« on: October 22, 2004, 10:20 AM »
By MICHAEL W. KAHN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Charges were dropped Thursday against a pregnant woman arrested and forced to the ground by Metro Transit Police for allegedly talking too loudly on a cell phone.
"I'm happy that it's over with," defendant Sakinah Aaron said of the incident that has raised questions about the conduct of the transit police force.
The 23-year-old Aaron was arrested Sept. 9 at a subway station in the Maryland suburb of Wheaton and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Officials of the transit system had claimed that one of their officers heard Aaron yelling obscenities into a cell phone and said that when the officer told her to stop, she used similar language on him.
"We didn't want our action to be taken as a reflection on our view about the officer's credibility," said Deputy Montgomery County, Md., State's Attorney Katherine Winfree. "We just felt that under the circumstances, this was the appropriate disposition at this time."
Winfree said there were questions about whether prosecuting a seven months pregnant woman in such a case was a good use of "judicial resources." Prosecutors reserved the right to recharge Aaron if she has another run-in with the law.
Aaron's lawyer, Jeanett Henry, remains furious over the officer's conduct.
"She proceeded to tell him that she is pregnant. But he didn't listen, he didn't comment, and he did put her on the ground, face down, and her stomach was being pressed against the concrete," Henry said. Aaron said she is due to give birth to a girl in February, and that doctors have told her the fetus is healthy. She is now considering suing the transit agency for false arrest.
In explaining why the charges were dropped, Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson said it was the cost of prosecuting the case.
"It's all about money," Hanson said Thursday. "I think initially the gal was offered community service, and she requested a jury trial," said Hanson, adding that she wanted Aaron's case to go forward but understood the prosecutor's decision.
Transit Police remain defensive about their actions in this and other cases that have gained them unflattering publicity. On July 16, a woman was handcuffed and jailed for eating a candy bar on a subway station escalator. In 2000, a 12 year-old girl was arrested for eating a french fry on a subway platform. And in 2002, a wheelchair bound rider was ticketed for using profanity when he could not find a working elevator to exit the system.
Even the union representing transit officers seemingly acknowledged an image problem.
"Metro police are not some 'Barney Fife rent-a-cops,'" Teamsters Local 639 business agent Terrence Edwards said in a press release last week.