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Federal prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against an Arvada woman who refused to show identification to federal police while riding an RTD bus through the Federal Center in Lakewood [a suburb of Denver, Colorado].
Deborah Davis, 50, was ticketed for two petty offenses Sept. 26 by officers who commonly board the RTD bus as it passes through the Federal Center and ask passengers for identification.
During the Thanksgiving weekend, an activist who has helped publicize other challenges to government ID requirements posted a Web site about the case, which he said had logged more than 1.5 million visitors by lunchtime Monday.
"The petty offense ticket was issued by police on the scene," Colorado U.S. attorney's spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Monday. "The status of the matter is now under review."
A decision on whether the government will pursue the case is expected in a week or two.
Davis said she commuted daily from her home in Arvada to her job at a small business in Lakewood, taking an RTD bus south on Kipling Street each morning from the recreation center in Wheat Ridge, where she left her car. She said the bus always passed through the Federal Center and some people got off there.
Guards at the Federal Center gate always boarded the bus and asked to see all passengers' identification, she said.
She said the guards just looked at the IDs and did not record them or compare them with any lists.
When she refused to show her ID, she said, officers with the Federal Protective Service removed her from the bus, handcuffed her, put her in the back of a patrol car and took her to a federal police station within the Federal Center, where she waited while officers conferred. [NOTE: This act appears to violate both the Fourth Amendment and the Due Process clauses of the US Constitution - but so what... the Patriot Act effectly suspends most of the Constitution anyway] She was subsequently given two tickets and released.
She said she arrived at work three hours late. She no longer has that job and did not identify her former employer.
The Federal Protective Service in Colorado referred inquiries to Carl Rusnok of Dallas, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees the federal police. Both are part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Rusnok said the federal officers in Colorado told him the policy of checking the IDs of bus passengers and others entering the Federal Center began shortly after the April 1995 terrorist bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.
"It's one of the multiple forms of security," Rusnok said. "The identification is one means of making sure that, whoever comes on base, that you know that they are who they say they are.
"There are a variety of other means that bad people could take to circumvent that, but that's why there are multiple layers of security," he said.Security 'high priority'
Between 7,000 and 8,000 people work at the Federal Center in Lakewood and between 2,000 and 2,500 people visit it every day, Rusnok said.
"Security to protect the employees and the visitors is a high priority," Rusnok said.
RTD spokesman Scott Reed said federal guards only check IDs of bus passengers when the Federal Center is on "heightened alert," which may not be known to the general public [NOTE: There is no such Federal alert-level].
"It's periodic," Reed said.
"That is something we don't control," Reed said. "It is Federal Center property, and the federal security controls the ID-checking process. We try to cooperate as best we can and inform the public that this will occur."
Davis is to appear before a magistrate judge in Colorado U.S. District Court on Dec. 9 2005.
"We don't believe the federal government has the legal authority to put Deborah Davis in jail, or even make her pay a fine, just because she declined the government's request for identification," said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which has taken up the case.
"She was commuting to her job," Silverstein said. "She wasn't doing anything wrong. She wasn't even suspected of doing anything wrong."
"Passengers aren't required to carry passports or any other identification documents in order to ride to work on a public bus," he said.
Davis also is represented by volunteer attorneys Gail Johnson and Norm Mueller of the Denver law firm Haddon, Morgan, Mueller, Jordan, Mackey & Foreman, P.C. She also has the backing of Bill Scannell, an activist who has helped publicize other challenges to government requirements that people show identification. Scannell created a Web site during the Thanksgiving weekend about Davis' case: papersplease.org [NOTE: Additional facts are here]
"This is just a basic American issue of what our country's all about," Scannell said. "It has nothing really to do with politics, and everything to do with what kind of country we want to live in."'Rosa Parks'
Some supporters have called Davis "the Rosa Parks of the Patriot Act generation," a reference to the African-American woman who became a civil rights heroine after she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, Scannell said [NOTE: See the Patriot Act full text here and some more discussion here].
Davis said she showed her ID when a Federal Center guard asked to see it for the first couple of days she rode the RTD bus through the center. But it bothered her.
"It's wrong," she said Monday. "It's not even security. It's just a lesson in compliance - the big guys pushing the little guys around."
For a few subsequent days, she told the guards she wasn't getting off in the Federal Center and didn't have an ID. They let her stay on the bus.
Finally, on a Friday, a guard told Davis she had to have an ID the next time. Davis said she spent part of the weekend studying her rights and e-mailing Scannell.
That Monday, when a guard asked if she had her ID with her, Davis just said, "Yes."
"And he said, 'May I see it?' " she recalled, "and I said no."
The guard told her she had to leave the bus, but she refused. Two officers with the Federal Protective Service were called.
"I boarded the bus and spoke with the individual, Deborah N. Davis . . . asking why she was refusing," wrote the first Federal Protective Service officer in an incident report posted on Scannell's Web site. The officer was not identified.
"She explained she did not have to give up her rights and present identification," the officer wrote. "I informed her she was entering a federal facility and that the regulations for entrance did require her to present identification, before being allowed access."
"She became argumentative and belligerent at this time," the officer wrote.
Eventually, one officer said, "Grab her," and the two officers took hold of her arms and removed her from the bus, Davis said.
Davis has four children, including a 21-year-old son serving in Iraq with the Army and a 28-year-old son who is a Navy veteran. She has five grandchildren.