On a rainy afternoon last November, Victoria Churchville, suffering from a cold, left work early and headed for the nearest Metro station and home. On the way, she stopped to purchase an umbrella - and an apple.
While a subway tunnel may not be everybody's garden of eden, the apple proved to be a forbidden fruit. A bite of it turned Churchville's afternoon into what she later described as "a horror show."
Her sin, charged Metro police officer Thomas Hamlin when he arrested and handcuffed her, was consuming food on the subway. According to her attorney, Charles W. Halleck, Churchville was also charged with disorderly conduct - after she called the police officer "a rent-a-cop."
According to Halleck, both charges against Churchville were dismissed after they reached the D.C. Superior Court.
Last week, Churchville, 27, an energy policy analyst, filed suit against Hamlin and his employer, the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, and asked for $50,000 in damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, Halleck said.
As is to be expected in these things, there are two versions of the apple story.
According to Halleck, Churchville first took a bite of the apple when she boarded the subway at the Farragut West station. Hamlin, 23, warned her that if she took another bite he would arrest her, Halleck said.
Churchville said she responded "This is America" and "you've got to be kidding" or something to that effect.
At the Eastern Market station, Halleck said, Churchville got off the subway - followed by Hamlin - and took another bite from the apple, whereupon the police officer arrested her.
Churchville, who vigorously protested the action, was handcuffed, taken by elevator from the subway tunnel to the street and made to stand in the rain for 15 minutes until transportation arrived to take her to the nearest D.C. police station, Halleck said.
According to Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl, Officer Hamlin observed Churchville eating the apple on the train and warned her that she was in violation of the portion of D.C. law that prohibits consumption of food, smoking, spitting, drinking, littering and other acts on the subway or any other public vehicle.
Metro contends Churchville said she had not eaten lunch and asked if Hamlin didn't have better things to do. At the Eastern Market station, the woman jumped out of the subway car, at which point Hamlin arrested her, according to Pfanstiehl.
Churchville was charged with disorderly conduct because she was hollering and "being difficult," the Metro spokesman said.
Churchville described herself as humiliated by the entire incident, especially when she was made to stand on the street, in the rain, handcuffed, in full view of passers-by.
"It will be funny at a cocktail party a year or two from now, but it wasn't funny then and it's not funny now," she said.