Judge acquits man who lived at Chicago airport for 3 months

CHICAGO (AP) — A man who spent three months living in a secured terminal at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport instead of flying home to India as he had planned has been acquitted on a felony trespassing charge.

Cook County Judge Adrienne Davis acquitted Aditya Singh on the charge this week without his attorney having to mount a defense, the Chicago Tribune reported. Singh, 37, is expected back in court Friday on an escape charge for allegedly violating the terms of his electronic monitoring while out on bond for the trespassing charge.

Davis' rationale for acquitting Singh weren't immediately clear. But after his Jan. 16 arrest, the Transportation Security Administration, which regulates security at the airport for the Chicago Department of Aviation, determined that Singh hadn't violated airport regulations.

“Mr. Singh did not breach or improperly enter secured areas — he arrived there like tens of thousands of arriving passengers do every day, by stepping off a plane,” Christine Carrino, an aviation department spokeswoman, said in a statement to the newspaper earlier this year. “While we won’t speculate on Mr. Singh’s motivations, he decided to remain in the secure area and made every effort to blend in as a passenger and airline employee until his arrest.”

Singh, who came to the U.S. nearly six years ago to get a master's degree, was living in Orange, California, when he boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago last October for what was supposed to be the first leg of his return home to India. But he was arrested in January after two United Airlines employees noticed he was wearing a badge that an airport operations manager had reported missing.

Singh told police that he stayed at the airport because the coronavirus pandemic had left him afraid to fly, and that he had been able to get by with the help of strangers who bought him food. A friend of Singh's told the Tribune that he told her in text messages that he enjoyed talking to people at the airport about his Buddhist and Hindu beliefs on healing.

“I'm actually growing spiritually due to this experience and I know I will come out stronger,” he wrote to the friend in a text she shared with the newspaper.