Airport Stripper Case to Enter Court System - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Airport Stripper Case to Enter Court System

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An important decision was made in the First Amendment case filed by the Charlottesville man who ripped off his shirt in a Richmond airport. It's a ruling that could open doors for similar cases.

Friday's ruling was a victory for the infamous airport stripper who wore the Fourth Amendment on his bare chest in a Richmond airport in 2010.  The Rutherford Institute came to Aaron Tobey's defense and filed a suit against the federal government saying his First Amendment rights were violated.

A court ruled Friday that the case can go forward.

"We've heard hundreds of stories like this but like I said this is one of the rare victories. Most of the cases have been lost," said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. 

Tobey's behavior was not disruptive, giving the Rutherford Institute confidence in defending him.

"Believe it or not thought and this is bizarre, the joint terrorism task force came downstairs and questioned him for 90 minutes whether he was a terrorist or not," said Whitehead.

Tobey says he is happy with the decision and is ready to keep pushing.   "I think that the court made a really good decision regarding my case and I'm excited for this to keep moving forward. I think First Amendment rights like all of our constitutional rights are incredibly important to everything we do," said Tobey.  

He says the decision isn't a big surprise.  "I felt from the beginning that I was on the right side of this issue so I wasn't too surprised so I think it always seems from my standpoint somewhat intuitive or common sense that this is how it would have come down," said Tobey.

The court not only ruled in Tobey's favor, the judge took an extra step.

"The court actually went further which I thought was really good.  Judge Roger Gregory, he said that bizarre non-disruptive speech is protected by the First Amendment," said Whitehead. 

Tobey says there is still a lot of work to do, but he hopes others can learn from this ruling.

"Expressing who we are on an everyday basis is something that's crucial to our first amendment right and this ruling sort of helps to codify that a little stronger than I've seen it done in the past. So hopefully other first amendment cases can draw of that as an idea," said Tobey.  

The government can decide to petition the ruling.   If it doesn't, the case will go before a jury in federal district court.

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