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University of Sioux Falls president sues airline

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- The president of the University of Sioux Falls is suing Delta Airlines over an incident last fall that ended with him spending a night in a New York jail.

According to media reports, university president Mark Benedetto was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after an autumn trip to New York City. His lawsuit claims that Delta breached its duty by failing to inform him of the city's restrictive gun laws.

The charge has been dropped and expunged from Benedetto's record.

Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter told The Associated Press on Sunday that the airline does not comment on pending litigation.

Benedetto and his wife, Gail, flew to LaGuardia Airport on Sept. 28 for a trip that involved picking up a piece of Sept. 11 memorabilia for a display at the school.

Benedetto's lawsuit says he declared that he had an unloaded handgun in a locked case inside his checked luggage, as required by the Transportation Security Administration and Delta Airlines policy.

Benedetto has a concealed carry permit for South Dakota but was unaware that it is illegal to possess a firearm in New York unless the gun owner is a New York resident with a state and local concealed carry permit.

He and his wife made it to New York without any problem. When he declared the firearm to the Delta ticket agent at La Guardia on Oct. 2, however, the airline took notice.

"Without warning or explanation, the Delta ticket agent proceeded to notify the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Police via telephone that he had a passenger who had declared a firearm," the lawsuit says.

Benedetto was turned over to New York police, transported to the Queens Boulevard Precinct and jailed for a night under what the lawsuit calls "horrendous conditions."

The lawsuit claims Bendetto was subjected to physical, emotional and verbal abuse while incarcerated, that he feared for his safety and that his shoulder was injured when an officer handcuffed him.

The lawsuit charges Delta with negligence, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and asks for compensatory and punitive damages of an unspecified amount.