Sharp Conflict in Reports on Courthouse Duck Incident

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The UPI reported it this way:

HONOLULU, April 10 (UPI) – Authorities in Honolulu said they confiscated two bottles of beer and a live duck from a man entering a courthouse to meet with his probation officer.

A courthouse security worker said the man, whose name was not released, appeared to be intoxicated when he arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Monday and an X-ray of the bag he was carrying revealed two 40-ounce bottles of beer, the Courthouse News Service reported Wednesday.

The man refused to hand over the bag, saying there was a "live animal" inside, and officers took the bag from him and discovered a live duck inside.

The man was arrested.

But according to the Associated Press report, the man did not appear intoxicated, though he did have a bottle of beer (not two); he was not arrested; and the duck waited patiently outside the courthouse while the man went to his meeting:

Screeners told [the duck man] that his pet and beverage wouldn't be allowed inside Circuit Court, so he left. He returned a short while later and asked that screeners look after his belongings while he went inside for an appointment, [Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni] Schwartz said, adding that visitors are allowed to leave their things outside at their own risk.

[The man] went to his appointment, while the duck waited outside….

Schwartz said [the man] didn't appear intoxicated. "Everything was peaceful," she said.

Which version is accurate? Hard to say. A good rule of thumb when checking on things like this (odd stories in general, not just attempted duck smuggling) is that the more detailed a report is, the more likely it is to be true. The UPI report seems too generic, even though it does have details such as the specific time and the number of 40s allegedly being carried in addition to the duck. The AP report is more detailed, and most significantly it quotes a named source.

Also, reports by local media tend to be more detailed and often more accurate, as you might expect since they are closer to the story. I did find one of those here, which is very consistent with the AP report:

[The man] insisted on keeping the contents of his bag a secret. Officers eventually escorted him outside, where he relented and blurted out, "There's a live duck in there!"

The guards didn't know what [he] meant, but when they opened the bag, comprehension was crystal clear. An actual live duck was inside, along with two 40-ounce bottles of beer.

"We have no way of knowing if [the duck owner] was drunk since no one was able to draw blood from him to test his blood alcohol content level. However, the deputies didn't smell any alcohol on his breath," said Schwartz.

[T]he security officers advised [the man] that he could not enter court with the live duck or the beer. [He left, but] later returned after realizing that he still needed to meet with his court officer. Instead of demanding to be allowed in, he asked the deputies to secure his precious belongings at security, where couriers regularly make deliveries. That request wasn't against the rules. The deputies obliged, allowing the beers and the feathered friend to stay behind.

After wrapping up his business in court, [the man] reclaimed his personal possessions and left the building without any further incident.

So I think we now have a more accurate picture. Are there questions that remain? Sure. Was there one 40 or two? Was the duck a pet or lunch? Maybe most importantly, why is our fancy X-ray security equipment STILL unable to tell a bird from a bomb? See also "TSA Thwarts Frozen-Chicken Plot" (Dec. 23, 2010).

Sadly, it seems like these are questions we may never get an answer to, no matter how deep we dig.