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Man accused of 9/11 airport scare unfit for trial

By BILL DRAPER

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man accused of trying to take a fake bomb through a security checkpoint at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks has been deemed mentally incapable of standing trial.

Anthony Falco Jr., 47, whose last known address was East Petersburg, Pa., is facing federal charges after security screeners discovered suspicious items in a carry-on bag as it went through an X-ray machine on Sept. 11, a busy Sunday morning at the Kansas City airport.

A psychiatric examination late last year found Falco to be suffering from mental illness and unable to understand the seriousness of the charges against him or help with his own defense. Last week, U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner ordered Falco hospitalized for up to four months to determine whether he will ever be competent to stand trial.

If Falco is still considered unfit for trial after four months, the court can order administration of medication or other treatment to render him competent for trial, assistant U.S. attorney Dan Nelson said. If he’s still not capable of going to trial after those measures, prosecutors could consider civil, rather than criminal, options for him.

Falco’s mother told investigators her son has a history of mental illness and had quit taking his medication just prior to the airport incident. She told members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force that her son previously received psychiatric treatment in New York.

Prosecutors have charged Falco, who briefly worked as a New York police officer, with making false statements to federal agents and trying to bring items simulating an explosive device through security.

The incident prompted the Transportation Security Administration to close down one of the Kansas City airport’s three terminals and a parking lot for several hours while authorities tried to figure out what was in Falco’s bag when he was stopped at the Southwest Airlines checkpoint — then refused to give permission for screeners to examine its contents.

A bomb-sniffing dog was brought in for a sweep of several packages in his carry-on that had been “over-taped,” which often is the case with homemade bombs, but didn’t detect explosives.

“During the K-9 sweep ... Falco began to chant Bible verses and began to appear to pray, saying, ‘Father God America is going to go down,”’ FBI special agent Jonathan Tucker wrote in an affidavit recounting the incident. “He continued to say words similar to, ‘You guys are going to be sorry if you open those packages.”’

After using a high-pressure water cannon to blast the packages outside the terminal, investigators found a clock, a digital music player, digital camera, a camera battery and wires, the affidavit said, but no explosives.

The incident created long lines as passengers had to be rescreened at a different security checkpoint, causing worries among some that they would miss their flights. At least two flights were canceled and several other flights were delayed.

As passengers milled about the corridors of the airport, ceremonies were going on nationwide in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Falco’s federal public defender, Laine Cardarella, declined to comment.

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