Tamera Jo Freeman was on a Frontier Airlines flight to Denver in 2007 when her two children began to quarrel over the window shade and then spilled a Bloody Mary into her lap.
She spanked each of them on the thigh with three swats. It was a small incident, but one that in the heightened anxiety after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would eventually have enormous ramifications for Freeman and her children.
A flight attendant confronted Freeman, who responded by hurling a few profanities and throwing what remained of a can of tomato juice on the floor.
The incident aboard the Frontier flight ultimately led to Freeman's arrest and conviction for a federal felony defined as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act, the controversial federal law enacted after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
"I had no idea I was breaking the law," said Freeman, 40, who spent three months in jail before pleading guilty.
The state took her children and put them into foster care. They are now in the process of being adopted by their foster parents in Hawaii — and their biological mother can't fly to be there at the custody hearings because a condition of her probation is that she not be allowed to fly.