In a landmark racial profiling case, Samantha Carrington — a
part-time Santa Barbara resident born and raised in Iran — won a
$27.5 million judgment last Wednesday against Southwest Airlines.
An all-Latino civil jury in El Paso, Texas found that Carrington
was falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted because flight
attendants thought she resembled a terrorist. Carrington, 54, was
arrested in October 2003 for interfering with the crew on a Houston
to Los Angeles flight. She was escorted off the plane in El Paso at
11 p.m. and released from custody the following morning after an
FBI agent concluded he did not believe the flight attendants’
version of events. Attendants claimed Carrington grabbed one
attendant’s arm and threatened to enter the cabin unless the
captain was summoned; Carrington maintained that she merely
complained about the in-flight service. After hearing testimony
that one of the attendants said Carrington “reminded [her] of a
terrorist,” the jury decided to order the airlines to pay $25
million in punitive damages; even the prosecution was surprised by
the enormity of the figure. Southwest Airlines plans to appeal.
A conservative assistant professor of economics at California
State University in Los Angeles, Carrington earned a bachelor of
arts at the National University of Iran in 1974 and her graduate
degrees from UCSB. She changed her name from Mahvash
Pezeshk-Korstani to Samantha Carrington upon becoming a naturalized
U.S. citizen, in the hope of preventing potential discrimination.
Carrington sits on the Simi Valley Police Association’s Business
Roundtable. In February 2003, she was one of 250 signatories on an
open letter praising President Bush’s proposed economic policy. Her
attorney, Enrique Moreno, was twice nominated by former President
Clinton to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Republicans
torpedoed the nomination.