TSA applesauce "assault" case thrown out

A 58-year-old woman who was arrested, strip-searched, and handcuffed last year for grabbing her cooler (filled with applesauce and yogurt for her 93-year-old mother) from a Burbank airport TSA employee finally had her case thrown out.

From CBS:

Prosecutors charged Nadine Kay Hays, 58, who was traveling to Nashville with her mother, with the battery charge after the reported fight with the Transportation Security Administration agent last April. The agent claimed that Hays made a fist and struck her on the hand during the tussle.

Hays denied striking the agent, arguing that she merely brought down her hand to keep agents from taking away her 93-year-old mother’s apple sauce, cheese and milk, which were inside a cooler.

“I am not going to plead guilty to something I didn’t do. I’m a person of character,” Hays, whose mother died last month, said. “I end up reliving this disaster every spare moment of my life. You just flash back and you see these scenes over and over.”

I watched the video (blue cooler is in lower left of video above), but it's hard to see any hitting going on.

Woman Accused Of Hitting TSA Agent Over Applesauce


  1. Dear Nadine Kay Hays, thank you for not taking the plea bargain. You did not just set an example for your family, you set an example for everyone in this nation.

    1. “You did not just set an example for your family, you set an example for everyone in this nation.”

      Hear hear.

      Having been through stuff like this (perhaps not quite as bad), I know that now you get to learn to let it go. “I end up reliving this disaster every spare moment of my life. You just flash back and you see these scenes over and over.” I know it’s hard, because it is injustice and it is not really ever over, but you have to try to figure out how.

      Congrats on your victory in the courts! Thank you a thousand times for standing up!

  2. This is why I drive for 12 hours to visit my family. I love to fly but I can’t take the Airport treatment anymore.

  3. She may be the Rosa Parks of our time for standing up to such persecution. The abuse and undue use of power by the very people who are supposed to protect us is more than enough reason for change.

  4. Although I support Nadine and agree with her decisions against the TSA, I can’t help but be annoyed by the blatant commentating and sides-taking by CNN. Come on, this is supposed to be news. If it really is infuriating, you don’t have to tell me that it is, the facts will infuriate me all by themselves, thank you very much.

    1. Boy if that upsets you I shudder to think what you would make of Edward R. Murrow perhaps the greatest broadcast newsman who ever lived. When he reported the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps he was very one sided. This obsession with fair and balanced is perhaps the worst legacy that faux news will leave us.

  5. How are plea bargains ethical, anyway? “If you stop this silly charade of pretending that you are innocent, we will be moderate in our punishment. But if you insist on your right to a jury trial, we’ll pile on the charges and seek the maximum penalty for each of them.”

    I can see how an innocent person could easily be induced to take such a plea bargain. This kind of legalized prosecutorial extortion is just wrong.

    1. A plea bargain works out better if the person making it is guilty. In exchange for saving the time and money the state would otherwise spend prosecuting the case, the defendant usually ends up with a lesser punishment for the crime.

      It doesn’t work out so well if the state has a pretty strong case against someone who is actually innocent.

      1. A lot of the time its not a good case though. They want you to take the plea bargain even if not guilty so they then can make money off of you (and they know they wont win in court). When they know they wont win in court, they should drop the case but they don’t, they try and trick you into claiming guilt. There is something seriously wrong with our system when you are constantly told you should take the plea bargain instead of actually getting a trial for your innocence.

        Guilty until proven innocent is what our system is currently doing. Especially related to all the media attention with some of the cases. Even if proven innocent, the case itself is damning enough (Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, etc…)

        Anyone who has an hour, I recommend watching “The Plea” from PBS.

  6. Good on her for not taking the plea. It’s a shame her mother didn’t live to see her daughter win out over this BS!
    And I’m seconding erratic‘s disgust at CNN for trying to tell us how we should feel about the story. So tired of the news media trying to steer emotions when they should just be reporting the facts!

  7. Plea Bargains are a serious wrong in our system. They probably had a right meaning but it has since been abused. Courts use plea bargains as a way to easy the pain IMMEDIATELY, but to make money. Sometimes its a fine and probation, but guess what, that probation has monthly fines because of the probation officer you have to meet with. Also you admit to a crime that you may or may not have done (just to get it over with) and it will stay with you the rest of your life. A lot of poor people are tricked into plea bargain because they cant make bail to continue their lives, so they sit in jail for a months to even a year for their trail.

    Our system is disgusting and needs a rework.

  8. Well, of course they strip searched her. She might have had some pork chops taped to her mid-section.

    Seriously though, I’m glad the inanity of TSA is being exposed in the courts. But I’m sorry Mrs. Hays had to endure the process.

  9. Totally sympathizing with the victim of the TSA in this case, and I’m glad she didn’t cop a plea. But I don’t agree that she was victimized by being offered the chance to plea.

    As a practical matter, no prosecutor can know exactly what happened before someone was arrested. Prosecutors base their charges largely on what the police tell the prosecutor. There are a lot of safeguards — like a jury trial and the fifth amendment — to ensure that a completely innocent person (like, maybe, Nadine Hays) won’t be convicted.

    But there’s a lot of ambiguity in all human activity. Sometimes people really truly do bad things, and they’re certain to be convicted of something, but it’s not immediately obvious what a jury would convict them of. In that case, a plea bargain allows the accused to cut their losses, and avoid the risk of some really serious punishment. In return, the state (and the taxpayers) save some money and trouble.

    As I recall, some specialists in game theory have analyzed this formally, but I couldn’t cite anything off the bat.

    1. Any ambiguity should have been cleared up with a review of the video. Any charges should have been throw out along with the TSA jackasses who let this shit even happen.

      If anything, she should be refunded for costs fighting this bullshit charge. It won’t take away the embarrassment and humiliation but it (and maybe a public apology from the TSA AND the offending jackasses) would go a long way for justice.

      As for plea bargins, victimized sounds about right. It’s so unfortunate that idiots “upholding” the law are so fucking anal about it that they can’t even review a video tape, tell the whining fucks who want petty revenge for disobedience in their tin-pot power-trip to go fuck themselves. So instead, you can be a little guilty as far as the law goes and have that mark on your public record and soul that says someone got away with injustice.

      1. after reviewing the facts, doesn’t the prosecutor have the option to decide if the case should proceed? and what is up with the strip search? i wonder what was the excuse provided for that action.

  10. Flying back home from Denver International Airport with my wife after visiting family in Colorado saw something similar happen.

    A guy probably in his 20’s with either Asperger’s or very high functioning Autism was going through the security line. Didn’t want to give up the little ipod shuffle he was listening to when he got to the metal detector/scanner, his guardian tried to calm him down and get him to hand it to the TSA agent to no avail.. the agent becoming increasingly impatient finally tried to grab it from him. Of course the guy jerks his ipod back and sort of bumps the TSA agent with his shoulder…. TSA agent completely freaks, 5 seconds later there are police officers there handcuffing the struggling autistic guy with the guardian begging them to back off…

    One of the most pathetic displays of idiocy and lack of training I’ve ever seen. Think of it every time I go through security.

  11. Burbank Airport Police have to be the worst law enforcement in the country. I am a resident of California and have been a medical marijuana patient for 8 years and was arrested at the airport because they didn’t honor my prescription. YES IN BURBANK, CA. Fuck Officer Dirty Sanchez and you can tell him I said so. James Chan.

  12. What upsets me about this news report is the damned black box covering the actual action of interest in the news report. The struggle over the cooler is in the lower left corner and is almost completely blocked (up until the woman moves to the mid-right of the screen, to throw away the food, which is when they finally remove the black box, now that it isn’t covering anything work seeing!).

    We can’t get a good look at the moment when the supposed assauly occurs! It’s frustrating as hell!

    Ugh! Pay attention CNN directors!

  13. As someone who flies in and out of Burbank at least 5 times a year I am not surprised. They are the most over zealous TSA people.

    I had a woman Burbank TSA agent start to feel my underwire and then got petulantly angry that I was angry and thought she being was invasive…

  14. Yeah, what aluxeterna said.

    Also, where the fuck does the judge get off with telling Mrs Hays — even while he’s dismissing the case — to stay out of trouble for 6 months or else?

    1. I fly quite a bit, and I tend to pick up a lot of bullshit from the TSA.
      Possible reasons:
      Tall, shiny bald head, goatee, dark brown tan, lots of tattoos, sunglasses and a cowboy hat.

      As a former member of the Armed Services, I find getting secondary screened to be highly wasteful of my time, the TSA’s time and the inevitible supervisor who gets to listen to me pitch a bitch and call him nearly every dirty word under the sun for “just doing his job.”
      Yes, Nazis just did their job too.
      Yes, I just broke an Intertubes law.

      The TSA is nothing more than a placebo that still manages to fuck things up.

      1. The TSA is nothing more than a placebo that still manages to fuck things up.

        Give that man one free internets for the best TSA characterization evah!

        Although curiously, placebos are in fact known to have negative side effects.

    2. I have a few ounces of Stainless Steel in my right leg. I get the special screening every time. I get a guy with bad breath feeling the inside of my leg until he hits my junk. Every time I fly they put me in that Glass box with my arms outstretched, I get wanded, I get felt all over, I get asked questions I get treated as if I did something wrong.

      So the next time you’re raising your hand I hope it is with a TSA screener behind you, feeling your bits to his pleasure. Then find this comment and tell me how it is.

      1. I have a few ounces of Stainless Steel in my right leg.

        For some reason, I hear Jason Statham’s voice saying that at the beginning of a Guy Ritchie movie.

        1. Antinous, you just made my day.

          I now have a image of Jason Statham playing me in another Crank sequel. Next time I have to fly I’ll work on a script just for fun.

    3. If you fly a lot and never get hassled, raise your hand.
      *raises hand*

      Calvinist much? Because it sounds like you’re trumpeting luck or privilege as a matter of pride.

  15. Yes, the TSA and prosecutors definitely overreacted. I’m surprised that no one has suggested, though, that Ms. Hays played some part in her own problem. Whatever the TSA worker said, getting in a “tug-of-war” with an agent in an airport security line is not acceptable. It’s difficult to clearly make out what happened in the video, but she should have requested a supervisor and dealt with the situation in a different fashion, perhaps avoiding much of her trouble.

    1. Actually, TSA screeners have no more authority to use force than any other citizen; they are not police officers. In particular, TSA screeners have no special legal authority to forcibly take property, or to forcibly detain anyone. If any passengers are non-compliant with lawful TSA requests, the TSA SOP requires them to call for a police officer rather than use force.

      So, when the TSA screener engaged in the tug-of-war over the passenger’s property, she was certainly in violation of TSA policy, and probably in very murky legal territory as well.

      TSA screeners can’t “confiscate” anything; they can ask that you “voluntarily surrender” a prohibited item, or they can deny you access to the sterile area of the airport, or they can call a cop if they find you are in possession of something illegal (e.g. drugs, weapons). But they can’t take anything.

      1. @Kerov–Thanks for commenting on official TSA SOP. The TSA agent may not, indeed, have been acting according to protocol. I don’t know. However, it appears that Ms. Hays grabbed the blue cooler from the agent while the agent was still holding it. It doesn’t appear that the agent was taking it. Regardless of TSA protocol and regardless of whether the agent should have immediately let go, my only point is that I do fault Ms. Hays for aggressively grabbing the cooler back, even if it was her own property and even if she was upset. That behavior is not acceptable in an airport security line. To me, common sense says that this wasn’t the best way for her to handle the situation. That’s all. (I have a very demented mother myself, so I can empathize with Ms. Hays regarding how challenging travel may have been and how she may have been very frustrated.)

        1. “Regardless of TSA protocol and regardless of whether the agent should have immediately let go, my only point is that I do fault Ms. Hays for aggressively grabbing the cooler back, even if it was her own property and even if she was upset. That behavior is not acceptable in an airport security line.”

          I began to write a long and sarcastic remark to this, but it will do no good. Let me be simple and straight to the point. Your comment is horribly upsetting. If you do not understand why, then best of luck to you.

          1. “I began to write a long and sarcastic remark to this, but it will do no good. Let me be simple and straight to the point. Your comment is horribly upsetting. If you do not understand why, then best of luck to you.”

            If you don’t even bother to explain yourself, then why post? You kinda remind me of Ms. Hays. (I’m not going to talk this out, I’m just going to act out.) I am only suggesting that this women should have tried talking to the agents, not grabbing. That’s it.

            I think her behavior was rude and caused an unnecessary disruption, perhaps delaying passengers behind her. What ever happened to civility? (I will admit that we don’t know the nature of the TSA agent’s behavior, good or bad, prior to the event. Everyone on this site seems to assume it was bad. They did overreact afterward.)

            I once had to dispose of some last minute gifts that I had purchased on the way to the airport because I absent-mindedly put them in my carry-on. I was upset by what the security agent told me, but I didn’t have a tantrum.

        2. It is true that from a legal standpoint there is a lessened expectation of privacy at an airport. However a closed box does retain some rights of the owner (legally speaking).

          To bow down and allow you and your property to be mistreated isn’t the right way to go either. This emboldens and creates the expectation that it is alright. They already believe they are effectual and have special privileges.

          How about we put the money where it would really do some good? Every time a flight of people do the TSA’s job they get paid and the TSA agents who allowed then past get docked a weeks pay? Every agent on the line that day. Since they have stopped the last two big attempts and security agents have just lost drugs, and smuggled bomb parts I think it fair to pay the people who are stopping the problem.

          1. @tizroc–“To bow down and allow you and your property to be mistreated isn’t the right way to go either.”

            The TSA agent was holding the blue cooler. Has was the women or her property being mistreated?

            Also, I am not suggesting bowing down to anyone. Talking, yes.

        3. “Kiss The Shiny Shiny Boots Of Leather” is a Lou Reed song, not TSA mandated behavior for air travellers.

  16. @anon 17 – I know really!! How much money and technological sophistication goes into producing CNN content that they can’t show something without obscuring the only thing you’d want to see? These are the same geniuses who are always showing video content in airports and on their own web site with 4:3 aspect video stretched out, making all the fat people they point their cameras at look especially unflattering.

  17. TSA Screeners are nothing more than trained monkeys,
    although that may be an insult to monkeys

  18. That made me imagine my mother having that happen to her, which is ridiculous beyond belief. It’s long past time that the TSA is disbanded and this ridiculous abuse of airline passengers ended. This is why I drive or take trains.

  19. Your TSA screener enroute to work at Logan International Airport.

    That’s NOT a bottle of Moxie in that brown paper bag in his right hand.

    I was behind him in line at the liquor store.

  20. This is why we need to totally boycott commercial flights for six months. Once the airlines and TSA are dead and gone we could then start over, it’s to screwed up to repair.

  21. If you are so immature and self centered that you believe your personal experiences negate all others even when video evidence is presented, raise your hand.

    *doesn’t raise hand*

    1. Kai, appeal to ridicule is a terrible way to make an argument. I was satirically making a hasty generalization about what I feel is a hasty generalization.

  22. OMG she hit her hand!? Wow, those TSA folks are pretty tough. Risking thumb and index finger to protect us from bottles of water and nail clippers. I can see the courtroom now “I had to go on disability due to the emotional stress from having my hand banged.”

  23. They should make it mandatory – if the accuser or the prosecutor loses the case because of the innocence of the plaintiff, they serve the penalty that is being asked for. In this case, the TSA official who made the complaint goes to jail for the period the prosecutor is asking for, and the prosecutor gets a demotion for the same period of time.

    Sure would cut down on these types of rubbish cases.

  24. I wish I could afford to hand a digital video camera to every traveler as they entered an airport and ask them to film any example of abuse of power they see. Bringing TSA to light and keeping them there is one good way of exposing this Security Theater.

  25. So, it is interesting that the TSA agent sued for assault.
    Maybe Nadine Hays or someone in a similar case should sue for harassment.

    A six month boycott of airlines. Interesting idea.
    Wish we didn’t have to punish all the non-TSA workers who would be punished because of a boycott.

    However, myself, I loathe flying into the US of A these days – I keep wondering when they are going to start using cattle prods. Sort of a mini boycott by traveling less.

  26. I lost all desire to fly in my own country long before I heard this case, and it only reinforces my decision. I now drive anywhere I can get to in less than a day, and I take the train longer distances.

    It would be unfair to paint all TSA employees with a broad brush, but I will observe that there are more than enough idiotic goons amongst their ranks to make the whole bunch look bad. And that’s everyone, not merely the hapless non-cops at the airport gates – this problem goes straight to the very top of this catastrophe, a fine blend of bureaucratic insanity and mean-spirited thugishness.

    The members of the TSA who object are no doubt fearful of speaking up lest they lose their jobs in a crap economy, such a wonderful bludgeon to hang over their heads. And the airlines do nothing, because the planes keep flying nice and sardine-packed. Why should they care that millions of their customers are unfairly inconvenienced, harassed or arrested? They’ll come back, and if they don’t there are plenty more sardines in the sea.

    I believe it was Frank Herbert, in God Emperor of Dune, who made some comment about a population whose travel options were restricted being easier to control…

  27. Personally I am far more frustrated by the clueless sheep travelling in airports, as opposed to those that work there. I’m talking about people who walk slowly and 4 abreast and block the path, groups that stop to talk and block the pedestrian flow, people who are in zone 4 who line up with zone 3, people who bring oversized luggage and try and force it into the overheads, people who block the moving walkways and don’t let you pass, and so on.

    Despite that rant, I love flying. I love airports. I smile at people behind counters and security because it usually disarms them. I help confused people, move around obstacles and go on my way.

  28. I don’t think it’s fair to be outraged over the strip search and handcuffing and the time in jail. That’s what happens when you’re arrested, isn’t it?

    I think the whole airport screening system is bullshit and the TSA should be thrown out. I’m not excusing them, but the whole situation is bound to cause issues with the screeners themselves.

    Here you’ve got people who literally spend a full shift delivering official quasi-secret government orders to people in an environment with a deliberate power imbalance in place to confound those terrorists and make people behave. Even big city cops don’t spend all day sternly bossing people around. It’s gotta fuck with your head and make you a real asshole. I’d love to see a study of how many screeners wind up in trouble for domestic violence after getting jobs with the TSA.

    1. A quick google search reaveals a number of arrests for sexual misconduct,many relating to sexual misconduct against a minor. Also, armed robbery, rape and drugs smuggling. The highest search results have all occurred in the past couple years. Not exactly domestic violence, but still quite disturbing.

      A real bunch of professionals, eh?

  29. what gets me is… 2 judges? The first judge should have thrown it out the second the video was shown to them. There is clearly nothing that a rational human could call assault there.


  30. You know how the terrorists want to degrade our society, cause us to fight ourselves, cause us to fear each other, limit our travel, and generally destroy our way of life.

    Way to suck up to terrorists, America. We’ve done so much damage now (economic and social) promoting fear, that we’ve helped them be wildly successful. We’ll figure it out eventually, after we grind enough grandmothers with applesauce under our boot.

    A truly sad day for America. Cmon folks. Let’s remember what all our soldiers died for.

  31. I was once frisked very deeply around my genitals for asking a TSA security guard in a rather loud voice, “Why are you searching Senator Carl Levin? I voted for him and so did most of the people in this line. Besides he runs the agency that oversees your department doesn’t he?”

    Just shows that the TSA doesn’t respect anything even their own futures, let alone the future of this country.

    BTW – The recaptcha for this post is “was backpack”

  32. It’s not only the terrorists that are laughing at you for surrendering so easily. So is the rest of the world.

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