Midshipman to appear in court on bomb charge

October 23, 2001|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A Naval Academy midshipman charged with possessing a homemade bomb on Assateague Island is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate next month in Salisbury, federal authorities said.

The midshipman, Freeman E.B. Tidaback, 20, drove with classmates Brian W. Ackerson, 19, and Alexander J. Eli Powell, 20, to the Eastern Shore island Saturday, where they built a large campfire on the beach. When park rangers approached the group, they found alcohol and a plastic container filled with gasoline and an electrical "ignition system," law enforcement officials said.

Tidaback was charged with one count of possessing an incendiary device and disorderly conduct for "creating a hazardous condition," said John Burns, a spokesman for Assateague Island National Seashore Park. Tidaback is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 9 in Salisbury, authorities said. If found guilty of the misdemeanor charge, he could be sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined $5,000, federal authorities said.

All three midshipmen were cited for underage possession of alcohol, a charge that carries a $25 fine. The citations and charges were issued by federal authorities because Assateague Island is a national park.

Jack Waldner, bomb squad commander for the Maryland State Fire Marshal, which was called to the scene to examine the device, said his office and the state's attorney's office in Worcester County have agreed to wait until after the federal case is decided to determine whether to press state charges.

Burns said park rangers have stepped up patrols since the summer, when a 19-year-old leaving the park was killed while driving drunk. Burns said the number of citations for underage drinking has more than doubled from this time last year.

The three students have returned to the academy, where they could face disciplinary action. A spokesman for the academy declined to comment.

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