[Hpn] PATRIOT ACT DEFENSE IN HOMELESS TRANSIT CASE GETS BOOST FROM FEDS
William Charles Tinker
Tue, 30 Aug 2005 16:41:52 -0400
Patriot Act defense in homeless transit case gets boost from feds
By WAYNE PARRY
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
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
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,
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
"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
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.