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

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Teton Co., Jackson airport


July 11, 2019

JACKSON — Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, has dismissed most claims that William Frey brought against several Teton County agencies.

But the court is giving Frey until Aug. 5 to file amended complaints for the court to reconsider his case.

Frey was trying to sue the town of Jackson, Teton County and Jackson Hole Airport for an interaction he had on March 12, 2018, while going through airport security.

Frey refused “an invasive pat down search of his genitals” and said he was unlawfully arrested because of it.

Named defendants, including Officer Nate Karnes and former Sheriff Jim Whalen, filed motions to dismiss after the initial complaint was filed, and Judge Freudenthal agreed with most of the defendants’ counter claims.

“Frey appears to argue he should have been permitted to dictate the scope of the search to the TSA officers or Officer Karnes,” Freudenthal wrote in her order. “Frey has not identified a Supreme Court or 10th Circuit decision on point, to support his contention that every reasonable official would have understood that what Officer Karnes did in the course of searching would violate Frey’s Fourth Amendment right to be free of an unreasonable search. This is fatal to Frey’s claim.”

Karnes arrested Frey after he continually refused to comply with a pat down after the Transportation Security Administration electronic screening machine alerted on his crotch area.

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.

Karnes took Frey into custody based on a municipal code that requires travelers to consent to proper searches before boarding a plane.

“A criminal ordinance that penalizes interference with airport security procedures undoubtedly implicates important national security concerns,” Freudenthal stated. “Officer Karnes is entitled to qualified immunity on Frey’s unlawful arrest claim and dismissal is proper.”

The court dismissed most of Frey’s claims without prejudice, meaning he has the ability to refile his complaint.

The court gave Frey until Aug. 5 to file an amended complaint.

“If he does not file an amended complaint by that date, all of his federal claims against the moving defendants will be dismissed with prejudice and the court would decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ state law claims,” Freudenthal wrote.


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