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UPDATE: Girl Whose French-Fry Arrest Led to Metro Policy Change Sets Sights on College, Career

Ansche Hedgepeth, shown with her mother, Tracey, in 2000, was arrested that October for eating a french fry in the Tenleytown-AU Metro station.
Ansche Hedgepeth, shown with her mother, Tracey, in 2000, was arrested that October for eating a french fry in the Tenleytown-AU Metro station. (By Juana Arias -- The Washington Post)

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Sunday, January 8, 2006

Ansche Hedgepeth wants to graduate from high school this year, go to college and become an interior designer. She still hates the Metro.

That's a pretty mellow agenda for a 17-year-old who changed a major metropolitan transit system's policy, made international news and was a figure in the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Ansche did all that when she was 12 and took a bite of a french fry.

She was arrested in October 2000 by a Metro Transit Police officer for eating the after-school snack as she was going into the Tenleytown-AU Station, violating the Metro's policy of no eating or drinking.

It was part of a week-long undercover crackdown on violators that month.

At the time, Transit Police arrested the Deale Junior High School ninth-grader because juveniles charged with criminal offenses in the District must be taken into custody. Had Ansche been an adult, officers simply would have written her a citation for fines up to $300.

The arrest made international headlines and led to a policy change. "The incident was a catalyst for a warning system now in use," said Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith.

Now, if police find a youth snacking illegally, they can issue a written warning, which includes a letter to parents and to the school. After three written warnings, the juvenile is charged, Smith said.

Since 2001, four juveniles have been arrested for eating, and 1,037 warnings have been issued, Smith said.

Ansche hasn't eaten on the Metro since then, and she "sort of" doesn't like riding it.

Her name made news again last year, when Roberts, during his confirmation hearing, had to answer for his ruling when her case went before the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2004.

Roberts upheld the constitutionality of her arrest but wrote: "No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation. . . . A 12-year-old girl was arrested, searched and handcuffed. . . . Her shoelaces were removed and she was transported in the windowless rear compartment of a police vehicle to a juvenile processing center, where she was booked, fingerprinted and detained until released to the custody of her mother, some three hours later -- all for eating a single French fry in a Metrorail station."

-- Petula Dvorak


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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