Monday, July 28, 2014

Grand jury dismisses charges against fired TSA agent Jeno Mouton

Former TSA agent Jeno Mouton worked for the agency for twelve years, often putting in overtime hours at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

As TSA News reported in February, Mouton was fired from his job and arrested on charges of making "terroristic threats."

A Harris County grand jury recently dismissed the charges against Mouton, finding there was insufficient evidence to corroborate the TSA's case.

TSA News spoke to Mouton, as well as his attorney, Shanna Hennigan, who confirmed that all the charges were dropped and that the grand jury dismissed the case, also known as "no-billing" it.
"They ruled that the details [as submitted by the TSA] were either uncorroborated or completely untrue," said Hennigan.

Hennigan said the TSA's case focused on a single sentence of Mouton's discussion with a supervisor on Saturday, January 25th of this year -- a discussion that Mouton himself had requested, following protocol that employees should bring workplace concerns and frustrations to the attention of their supervisor.

"At the end of it, I said something like, 'I'm glad we could have this talk, because I don't want to be like some type of crazy person that would come back and do something like shooting up the place', and I thanked her, and then I punched in and went back to work my overtime shift," said Mouton.

After a little over an hour, however, Mouton says he was asked to hand over his credentials and go home for the rest of the weekend, then report back on Monday morning, before his scheduled shift that day.

On Monday morning at around 8 o'clock, he met with Federal Security Director Olusheyi Ogunleye. Ogunleye had Mouton sign a written statement about his discussion with the supervisor on Saturday, then he handed Mouton back his credentials and told him to return to his post. Mouton worked the entire day. At 4 p.m., a TSA administrative assistant informed him that he was being placed on administrative leave until further notice. He was required to once again turn in his credentials.

Mouton said that he didn't hear from anyone at the agency the following day, but on Wednesday he started getting calls from concerned friends (co-workers) at the agency, who told him there was now a BOLO ("Be on the Lookout") alert for him. That Friday evening, Houston Police Department showed up at Mouton's door and arrested him.

Mouton and his attorney said his statement at the end of his conversation with the supervisor was in no way meant as a "terroristic threat." They believe the TSA were being both disingenuous and illogical. Disingenuous, because supervisors saw fit to take a single sentence completely out of context, attach the dread T-word to it, and fire a man who had worked for them for twelve years--and then have him arrested on charges of making a "terroristic threat," effectively ruining his chances of finding well-paying work in the future. Illogical, because if Mouton had posed such a threat, why was hensent back to work that Friday afternoon? Why was he also told to report back to the airport on the following Monday, at which point he was given his credentials and assigned to his post for the entire day?

This isn't the first time the TSA has either taken words out of context or overreacted to an innocent joke. There is also a common theme in evidence: the lack of logic and common sense that has TSA agents confiscating supposed potential explosives -- be they tubes of toothpaste, bottles of shampoo, or jars of face cream -- and casually tossing them into a bin located just a few feet away from hundreds of passengers waiting in line; and the lack of logic and common sense that led the TSA to send Jeno Mouton, a man they considered to have made "a terroristic threat", back to work, for multiple shifts, in one of the country's largest international airports.

Attorney Hennigan also noted that her client did not return to the airport after he was put on administrative leave, as news reports claimed. Mouton confirmed this, and added that there was no videotape record of such an appearance, either. Said Mouton:
"And on top of all that, if they really believed I was any kind of threat, there are protocols they were supposed to have followed. They never shut down any part of the terminal. They brought me back to do my job, that afternoon, and then again all day Monday."
Mouton has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hennigan says he is working part-time, but at a greatly reduced salary. Mouton says the most important thing for him right now is to clear his name and find well-paying work. In an email to TSA News, he points to an egregiously racist and erroneous article online (we won't link to it). He writes:
"Some of the things that I've been encountering on the Internet and stuff that's been damaging to myself and my family. All because of this alleged allegations of the TSA. My God, this stuff is so hurtful and degrading." 
TSA News reached out to the TSA for comment; no one from the agency has responded.

(Screengrab photo courtesy of Click2Houston)

Also at TSA News.