A woman pleaded no contest Wednesday to trespassing at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport.
On Oct. 29, Sabrina Tolbert Payne, 35, climbed over a 6-foot fence and walked up to the terminal ramp where aircraft park for unloading, boarding, fuel and supplies, said Bradley Boettcher, the airport’s director of marketing and air service development.
She waved in the direction of a plane that was pulling up to the gate around the same time, about 1:45 p.m., but had no ill intent and caused no damage, Boettcher said.
Ground personnel defused the incident quickly in accord with federal airport and transportation safety regulations, he said. The woman, who cut her hand on the fence, was led away without incident, Boettcher said.
The encounter was Payne’s second that day with airport police. About 7:45 a.m., police found her “acting strange” in the public area in front of the terminal, asked her to leave and saw her walking south on Aviation Drive toward Hershberger Road, Boettcher said.
Roanoke General District Court Judge Tom Roe sentenced Payne to 60 days in jail for trespassing but ordered her to serve only 10. Because she had spent 12 days behind bars after police arrested her for the airport incident, Payne didn’t owe the court any additional time.
A drug charge is pending against Payne from an unrelated Oct. 21 incident. She is scheduled to return to Roanoke Circuit Court on that charge, felony possession of methamphetamine, on Jan. 3, according to online court records.
Payne’s actions at the airport caused understandable alarm, Payne’s attorney, Scott Geddes, said after court.
“I’m sure airport security gets worried when they have a person at the airport out on the tarmac,” he said. He agreed she had no ill intent but added that he didn’t know why she entered the off-limits area.
Now that she’s been convicted and banned from airport property unless she has a ticket, “she’s going to move on with her life,” he said.
The breach did not disrupt any flights but was reported to the Transportation Security Administration. Boettcher said there are no plans to change fencing around the 605 acres of enclosed airport land. The spot where Payne crossed the fence was behind a Thirlane Road FedEx facility and west of the airport and its secondary runway. Airport officials don’t know whether Payne, who was on foot, crossed the runway during the escapade to the terminal ramp at least 1,500 feet away.
Payne had been staying at a nearby hotel, an airport police officer said in court papers.