William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 30 Aug 2005 16:41:52 -0400


Patriot Act defense in homeless transit case gets boost from feds

Associated Press Writer

August 30, 2005

MORRISTOWN, N.J. -- When officials in Summit invoked the USA Patriot Act to 
justify kicking homeless people out of its train station, the move was 
ridiculed in many quarters; even the U.S. Justice Department said the city 
had no business applying the anti-terrorism law to justify its treatment of 
the homeless.

But now that the federal government has issued a warning in the aftermath of 
the London bombings that terrorists may pose as homeless people to watch 
buildings and mass transit stations while plotting future attacks, no one is 
laughing anymore.

 In an answer to a federal lawsuit brought by a homeless man who objected to 
being told to leave the Summit train station, the city said in June that its 
conduct is protected by the Patriot Act and the lawsuit should be barred. 
The city cited a section of the law regarding "attacks and other violence 
against mass transportation systems."

That prompted a Justice Department spokesman to call the move "a fundamental 
misunderstanding of what the Patriot Act is," and "an overreaching 
application of the law."

But last week, the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington sent an e-mail alert 
to some federal employees citing the London terror bombings and warning of 
terrorists posing as homeless people in transit stations. Some 52 people 
died in the July 7 attacks on the London subway.

"It absolutely does buttress our position," said Timothy Beck, a lawyer 
representing the city of Summit. "It reinforces the absolutely legitimate 
concerns that every municipality has had since Sept. 11. These are real, 
true concerns."

Summit is among several defendants being sued in U.S. District Court in 
Newark by Richard Kreimer, 55, who is seeking at least $5 million in damages 
against NJ Transit, the city of Summit, nine police officers and several 
other defendants, claiming he and other homeless people have been unlawfully 
thrown out of train stations since August.

He also wants a federal judge to decide whether transit stations are public 
or private property, and whether people who are not ticketed passengers have 
the right to be in them.

Ed Barocas, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New 
Jersey, said Summit should not take too much solace in the federal alert.

"They are misreading the alert and are merely seeking after-the-fact 
justification for discriminatory actions," he said. "The alert asks for 
increased vigilance. It does not in any way authorize the police to take 
illegal actions.

"Removing an individual simply because of the way they look, especially when 
they have a ticket as Mr. Kreimer did, or searching them based on their 
economic status is unconstitutional," Barocas said. "Nothing about this 
alert changes that or seeks to change that."

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking 
comment Tuesday.

Sitting on an outdoor bench in Morristown, rifling through legal papers, 
Kreimer said Tuesday the Patriot Act defense is ludicrous in his case.

"Before they even approached me, they know I'm homeless Kreimer from 
Morristown, not homeless al-Qaida," said Kreimer, who is serving as his own 

Kreimer garnered national attention _ and nearly a quarter of a million 
dollars _ in 1991 after suing Morristown, the Morris Township public library 
and the police department over his treatment there. The library threw him 
out at least five times, claiming his body odor and the way he looked at 
library patrons offended them.

Morristown paid $150,000 to settle a harassment suit, and the library's 
insurer kicked in $80,000 to get Kreimer to drop his suit after a federal 
judge ruled the library's rules on hygiene were unconstitutional. That 
ruling was later overturned, but not before Kreimer had been paid.

He lived in Lakewood, Col. from 1993 until 2000, when he returned to New 
Jersey, and resumed filing lawsuits against individuals and institutions he 
felt had discriminated against him.

Kreimer conceded that authorities' concern about terrorists possibly posing 
as homeless people is legitimate.

"Yes, it is possible that someone could or will do that, yes," he said. "But 
someone could also be disguised in a three-piece suit, or as a priest. Can 
they allow police to go up and question people as to whether they're 
actually homeless? Where the court will come down on that, I don't know."

William Charles Tinker

New Hampshire Homeless  / Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640  USA
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.