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Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 01:33 AM


Blind interpreter detained at Philly airport says he has nightmares from arrest

Philadelphia Daily News
caparek@phillynews.com 215-854-5880

A BLIND INTERNATIONAL interpreter who says he was dragged off a Belgium-bound flight, arrested and held in custody in Philadelphia for hours without food or water faces an arraignment Thursday.

His crime: He questioned why his U.S. Airways flight was delayed nearly two hours.

Nicola Cantisani, 61, of Brussels, Belgium, a professional translator who has been blind since birth, was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, police said.

"This is taking airplane security to a new and ridiculous level," said his attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr. "It's pretty crazy."

Cantisani and his wife, Paola, were returning to Brussels April 4 after visiting family in New York. The couple changed planes at Philadelphia International Airport and boarded the 8:32 p.m. flight.

After the plane sat on the tarmac for some time, passengers were told that the flight would be delayed - without explanation, according to Cantisani. They were unable to use phones, receive attendant service or move from their seats.

"That was the straw that unfortunately broke the camel's back," Cantisani said. "It just got to me: They board you and just taxi you around."

Cantisani said he stood up to request a glass of water and to speak with the crew or captain about the delay, but was told to sit down.

In interviews in Philadelphia and later by phone from Brussels, Cantisani described what he called an "indescribable" chain of events that has given him nightmares.

"I felt I was being kidnapped - like I was a hostage," Cantisani said of the wait.

Cantisani said he spoke with the captain, who told him the plane was having mechanical problems. He then returned to his seat.

Shortly afterward, another passenger made a remark about the crew, prompting three Philadelphia Police officers to escort that man off the plane, Cantisani said.

Then, police tried to remove Cantisani as well, he said.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said the police were called to Gate A-19 because of a disorderly passenger.

"A passenger had become irate over the delay," Vanore said.

Cantisani, unaware of why he was being removed, refused to leave.

He said the officers yanked Cantisani from his seat and dragged him off the plane, injuring his hand, which was gripping his seat belt . Then they forced him into a wheelchair.

At one point, an officer held him "by the throat," he said.

Vanore said that Cantisani had been asked several times to leave the plane but continually refused.

A U.S. Airways representative said Cantisani was an unruly passenger who had refused to exit the plane.

During the struggle with police, Cantisani said, he lost his retractable walking cane, making him unable to navigate.

Officers told him they had done the "blind test" and didn't believe he was blind, he said.

Vanore said he knew of no "blind test" administered by police.

Cantisani claimed he was held in police custody at the airport from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. without food, water or access to his phone or outside communication.

His wife, who had followed him off the plane, said she "was asking a lot of questions" but got no explanation.

After speaking with the officers, Cantisani - who translates several languages for international conferences - said he was asked how much English he spoke and was questioned by a psychiatrist.

About 3 a.m., he was taken to the 18th Police District, where he was detained until late the next evening, he said.

"I was never read my rights. I was put against the wall, told to put [my] hands on the wall, empty [my] pockets and undo my shoelaces," Cantisani said. "Then, I was shoved into a 6-by-7-foot cell and that was it."

Cantisani said that without his cane to help him navigate, he bumped his head, causing it to bleed.

Cantisani said no one believed he was blind until the end of his stay.

"Imagine yourself blindfolded and being knocked around, and I had no idea how long that was going to last," Cantisani said.

After Cantisani appeared before a bail commissioner, he was released sometime after 7:35 p.m. April 5 and driven to the Penn View Hotel in Old City, where he was reunited with his wife.

Cantisani said he remains "beside himself" about the flight procedures, the crew and the officers who handled him.

"It's indescribable . . . I still have nightmares," Cantisani said. "I wake up in the middle of the night thinking I'm in a prison cell."

Cantisani said he does not plan to return to Philadelphia. Peruto said he would represent Cantisani in court Thursday.

Personally, this makes me RAGE. They didn't believe he was blind?! And he was stuck in a cell for hours on end with no food, water, or anything. I fucking hate this bullshit. Ever since 9/11, we've been turned into a paranoid country who punishes the innocent for nothing. Ben Franklin would be rolling in his grave right now.



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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 01:44 AM

Oh, the stupidity of overreactions to perceived security threats.

A blind test? I think a man with a cane should tell you enough, especially if he's bumbling around when he's forced to stand up without it. And leaving him with no food, no water, and not having his rights read to him constitutes as a violation of basic citizen rights and cruel and unusual punishment.


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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 02:01 AM

This man, Cantisani, was treated unfairly and unjustly. America needs to realize that people who were really terrorist or ment to cause harm what so ever would be more inclined to be patient. If you keep people on a plane for that period of time with no food or water it is bound to cause problems and they airline should realize this.

Action should be taken to fix this crude justice and really reflect that we are a nation of compassion not a nation that will willingly use any means on people who maybe innocent.

It just seems to me that his being blind makes this whole thing alot worse because of what officers did. In my opinion i would have the Officers responsible fired and the airline fined and not a small fine one that will get the point across that this behavior is not acceptable.
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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 03:22 AM

They did a blind test? Wtf. Don't people understand white canes? -_-

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 03:27 AM

This officially proves the terrorists have won.
When we're too scared as a society to believe that the handicapped might acutally be handicapped, then we've lost this war.

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 04:58 AM

This is INSANE. And really shames Americans.

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 05:48 AM

No wonder so many countries have no respect for America anymore.
The people that did this should not have any kind of power in the world whatsoever.

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 07:42 PM

Though my first reaction was what the above have stated, I'm going to play Devil's advocate a little bit. I feel it's needed in this thread.

First off....Planes get delayed. If you've been on many planes, you know they are bound to get delayed here and there. I remember my flight to Cancun like 5 years ago was delayed multiple times....Which ended up being like 9 hours deylay. I've also sat on a plane before for almost 2 hours just sitting there...It sucks, but I have no problem with them checking the plane and such so we don't crash. The article makes this waiting ordeal sound so bad, when it really isn't a huge deal.

We weren't there, so we don't know how this guy was reacting. Maybe it seemed necessary at the time to bring this guy out.

I also don't like how the article keeps reiterating that he's a blind man. So what? Should he get special treatment because he decides to be an asshole on the plane? No. An unruly passenger is unruly, whether he is blind or not.

Plus, he put most of this on HIMSELF. Why are you fighting against the police?? I bet the ordeal would have been much smoother if he had just done what they said. If you're resisting police, of course he's going to grab your throat, because he doesn't know what you're going to do next. With the way he was acting, it all seemed reasonable to the police to do what they did. Now did they go too far? It's not my call.

I give the guy credit though. Hopefully he gets some money with his lawsuit
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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 08:09 PM

blind test??

what, did they 'nearly' punch him in the face and see his reaction? what age are we?

maybe he's blind for attention...yeah that must be it.

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 13th 2009, 09:39 PM

This reminds me of a case not too long ago when a man who was in a wheelchair was arrested, and they ended up literally picking up the wheelchair and dumping the guy out on the floor.

I believe there was fault on both sides here, though. I think it's kind of silly to assume that this man was escorted off for no reason whatsoever. The airport officials might have overreacted in dealing with it, but there wouldn't have been a situation in the first place if this guy hadn't called attention to himself in the first place. And the way this guy keeps playing the blind card in the article makes me think that he expected special treatment because of his disability. Well, things don't work that way.

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 14th 2009, 01:11 AM

The fact that they did a "blind test" disgusts me completely. Talk about the ignorance and complete disregard by airport security there.

At the same time, I think the blind man could have handled this problem in a more mature and calm way.

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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 14th 2009, 01:12 AM

I find neither party to be innocent. The police certainly treated the blind man rather unfairly and seemed very worried about terrorism. However, you cannot blame them for that. There are a variety of eye tests, so I'm not sure exactly which test they did nor why they refused to believe him. A man with a cane means that a man has a cane; it doesn't always mean the person truly is blind nor that they have an injury. That's the implied meanings, however, people do lie.

However, there was no indication in the article as far as I read of the police tasering him or beating him down, which for the blind man's sake was good. The police were only doing their job, however, due to their unwillingness to understand that he was blind, I assume he'd have some way to show them, then they could have been more lenient. However, I put most of the blame on the blind man, not the police.

As for the blind man, while it is understandable about him becoming rather fearful for his safety, if he was indeed blind and had a decent brain (which since he can translate internationally, I assume he does), then he'd have known it'd be best for a completely blind man to sit down.
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Re: Blind Man Detained in Philly Airport For Asking Why Plane Was Delayed - May 25th 2009, 05:51 AM

Originally Posted by wanderlust View Post
blind test??

what, did they 'nearly' punch him in the face and see his reaction? what age are we?

maybe he's blind for attention...yeah that must be it.
I was thining that the ¨blind test¨ was probably acting like if they were going to punch him in the face to see his reaction...
America is seriously gone insane.

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