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Posted on Fri, Jun. 18, 2004

Woman taken from cruise for year-old marshmallow bust fine

Associated Press

A teacher's aide who forgot to put away her marshmallows and hot chocolate at Yellowstone National Park last year was taken from her cruise ship cabin in handcuffs and hauled before a judge Friday, accused of failing to pay the year-old fine.

Hope Clarke, 32, crying and in leg shackles, told the judge she was rousted at 6:30 a.m. by federal agents after the ship returned to Miami from Mexico. She insisted that she had been required to pay the $50 fine before she could leave Yellowstone, which has strict rules about food storage to prevent wildlife from eating human food.

Customs agents meet all cruise ships arriving from foreign ports and run random checks of passenger lists, and a warrant claiming Clarke had not paid the fine was found in the federal law enforcement database.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Outerbridge conceded there were some "discrepancies," but suggested to the judge that Clarke appear in court again to clear up the warrant.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John O'Sullivan, who had a copy of a citation indicating the fine had been paid, apologized to Clarke, who spent nearly nine hours in detention, and demanded that the U.S. attorney's office determine what went wrong.

Clarke was let go more than nine hours after her rude awakening.

Zach Mann, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called the arrest "an unfortunate set of circumstances." He added, "We were acting on what we believed was accurate information."

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