KEVIN M. BLAIS
RHODE ISLAND AIRPORT CORPORATION and KELLY J. FREDERICKS, as President/Director and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation
County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Kevin C. Cain, Esq.
Defendant: Matthew C. Reeber, Esq.
the Court is an appeal from a decision by the Rhode Island
Airport Corporation (RIAC), prohibiting aircraft pilot
Plaintiff Kevin M. Blais (Plaintiff) from entering the
premises of North Central State Airport (North Central) in
Smithfield, Rhode Island. In addition to his appeal,
Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.
Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
42–35–15 of the Administrative Procedures Act
(APA) and chapter 30 of title 9, entitled the Uniform
Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA).
early 2010, Plaintiff purchased an aircraft and obtained a
gate key from the airport manager at North Central. (Admin.
R., Ex.7, Tr. 13, June 26, 2015 (Tr.).) Plaintiff needed the
key so that he could have access to the airfield. See
id. at 16. Over the course of the next few years,
various incidents occurred which involved Plaintiff and which
will be discussed later in this Decision.
February 14, 2014, a law firm representing RIAC advised
Plaintiff in a certified letter that he was prohibited from
entering the North Central premises. See Admin. R.,
Ex. 3 (Trespass Letter). A carbon copy of the Trespass Letter
was sent, via e-mail, to Plaintiff's counsel.
Id. The Trespass Letter stated in its entirety:
"This firm represents the Rhode Island Airport
Corporation (the 'RIAC').
"Please be advised that you are not allowed to enter the
premises of North Central State Airport. If you ignore this
directive, you will be deemed a trespasser pursuant to Rhode
Island General Laws Section 11-44-26 and RIAC will take
appropriate action." Id.
Trespass Letter was signed by an attorney from the firm and
did not include or append any other information. See
undisputed that several days after the Trespass Letter was
mailed to Plaintiff, he went to North Central to attend a
safety seminar conducted by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA). Police officers escorted Plaintiff from
the seminar, and he subsequently was charged as a criminal
trespasser in violation of § 11-44-26. During the
ensuing criminal proceedings, a justice of this Court granted
a motion in limine to exclude the Trespass Letter
from being introduced as evidence at trial. Thereafter, the
state dropped the criminal trespass charges against
2015, RIAC issued a Notice of Hearing entitled, "In the
Matter of Lifting of No Trespass Notice Issued to Kevin
Blais." (Admin. R., Ex.1 at 1.) The Notice stated that
the hearing would take place at North Central on June 26,
2015. See id. The Notice then explained that a
"has been engaged to investigate the facts concerning
the potential lifting of the No Trespass issued to Kevin
Blais in connection with the North Central Airport. In
connection with that investigation, [the Hearing Officer]
will hold the within-referenced public hearing and take
evidence and testimony from anyone who wishes to be heard.
The hearing will be held solely for investigatory purposes
and will not proceed in the manner of a formal adversarial
adjudication. Following the hearing, [the Hearing Officer]
will make a recommendation to the Executive Director
regarding whether the No Trespass should be lifted and, if
so, under what, if any, restrictions. [The Hearing
Officer's] report and recommendation will not constitute
a final determination of the matter. The Executive Director
shall make such final determination following a review of the
report and recommendation." Id. In addition,
the Notice stated that "Respondent has the right to be
represented by legal counsel, by himself, or by a person of
his choice . . . [,]" and that "Respondent and
other persons attending the hearing should bring all evidence
bearing on the case, including any records or other
Id. at 2.
Plaintiff did not attend the scheduled hearing, but he was
represented by counsel who entered an appearance on his
behalf. See Tr. 4-5. At the hearing, Plaintiff's
counsel questioned RIAC's authority to conduct a
"nonadversarial hearing[,]" particularly in light
of the fact that the Hearing Officer had offered him an
opportunity to cross examine witnesses. See id. at
5-6. Counsel for RIAC rejected an offer to respond to the
objection. See id. at 6. The Hearing Officer later
proposed reconvening the hearing to allow Plaintiff the
opportunity to attend; however, Plaintiff's counsel
declined the offer. See id. at 26.
witnesses testified and were cross examined at the hearing:
Frank Sherman, Paul Harry Smith, Edouard Norbert DeCelles,
Paul Carroll, David LaChapelle, John Guerin, John Sulyma,
Kevin Peter DiLorenzo, Lance Eskelund, and Raymond A.
Venticinque. The witnesses described their encounters with
Instructor Frank Sherman testified that late one afternoon,
he and a female student landed at North Central under
"terrible" visibility conditions. Id. at
7. As they were in the process of landing, he heard Plaintiff
"make a radio call that he was like on a four-mile base
for Runway 23." Id. Knowing how poor visibility
was at the time, Mr. Sherman "suggested[,]" over
the open radio airwave, "that that wasn't a good way
to come into the traffic pattern." Id. at 8.
Sherman then testified that after Plaintiff landed his
airplane, he "came over to me in the most belligerent,
violent way that you could imagine. I was somewhat
frightened. The woman that I was flying with was
frightened." Id. at 8. During the encounter,
Plaintiff accused Mr. Sherman of being an "unfit
person" because he was "trying to teach people to
fly on the radio, and that [Mr. Sherman] was using the common
traffic advisory frequency in a way that should not be used .
. . ." Mr. Sherman testified that, in fact, he had been
using the radio "in the way it was supposed to be
used." Id. at 9. He also testified that
"Ultimately I just told him [Plaintiff] . . . to dig a
big hole and jump in it? This is what I really felt. He just
didn't belong. This is the event I had with him. It just
makes me feel he's not a person that I want around this
airport." Id. at 8.
he stated, "You know, if [Plaintiff] could behave like a
normal human being, he would be welcomed. I'm afraid that
he is unable to do that." Id. at 10.
cross examination, the following colloquy took place:
"Q. The reason you don't want [Plaintiff] around is
you think he's rude, correct?
"A. I think it's worse than that, sir.
"Q. It's worse than rude?
"Q. It's what, really rude?
"A. Really dangerous.
"Q. Dangerously rude?
"A. Yes." Id. at 12.
Manager Paul Harry Smith testified that in early 2010,
Plaintiff told Mr. Smith that he had purchased an aircraft
and needed a gate key to North Central. Id. at
13-14. Gate keys are available to individuals who "have
an operational need to be on the field, [so that they] can
have access." Id. at 16. Mr. Smith arranged for
Plaintiff to receive a key. Id. at 14.
January 11, 2014, Plaintiff entered Mr. Smith's office
and demanded to know who had turned off his gate key.
Id. at 16; see also Admin. R., Ex. 4 (Ex.
4) ("Why won't my gate key work. I tried to get on
the field and my key would not work."). Apparently,
Plaintiff's "gate key fob was turned off when
aircraft N3071D was removed from the airfield on September of
2013." Id. Mr. Smith explained that Plaintiff
did not need a key because he no longer kept an aircraft at
North Central. See id. and Tr. 16. The confrontation
escalated such that Plaintiff told Mr. Smith that "bad
karma [was] coming [his] way[,]" and that he (Mr. Smith)
"could not be that much of a fucking dick." (Tr.
16); see also Ex. 4. Mr. Smith testified that it was
at that point that he "felt really threatened" and
called RIAC police. Id. According to Mr. Smith, when
he told Plaintiff that he had called RIAC police, Plaintiff
left the office. (Tr. 24; Ex. 4.) Mr. Smith also testified
that three of his five subordinates have reported feeling
unsafe in Plaintiff's presence. (Tr. 19-20.)
cross examination, Mr. Smith admitted that Plaintiff had
never hit him, id. at 24, laid a hand on him,
id., or touched him. Id. at 25. He also
admitted that he had never seen Plaintiff ever touch, batter,
or draw a weapon on any of the witnesses who were present at
the hearing. Id.
Norbert DeCelles testified that he was a friend of Plaintiff
who had been helping Plaintiff to obtain his pilot's
license. Id. at 29. According to Mr. DeCelles,
various members of the "aviation community"
previously had filed complaints against Plaintiff, and
Plaintiff was frustrated when the incident involving Mr.
Sherman occurred. Id. at 30. Specifically he
"There is a group of people at this airport who
don't like [Plaintiff]. They just keep attacking him. He
has been attacked enough that he just retaliated. That's
what happened. He yelled at him. I would have yelled . . .
too." Id. at 30-31.
testify was Paul Carroll-a pilot with almost forty years of
experience who previously had been appointed by the FAA to a
volunteer position to help promote airline safety.
Id at 31-32. He testified about how Plaintiff, when
"he was a new student pilot with very little
time[,]" had "bragged" about flying "into
the clouds, which is an extremely dangerous position for a
private pilot, let alone a student pilot . . . ."
Id. at 32. Mr. Carroll testified that Plaintiff did
not have an "instrument rating to fly into the
clouds[,]" and that he was bragging about doing it
because "he just wanted to see what it was like . . .
." Id. at 33. When Mr. Carroll warned Plaintiff
about the dangerousness of such behavior-both to himself and
people on the ground- Plaintiff "seemed to fluff it off.
It was almost like careless or callous." Id.
Carroll later testified that he thought Plaintiff had a
cavalier attitude towards the FAA rules, and that he had
filed complaints against Plaintiff "for difficult and
erratic behavior." Id. at 34-35. One of the
complaints involved an incident in which Plaintiff crossed an
active runway directly in front of Mr. Carroll as he was
about to land his aircraft. Id. at 35. According to
Mr. Carroll, he did not confront Plaintiff about the incident
because Plaintiff previously had threatened him. See
id. at 35.
Carroll further testified that one morning, Plaintiff
"told me directly that he has a permit to carry a gun,
and he wears a bullet proof vest[,]" and that later that
same morning, Plaintiff threatened to report Mr. Carroll to
the FAA. Id. at 36 and 44; see also id. at
36 (stating that Plaintiff said "I'm going to call
the FAA ...