Student with circuit board on shirt arrested at airport

SATURDAY, SEPT. 22, 2007

BOSTON – Troopers arrested an MIT student at gunpoint Friday after she walked into Logan International Airport wearing a computer circuit board and wiring on her sweat shirt. Authorities call it a fake bomb; she called it art.

Star Simpson’s attorney said the charges against her were an overreaction, but authorities expressed amazement that someone would wear such a device eight months after a similar scare in Boston, and six years after two of the jets hijacked in the Sept. 11 attacks took off from Logan.

“I’m shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport,” said State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the airport’s commanding officer.

He added, “She’s lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue.”

The terminal was not evacuated and flights were not affected, airport officials said.

Simpson, 19, of Lahaina, Hawaii, has expertise in electronics and even received a congressional citation for her work in robotics, according to her lawyer.

She wore the white circuit board on her chest over a black hooded sweat shirt, Pare said at a news conference. The battery-powered rectangular device had nine flashing lights, and Simpson had Play-Doh in her hands, he said.

Two phrases that looked hand-drawn – “Socket to me” and “Course VI” – were written on the back of Simpson’s sweat shirt, which authorities displayed to the media. Course VI appears to refer to MIT’s major of electrical engineering and computer science.

“She said that it was a piece of art and she wanted to stand out on career day,” Pare said. “She claims that it was just art, and that she was proud of the art and she wanted to display it.”

There was a career fair at the university on Thursday, according to the university’s Web site.

Simpson was charged with possessing a hoax device. A not guilty plea was entered for her and she was released on $750 bail.

Ross Schreiber, who was appointed to represent Simpson, said she was a good student with no prior convictions. He said they would fight the charges.

“I would characterize it as almost being paranoid at this point,” he said of authorities’ response.

He said she had gone to the airport to meet her boyfriend. “She was there for legitimate purposes,” Schreiber said.


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