Lawyer says airport hoax suspect never claimed to have bomb

Sep 15, 2011, 1:48 p.m.

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - An attorney for a man charged with trying to bring a fake bomb through airport security on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks said on Thursday her client never claimed to have a bomb.

Anthony Falco Jr. raised suspicions on Sunday when he tried to board a Southwest Airlines flight in Kansas City with a carry-on bag containing taped and wired electronic parts.

FBI agent John Tucker testified on Thursday in a detention hearing in federal court that Falco had also stoked suspicions because he was traveling on a one-way ticket purchased with cash just two hours before the flight.

Falco's public defender, Laine Cardarella, said that none of the items in the package were illegal and that her client bought a one-way ticket because his car broke down and he was trying to fly "back east" where he lived.

Thursday's hearing will determine if Falco, 47, should be detained on the two felony counts he faces as a result of the incident, which shut down a portion of the airport for more than six hours.

The government said Falco, who wore chains on his wrists and ankles during Thursday's appearance, gave false or misleading information about what was in his carry-on bag in an effort to board the airplane.

Falco told the FBI and other investigators on Sunday that the packages that had raised the suspicions of the screeners contained harmless computer parts.

But he also refused to cooperate with screeners as they attempted to examine his bag, which led to his questioning and subsequent arrest.

Investigators ultimately discovered the package held batteries, wires and parts of cameras and cell phones -- components Tucker said can be used in a bomb, although the items lacked a detonation source.

Falco had also warned security personnel and police on Sunday that "whoever opens my bag is going to have a very bad day," an FBI affidavit said, and he appeared to be praying when he said "Father God, America is going to go down,"

Cardarella said that Falco's comments were a warning that he might pursue a lawsuit over the bag inspections, not a threat that opening the bag would cause physical harm.

"He never said he had a bomb," Cardarella said. When it was clear the bag was not going to be allowed through screening, Falco decided he didn't want to make the flight and simply wanted his bag back, she said.

Prosecuting attorney Justin Davids said Falco broke the law by misrepresenting what was in the packages. "There was probable cause to believe these were meant to look like a bomb," Davids said.

Falco's mother, Bea Whitehead, told authorities her son had received psychiatric treatment at a facility in New York but had stopped taking his medication.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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