A Quogue woman charged with trespassing at the Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach said she believes she committed no crimes, despite an accusation that she stood on National Guard property taking pictures of the base while her car - which packed a rifle, a shotgun and ammunition - was parked nearby.
Nancy Genovese, 53, disputed charges that she was taking pictures of the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York National Guard, which is located at Gabreski Airport. She also denied National Guard officials' accusation that she had been spotted there before and asked to leave and not come back.
Genovese, who spoke with a Newsday reporter via phone, said she was taking pictures of the base for a Web site she is putting together about patriotism and the military. The guns were in her car because she had recently returned from a shooting range in Ridge, she said.
"I don't think I was trespassing on base property, I think they got me on Southampton property, which is ridiculous," she said, adding that a judge asked her during a court appearance Friday if she was "related to al-Qaida" and she "almost dropped dead."
Genovese was held at Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead until last evening, when she posted $50,000 bail. She is due in Southampton Town Court on Friday.
Sheriff's officers arrested Genovese on Thursday after she was spotted just outside the base's main gate. Authorities found a shotgun with about 250 shells and an assault rifle with more than 250 rounds of ammunition in her vehicle, sheriff's officials said. The weapons were legally registered to her, officials said.
Genovese faces a third-degree criminal trespassing charge. Air National Guard sentries encountered Genovese at least once before when she attempted to bribe her way into the base to find out what was in the base's metal storage containers, said Maj. Scott Williams of the 106th. Officials at the base warned her not to return, he said.
The National Guard called the sheriff's office and asked them to arrest Genovese when she reappeared Thursday, said Michael Sharkey, chief of staff with the sheriff's office.
The National Guard chose to treat Genovese like a security threat because she was armed and appeared to be engaging in surveillance, Williams said.
"Obviously with a semi-automatic rifle in the front of the vehicle, the initial reason to hold her was to make sure she was not trying to inflict harm," he said. A criminal background check revealed no previous arrests of Genovese.
The FBI is aware of the Genovese case and is leaving the case to local authorities in Suffolk County, an FBI spokesman said. Sources said she did not appear to be a terror suspect.
Homeland Security officials familiar with case did not return calls for comment.
With Robert E. Kessler