BOSTON – A judge Tuesday threw out one of nine charges against a man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner with explosives in his shoes, ruling that an airplane is not a vehicle under a new anti-terrorism law.
The charge — attempting to wreck a mass transportation vehicle — was filed under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
U.S. District Judge William Young said that although an airplane was engaged in mass transportation it is not a vehicle as defined by the new law.
Richard C. Reid still faces eight charges, including attempted murder and attempted destruction of an aircraft. He allegedly tried to light the explosives hidden in his shoes while aboard American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami three days before Christmas.
Samantha Martin, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, declined to comment on the ruling. She said no decision had been made on whether to appeal.
Reid’s lawyer, Owen Walker, did not immediately return a call for comment.
The judge said he looked to a legal definition of vehicle drafted by Congress in an earlier law known as the Dictionary Act. That defines a vehicle as something used as a means of transportation on land.
The USA Patriot Act was signed into law Oct. 26, giving the government broad powers to fight terrorism. Among other things, it expands the FBI’s wiretapping and electronic surveillance authority and gives police wide-ranging powers to search people’s homes and business records.