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Judge refuses to dismiss charges against French citizen jailed for month after CVG Airport arrest

Woman refused police orders to de-board plane
On Feb. 24, French citizen Fatoumata Camara refused to deboard a plane at CVG Airport.
Posted at 8:01 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 20:01:52-04

BURLINGTON, Ky. — On Thursday, a Boone County District judge refused to dismiss misdemeanor charges against a French citizen who was jailed for nearly a month after she ignored police orders to de-board a plane at CVG Airport.

On Feb. 24, airport police repeatedly told Fatoumata Camara, 34, she needed to get off the plane to clear up an issue with her boarding pass.

She stayed in her seat.

So, officers grabbed hold of her, arrested her and charged Camara with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and trespassing.

On Thursday, her public defender asked District Judge Jeff Smith to dismiss the charges.

Camara failed to appear Thursday at the hearing.

"I don't necessarily want to ask for a warrant at this point, but I don't know that she knows about the court date," Boone County Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Hatfield told Smith during the hearing. "I think I would like a continuance to see if we can figure out from someone what an address would be for her so we can at least try to send her a notice."

Smith scheduled a pre-trial hearing for Camara on June 23.

It appears no one involved in the case knows where to find her.

On March 24, Judge Smith involuntarily committed Camara to a state hospital for up to 60 days.

That order followed alleged incidents in the Boone County jail.

Jail staff said Camara had tried to hurt herself and, at times, refused to cooperate and communicate.

In court Thursday, Camara's public defender confirmed that she had been discharged from Eastern State Hospital.

The WCPO 9 I-Team first reported on Ms. Camara's plight on May 10.

Police body camera videos show Camara initially told police on the plane that she spoke French.

She appears to confirm that she understands English.

But the I-Team's review of the police videos shows Camara repeatedly misunderstood basic English words, phrases and concepts.

Despite that, a French interpreter was never provided for Camara even though she was a French citizen traveling with a French passport who said she spoke French.

Jail staff insisted they didn't know she preferred to speak French and was a French citizen.

Jail records identified her as a U.S. citizen.

Video of Camara in jail and court show she didn't use a French interpreter there.

"I was worried that the defendant didn't have proper assistance," French interpreter Seydina Diop said.

Diop, a longtime French interpreter in southwest Ohio, said he was concerned about Camara after watching the I-Team's initial story.

"I don't think she understood the legal part," Diop said.

Diop said airport police should have contacted a French interpreter immediately after Camara told officers she spoke French.

"That was a red flag for the officer to understand that this person was not very fluent in English, even though she said she can speak English," Diop said.

If Camara fails to appear for her next hearing, the judge could reschedule it again, dismiss the charges against her or issue a warrant for her arrest.