By Emily Mieure
Jackson Hole News&Guide Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Man sues over airport search arrest


June 20, 2019

JACKSON —A Connecticut man who refused an “invasive pat down search of his genitals” is suing the town of Jackson, Teton County and Jackson Hole Airport.

Jackson police Officer Nate Karnes arrested William Frey on March 12, 2018, for violating security requirements.

Frey, who has a vacation home in Jackson Hole and visits about twice a year, said his belt caused the Transportation Security Administration screening machine to alert.

Frey, in his complaint filed by attorney Seth “Turtle” Johnson, said he volunteered to take off his belt but agents insisted they additionally search his groin, upper inner thigh and the outside of his leg.

“Plaintiff stated that he believed that touching his groin without his consent would constitute an illegal sexual assault and that he would not consent to anyone touching his groin,” the complaint states.

Airport security employees called Officer Karnes, who was working patrol at the airport.

“The plaintiff again refused Defendant Karnes’ demand for an invasive pat down search and informed Officer Karnes that if anyone touched his groin without his consent he would sue,” the complaint states.

Frey also claims that Karnes placed him in a “painful wrist-lock” that still causes him pain.

“The plaintiff was arrested by Officer Karnes and transported to the Teton County Jail and detained for a period of several hours,” a brief filed by Johnson last week in opposition to defendant’s motion to dismiss states. “At the jail the plaintiff was repeatedly subjected to harassment and interrogation and was denied access to counsel.”

Municipal Court Judge Melissa Owens later dismissed the charges against Frey, according to court documents.

“Despite the town of Jackson proving defendant committed the allegations as set forth in [12.16.170 (A) Airport: compliance with security requirements], the Jackson Police Department did not have the authority to enforce a violation at the Jackson Hole Airport as the town of Jackson municipal code did not authorize enforcement of this particular ordinance by a Jackson police officer,” Owens stated in the order on defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Jackson Hole Airport operates under federal, state and local authority, in concert with federal, state and local agreements and laws.

The Jackson Police Department has jurisdiction and authority to patrol the airport but Owens ruled that Karnes, although acting in good faith, enforced a statute that he did not have authority to enforce.

The town of Jackson, represented by Prosecuting Attorney Lea Colasuonno, is appealing Owens’ decision to dismiss Frey’s charges.

Those actions are pending in Teton County District Court.

Frey’s civil rights complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, names the town of Jackson, Teton County, the Jackson Hole Airport, Jackson Hole Airport Board, Nathan Karnes, John Does (airport security employees) and former Sheriff Jim Whalen.

Whalen oversaw the Teton County Jail at the time, and Frey claims he was kept there for three hours.

“The plaintiff made several requests to speak with an attorney while he was held at the Teton County Jail,” Frey’s complaint states. “The plaintiff’s wife contacted a local attorney in Jackson who called the jail and was denied permission to speak with the plaintiff.”

Frey said that while in jail he was verbally berated about his behavior.

“The plaintiff viewed this as an effort to intimidate him into waiving his right to counsel,” it states.

Wyoming Federal Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal hasn’t ruled in the case and there are no hearings on the schedule.


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