Court: NASA of­fi­cer went too far in de­ten­tion of 74-year-old

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION -

SAN FRANCISCO | For nearly two hours on May 19, 2011, Joann Davis stood in the park­ing lot of a Cal­i­for­nia Denny’s restau­rant in pants soaked in urine an­swer­ing ques­tions from a fed­eral agent about a rice-size piece of moon rock she wanted to sell to help pay for her son’s med­i­cal care.

Mrs. Davis, who was in her 70s, had con­tacted NASA about the rock and claimed it was a gift to her late hus­band from Neil Arm­strong. But lu­nar ma­te­rial is con­sid­ered gov­ern­ment prop­erty, and her email brought six armed of­fi­cers to the Denny’s that day in a sting op­er­a­tion to seize the rock.

An in­dig­nant fed­eral ap­peals court on Thurs­day crit­i­cized Mrs. Davis’ de­ten­tion by NASA agent Nor­man Con­ley, call­ing it “un­rea­son­ably pro­longed and un­nec­es­sar­ily de­grad­ing.”

Mr. Con­ley de­tained Mrs. Davis even though he knew she was nearly 75 years old, had uri­nated in her pants dur­ing the sting, had reached out to NASA her­self and was hav­ing fi­nan­cial prob­lems, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals said.

The ap­peals panel up­held a lower court rul­ing deny­ing Mr. Con­ley im­mu­nity from Mrs. Davis’ law­suit al­leg­ing wrong­ful de­ten­tion.

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