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Park Snack Haunts Aide a Year Later

June 19, 2004|From Associated Press

MIAMI — A teacher's aide who forgot to put away her marshmallows and hot chocolate at Yellowstone National Park last year was taken from her cruise ship cabin in handcuffs and brought before a judge Friday, accused of failing to pay a year-old fine.

Hope Clarke, 32, crying and in leg shackles, told the judge that federal agents rousted her at 6:30 a.m. after the ship returned to Miami from Mexico. She insisted that she had been required to pay the $50 fine before she could leave Yellowstone, which has strict rules about food storage to prevent wildlife from eating human food.

Customs agents meet all cruise ships arriving from foreign ports and run random checks of passenger lists. A warrant claiming that Clarke had not paid the fine was found in the federal law enforcement database.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Peter Outerbridge conceded there were some "discrepancies," but he suggested to the judge that Clarke appear in court again to clear up the warrant.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John O'Sullivan, who had a copy of a citation indicating the fine had been paid, apologized to Clarke, who had spent nearly nine hours in detention, and demanded that the U.S. attorney's office determine what went wrong.

Zach Mann, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called the arrest "an unfortunate set of circumstances." He added, "We were acting on what we believed was accurate information."

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