A Lancaster, California man was arrested by the FBI in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 18 for allegedly interfering with the flight crew. The defendant was a passenger on Southwest Airlines Flight 474 from Dallas to Burbank, California.
The FBI "probable cause" criminal complaint states the defendant walked to the back of the aircraft and entered the galley, which is restricted to flight crew members. A flight attendant asked him to leave. Instead, the FBI affidavit alleges he offered to expose himself and then urinated in a corner. When the flight attendant asked him to clean up his urine, he became belligerent. He reportedly yelled, threatened, and infringed on the personal space of two flight attendants, calling them "dumb bitches."
Concerned for the safety of his crew, the passengers, and the flight, the pilot diverted the flight to Albuquerque, where local authorities and the FBI took the suspect into custody.
Unlawful Interference Alleged
According to the criminal complaint, the defendant violated U.S. Code Title 49, Sections 46501 and 46504—Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants. The defendant "did unlawfully and knowingly interfere" with the duties of two flight attendants.
The defendant appeared in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on February 23, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the California Central District. The defendant was in federal custody at the time of the press release, but the USAO has released no further information about the case.
FAA May File Additional Charges
If convicted on the federal charges, the defendant could be sentenced up to the maximum penalty of 20 years.
The Federal Aviation Administration also has jurisdiction over this incident. Under its new "zero tolerance for unruly and dangerous behavior," the FAA may fine the defendant up to $37,000 for each violation.
Anyone charged with a federal crime needs a defense attorney experienced and knowledgeable in federal law. Even if a defendant pleads guilty, the attorney can argue for mitigation of the sentence. Call the Sigal Law Group at 818-325-0570 for a free consultation.