the prosecutors aren't really buying the bomb-threat story.
"I'm not going to comment on what we're buying," said Gorman, who, in fairness to him, didn't sound all that enthusiastic about the case. "I will tell you that in previous cases like this, the charges are reduced to misdemeanors and the sentence is probation or supervision."
Defense attorney O'Neill-Burke said she'll advise her client to hold out for a dismissal of the charges, in part because she fears that even a misdemeanor conviction could harm his status as a legal immigrant.
An expression of regret would be a lot to ask--a "sorry for making your judgment and your intimate life the butt of jokes from here to Australia."
Maybe they'll come across if he just says, "Blease."
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