SALT LAKE CITY — An aspiring actor who apparently tried to be funny in allegedly sneaking a knife past Salt Lake International Airport security didn't leave government officials laughing.
A subdued Cardon C. Ellis appeared before a stern federal magistrate Friday to face a felony complaint for carrying a weapon onto an aircraft. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner released Ellis from jail with specific conditions pending his arraignment scheduled for Dec. 2. A grand jury will review the case in the meantime. The charge carries up to a 10-year prison sentence.
Ellis, 27, was a ticketed passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight to Chicago O'Hare/New York La Guardia on Wednesday when, according to court documents, he bragged to another passenger that he could get a knife through security without being stopped. After passing the TSA checkpoint, Ellis approached the other passenger and showed him the knife, according to the complaint. The passenger became alarmed and notified a TSA official.
FBI special agent Dan Horan stated in the complaint that a review of video surveillance showed Ellis removing an object believed to be the knife from his person and placing it in a carry-on bag. When questioned by TSA officials, Ellis produced a Gerber Multi-Tool with several knife blades, including one about 3 inches long, the complaint states.
Ellis, upon being read his Miranda rights, "admitted that he knowingly brought the knife through the security checkpoint by artfully concealing it to avoid detection," the complaint says.
A family member in the courtroom who did not want to be identified said after the hearing that Ellis is "just a kid who was trying to be funny."
A 2007 BYU graduate, Ellis moved to New York about 14 months ago to pursue a career as a comedian, actor and filmmaker. A sampling of Ellis' work, including him walking around New York City in a Speedo, can be found on YouTube and on his blog, Cardon's World.
Ellis didn't crack wise or smile in court while conferring with his attorney and answering the judge's questions.
Some of his friends created a "Free Cardon!" group on Facebook. One entry reads, "Free the man so he can continue to make us laugh, oh wait, he still is with his comments in city jail." On Ellis' Salt Lake County Jail booking sheet, he listed his aliases as "Slick Cardon" and "Good Looking."
"We love you Cardon, may you be free to say all you want to say and video all you want to video very soon," reads another posting.
One thing Ellis won't be doing is publishing in any form how he smuggled the knife past security. Prosecutor John Huber told the judge Ellis has an interest in the media and may have an inclination to broadcast his method. Warner told Ellis if that were to happen, he would put him back in jail. He said although what Ellis allegedly did is not "technologically the work of a genius," it could cause national security problems.
Warner also restricted Ellis, who said he intends to move from New York back to his hometown in Southern California this month, to those two states, other than traveling to Utah for court appearances. The judge also said the TSA and the FAA might take issue with Ellis flying given the federal complaint against him.
"You know, Greyhound is a great way to see America," Warner said. "You may have that opportunity."
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