Veteran in Boise Airport dispute pleads guilty

Todd Golden's trip to jail began with his shoes.

sberg@idahostatesman.comMay 1, 2013 

A private first class with three tours in the Middle East, Todd Golden took off his shoes like all the other passengers entering the security checkpoint at the Boise Airport last June. He was on his way back to Fort Lewis in Washington after spending a weekend in Boise helping his mother move.

Video footage shows a federal Transportation Security Administration officer approaching Golden as he stands next to a conveyor belt carrying items through a security scanner. Golden later said the officer told him to remove his shoes, even though they were already off.

The misunderstanding between Golden and the agent sparked an incident that landed Golden behind bars and led a group to object to the way the soldier was treated.

Over the next eight minutes, Golden argued with airport security officers and two Boise police officers. A police statement identified Joe Rivas and Mike Algate as the two officers. The state's online court records list Rivas as the arresting officer.

'ONE PERSON TALKS'

Golden showed the officers his military ID, said Boise attorney Jon Steele, one of several who represented Golden. It's unclear whether Golden told the officers that he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Two police officers, as well as airport security officers, talked to Golden as he complained about the confrontation over his shoes. Their approach conflicted with Boise police training for dealing with veterans, which the department developed after a July 2009 incident in which officers fired at Iraq war veteran George Nickel, who had fired an assault rifle at several units in his apartment complex. Nickel was not injured.

"One person talks. This is paramount when dealing with anyone in crisis," Boise Police Sgt. David Cavanaugh says in a video explaining Boise's Veterans Sequential Intercept Model. "Multiple voices, multiple people giving instructions is not going to work. One person has to talk, and listening is just as important as talking."

In the June 3, 2012, airport incident, security officers, as well as the two police officers, occasionally stood near Golden and talked to him as the situation escalated. Steele said surrounding Golden provoked him into a more aggressive stance.

Ultimately, the two officers in the video walk Golden to a nearby chair and make him sit. When he tries to stand up, they force him face-first to the floor and cuff him.

Descriptions of the officers' actions differ.

"Todd was immediately jumped on by the police, slammed to the floor," read an email circulated late last month by the American Land Rights Association, which advocates "the wise use of our resources, access to our federal lands and the protection of our private property rights," according to its website.

TWO MISDEMEANORS

The police statement reads: "(Golden) stood as if to possibly assault officers or staff. During a slight struggle, Golden was restrained and taken to the floor using minimal force."

Being restrained appears in the video to cause Golden pain to his left arm. He called "medic" three times.

Golden spent two days in jail. Prosecutors charged him with two misdemeanors: violating the airport's master security plan and resisting or obstructing officers.

The American Land Rights Association last week called for a yearlong boycott of the Boise Airport. It is unclear whether the boycott had any effect at the airport. A spokeswoman couldn't be reached for comment.

Monday afternoon, less than two days before his trial was scheduled to begin, Golden pleaded guilty to the resisting/obstructing charge. Prosecutors dropped the other charge.

A judge sentenced Golden to three months of unsupervised probation and ordered him to serve 40 hours of community service.

Another of Golden's attorneys, Karl Shurtliff, said five hours of community service that his client serves each week as part of his regular Army service will count toward the community service requirement in Idaho.

CHARGES COULD BE DISMISSED

If Golden successfully completes his service requirement and probation, Shurtliff said, the resisting/obstructing charge can be dismissed and removed from his record.

Considering the seriousness of the charges he faced, Shurtliff said, the outcome isn't too bad. But Golden shouldn't have faced charges in the first place, he said.

"Any deal you take, you kind of hold your nose a little bit and figure it could be worse," Shurtliff said.

American Land Rights Association founder Chuck Cushman said he has not decided whether to continue the airport boycott.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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