A 75-year-old widow in tough financial straits reached out to NASA about selling a speck of moon rock her late husband had given her. Joann Davis then became the target of a sting operation at a Denny's that a federal appeals court suggested Thursday was outrageous overkill.
The lead agent "organized a sting operation involving six armed officers to forcibly seize a Lucite paperweight containing a moon rock the size of a rice grain from an elderly grandmother," wrote Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in the decision allowing Davis to sue, per the Los Angeles Times.
One awful detail from the 2011 incident: The agents refused Davis' request to use the bathroom, and she urinated in her pants during the two-hour ordeal at the restaurant in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Agents also forcibly restrained her second husband, who had accompanied her to the supposed sale.
Davis' first husband, Robert, worked as an Apollo 11 engineer, and he saved a paperweight with moon material and another with a bit of the heat shield. He died in 1986, and years later Davis found herself raising grandchildren in her 70s following her daughter's death and her son's illness. She called NASA about selling the mementos. Instead of informing her that selling moon material was illegal, investigators ordered the sting.
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