Prosecutors to drop Texas airport explosives case

Sgt. 1st Class Trey Scott Atwater
Sgt. 1st Class Trey Scott Atwater

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) - Federal prosecutors on Friday asked that a judge dismiss the criminal charge against a soldier who was arrested at a Texas airport in December after trying to bring military-grade explosives on a cross-country flight.

In their motion to dismiss the charge against Sgt. 1st Class Trey Scott Atwater, prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to prove he knew he was carrying the explosives when he was arrested at Midland International Airport on Dec. 31.

According to the motion, the FBI found that Atwater, a demolitions expert, routinely carried quantities of C-4 explosives in his backpack while serving in Afghanistan. The FBI confirmed that the explosives he brought on the plane had been placed in his pack in Afghanistan and that he'd forgotten to remove them, the document said.

Although the criminal charge will be dropped, Atwater likely will face administrative and "other measures" from the Army, according to the motion.

A call to Atwater's attorney Friday wasn't immediately returned.

Atwater, 30, lives in Hope Mills, N.C., and grew up in Midland. He served three tours with Special Forces and returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., after his last tour in late April or early May, according to the government's motion.

Atwater was charged with trying to bring explosives onto an airplane, which carries a maximum 10-year federal prison sentence, after security officers found the explosives in his carry-on luggage.

C4 looks like a block of clay and requires a blasting cap or detonator to explode. Combat troops have ready access to the explosive, which can also be used as fuel for heating water or rations.

The U.S. military forbids troops from taking C4 out of combat zones, but the screening process for troops heading home is not as stringent as for people flying on commercial airlines.