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February 11, 2010

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Airport breach 'lovesick' deed

A LAWYER for a Chinese graduate student charged with a security breach at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport that led to worldwide flight delays has entered a plea of not guilty and defended his client as "simply a lovesick man who made a mistake."

Jiang Haisong's lawyer, Eric Bruce, entered the plea in the Municipal Court of Newark on Tuesday to a charge of defiant trespassing. The misdemeanor charge carries a fine of up to US$500.

Bruce sought a delay to review surveillance video and statements Jiang made to authorities before and after his January 8 arrest.

Authorities say Jiang, a Rutgers University student, entered a restricted area at the airport on January 3 to see off his girlfriend.

The breach shut a terminal, delayed or canceled about 200 flights, affected about 16,000 travelers and may have cost airlines millions of dollars as the terminal was emptied and passengers rescreened.

Bruce said on Tuesday that his client was sorry for the incident but declined to explain why he decided to plead not guilty.

"All Jiang Haisong wanted to do was kiss his girlfriend goodbye," Bruce said. "He's certainly not a security threat. He's simply a lovesick man who made a mistake, and he deeply regrets that."

Authorities caught up to Jiang at the home he shares with other graduate students after identifying him from airport surveillance video, which showed a man ducking under a barrier while a security guard was away from his post.

The guard, an employee of the federal Transportation Security Administration, has been suspended.

The TSA says it is evaluating security practices.

Jiang, 28, is a doctoral student in a molecular bioscience program at Rutgers. He is from eastern China's Jiangxi Province and has been in the United States since 2004.


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