Portuguese man acquitted in Liberty Bell threat
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Portuguese man who has been in the United States for 17 years has been acquitted of allegations that he threatened screeners at Philadelphia’s iconic Liberty Bell by telling them that he had explosives, which he said was a misunderstanding.
Carlos Balsas, 42, was acquitted Monday. He had been in custody in lieu of $250,000 bail since he was arrested in January on a felony bomb threat charge near Independence Mall, The Philadelphia Inquirer said (http://bit.ly/1cRWnSx ).
Officials said Balsas, an Arizona State professor from 2004 to 2011, was touring the city’s historic sites on his way to a job interview at Rutgers University. Witnesses testified that he became upset when authorities started to search his courier sack and backpack and said, “I have a bunch of explosives in there.”
He then grabbed his bags and walked out, saying, “This is the way they treat you in America,” according to witnesses. National Park Service rangers followed him and arrested him nearby. Authorities searched the backpack and found no explosives.
Balsas called it a misunderstanding, saying he told the screener, “I have a bunch of exclusives” — a literal translation of the Portuguese word for personal property.
Prosecutors said Balsas had never offered that explanation before, and they argued that such a miscommunication was unlikely involving someone who had taught college classes and written books and articles in English.
Common Pleas Court Judge Diana Anhalt said she would have convicted Balsas of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but he wasn’t charged with those offenses.