A former University of Tampa student plead guilty Monday, Oct. 13 after trying to bring a large knife onto a US Airways flight headed for Portland, Ore. earlier in the summer.
Raed Abduhl-Rahman Alsaif, 24, was arrested on June 4 at Tampa International Airport after a routine baggage screening showed a 7 1/4-inch chef’s knife concealed in the bag he was carrying.
After the baggage was searched, a TIA Police officer arrested Alsaif. Prosecutors considered Alsaif a potential flight risk. He was handed over to the local authorities and held without bail.
According to the criminal complaint Alsaif was charged with, “attempting to board an aircraft intended for interstate air transportation with a concealed dangerous weapon that would be accessible to him in flight in violation of 49 United States Code. Section 46505 (b) (1).”
Alsaif was a Government and World Affairs major at UT and was scheduled to graduate in Spring 2009. His name was even on the Commencement program. The natural-born Saudi Arabian student was studying here on a student visa.
Eric Cardenas, director of UT public information, confirmed that Alsaif did not graduate but could not disclose why due to academic privacy laws.
However, according to tbo.com, a federal prosecutor stated that Alsaif was “academically dismissed” for poor grades in May. Since Alsaif did not appeal his dismissal on time he violated his student visa.
His concealed dangerous weapons charge has a maximum punishment of a year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine.
Because he pled guilty, the sentence will be lessened depending on the terms of the plea agreement.
According to the criminal complaint, Alsaif initially claimed he did not know what was in the bag and that a friend had given it to him.
Besides studying at The University of Tampa, Alsaif had been in the United States from the time he was one month old until he was 15 years old. His father is a former diplomat from Saudi Arabia. Alsaif lived in Washington D.C. and attended the Islamic Saudi Academy there. When the news of his arrest came in June, UT senior Fahad Al-Ghannam didn’t know what to think.
“I was surprised,” Al-Ghannam said. He wasn’t quite sure it was him because many people share the same last name.
Once he confirmed it was Alsaif, after Alsaif called him, he tried not to think about it.
“I tried not to judge him,” Al-Ghannam said. “Everyone has their trials.”
As far as Alsaif pleading guilty to the charges, Al-Ghannam said that it was the rational thing to do.
Al-Ghannam is still not entirely sure what happened. “It is still a mystery as to why it happened,” Al-Ghannam said.
Al-Ghannam had mentioned that at the same time as Alsaif’s arrest, two more were made in Philadeplphia and the authorities tried to link the two incidents. There may have been a connection.
“All of us [friends] know him for who he is,” Al-Ghannam said. “He doesn’t have it in him.”