Man says fear of COVID kept him in US airport for three months

Aditya Singh is charged with illegal trespassing for staying in Chicago airport, claiming a fear of COVID is the cause.

Travelers walk through Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, on Sunday, November 29, 2020 [File: Nam Y Huh/AP Photo]
Travelers walk through Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, on Sunday, November 29, 2020 [File: Nam Y Huh/AP Photo]

A California man who told police the coronavirus pandemic left him afraid to fly has been arrested on charges he hid in a secured area at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months, multiple outlets reported on Monday.

Aditya Singh, 36, was charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft after he was arrested on Saturday.

At a court hearing on Sunday, a judge ruled Singh, who was living in Orange County, California, could be released if he paid $1,000, but said he was prohibited from setting foot in the airport, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Singh remained on the Cook County Jail database on Tuesday. His bail is set at $10,000.

Assistant Public Defender Courtney Smallwood said Singh does not have a criminal record. She also said it was unclear why Singh, who is unemployed, came to Chicago or if he has ties to the area.

During the hearing, Assistant States Attorney Kathleen Hagerty said Singh was spotted by two United Airlines employees, who asked him for identification, the Chicago Tribune reported.

This Saturday, January 16, 2021, booking photo provided by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office shows Aditya Singh who was arrested on charges that he hid in a secured area at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months [Cook County Sheriff’s Office via AP]
Singh lowered his mask and showed a badge that actually belonged to an operations manager at the airport who had reported it missing in late October, Hagerty said.

The employees called the police, who took Singh into custody. Singh was “scared to go home due to COVID”, Hagerty said and told authorities he had found the badge and other passengers at the airport had given him food.

There are more than 24,000,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US, and almost 400,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

Carl Jones, a former landlord of Singh’s, told the Chicago Tribune the accused was a “gentle soul” who was supposed to be returning home to India.

Mary Steele, who the Tribune said had known Singh since at least 2018, said he was “deeply spiritual” and has “no malice in his heart or ill will”.

Before she granted Singh bail, Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz was clearly troubled that someone could remain in a secured area for so long at the airport without anyone noticing.

“The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred,” the judge said. “Being in a secured part of the airport under a fake ID badge allegedly, based upon the need for airports to be absolutely secure so that people feel safe to travel, I do find those alleged actions do make him a danger to the community.”

Singh is scheduled to return to court on January 27, the Cook County Jail website shows.

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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