Judge: Man in 9/11 airport hoax should be freed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man accused of creating a hoax that closed down a busy terminal at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks might go free without ever standing trial, after a federal judge recommended the court allow the mentally ill man to be released.

On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays recommended the court issue an order finding that Anthony Falco Jr., 50, is not a risk to others or their property and set him free.

Falco, whose last known address was East Petersburg, Pennsylvania, has been in custody since Sept. 11, 2011, when he was accused of trying to carry bags filled with fake bombs through an airport checkpoint.

During a K-9 sweep of his packages — which had all the earmarks of an improvised explosive device — Falco started chanting Bible verses and said, “Father God America is going to go down,” an FBI agent said. Falco also warned that investigators would be sorry if they opened the packages, he said.

The terminal was shut down for several hours on the busy Sunday and at least two flights were canceled because of the incident. A bomb squad later determined there were no explosives in his bags.

Falco’s mother told investigators at the time he had stopped taking medications for schizophrenia, and prosecutors later got a court order that allowed him to be forcibly medicated in order to be competent for trial. When that didn’t work, Falco was sent back to a mental hospital in North Carolina for further evaluation.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a report late last year that said even with medication Falco “continued to exhibit persecutory delusions.” It concluded that Falco remained incompetent, adding “it is unlikely that continued treatment with antipsychotic medication would restore Mr. Falco’s competency to stand trial in the foreseeable future.”

His condition posed a dilemma for prosecutors because they couldn’t get the case to trial and Falco couldn’t be committed to a mental institution because he was not a danger to himself or others.

Falco’s public defender, Laine Cardarella, argued in court last year that even if he were convicted of the two charges against him — making false statements to federal agents and trying to bring items simulating an explosive device through security — Falco probably would have been sentenced to less than two years.

Objections to Hays’ report must be filed by Oct. 3.

Cardarella declined to comment on the report, as did Don Ledford, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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