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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 19:50 GMT
Bomb joke student spared jail
Samantha Marson
Samantha Marson said she was dreaming of seeing her mother
A British student who was arrested at an American airport after joking she had a bomb in her bag, should be able to fly home on Friday subject to legal formalities.

Samantha Marson, 21, seems likely to be spared a custodial sentence after agreeing to donate $1,000 to the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.

Her lawyer, Oscar Sanchez, made the plea bargain on her behalf in Miami, and said his client would also apologise for her actions.

Miss Marson still has to appear in court on Friday to hear whether the case will be formally dismissed.

I still have a couple of things to do before I know whether I'm free or not
Samantha Marson

She is charged with making a false bomb report, for which the maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.

The student, originally from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, spent four nights in a Miami jail after making the joke during a baggage check at the city's airport.

Speaking after Wednesday's hearing, Miss Marson said she just wanted to go home.

"I am not free yet. I still have a couple of things to do before I know whether I'm free or not. This is not the end yet."

She added: "Of course I'm very sorry for what I did.

Back to court

"At the moment I'm just happy that my father is here with me supporting me and I'm just dreaming to come back home to see my mother."

Mr Sanchez explained the legal situation to LBC radio on Wednesday night.

He said: "After we negotiated with the prosecutor they decided to do a programme called a pre-trial diversion.

If they are sensitive and somebody tells a stupid joke then you cannot blame them
Samantha Marson's father Jim

"We have to go to another programme and basically meet certain specific conditions that the prosecutor wants us to meet.

"Once we meet those conditions this case is put back on the calendar and then we have to go back to court, and there's a possibility that the state attorney will recommend that the case is dismissed."

Mr Sanchez said his client would be free to leave the US immediately if the case is dismissed by the judge on Friday.

Miss Marson's father Jim told the BBC he did not blame the US authorities for taking such a firm stance on the issue.

'Three bombs'

He said: "I think America is a country which, after 9/11, you have a lot of bomb threats and things like that.

"And if they are sensitive and somebody tells a stupid joke then you cannot blame them."

Miss Marson was about to board a British Airways flight to London on 17 January when she told an official: "Hey, be careful, I have three bombs in here."

Asked to repeat herself, she repeated the same statement twice and was arrested.

Miss Marson was trying to return to the UK to renew her visa when she made the joke.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"The Americans clearly take this sort of thing very seriously"



SEE ALSO:
US 'bomb joke' student released
21 Jan 04  |  Shropshire
Teenager barred from flight
14 Mar 03  |  England
'Joke' threats discouraged
19 Feb 03  |  England


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