Man Faces up to 20 Years in Prison and $250,000 Fine for Threatening Flight Attendant

Sep 18, 2018

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After a Southwest flight crew refused to serve him a fourth drink on board the aircraft, passenger Joel Michael Bane threatened to put one of the flight attendants in a “body bag” in October 2017.

Bane, who is from New Jersey and teaches martial arts, also punched two police officers in the face after the New Orleans-bound flight landed at Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY). Officers used stun guns to subdue him before he was arrested. In a New Orleans federal court on Thursday, he pleaded guilty to one count of interference with a flight crew — a crime that can warrant up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors have agreed to only pursue a probation conviction for Bane, but the judge will have the final word on his punishment during Bane’s sentencing hearing on December 13.

Prosecutors said in their summary of the incident, which Bane signed off on, that on his two-and-a-half-hour flight from Chicago (MDW) to New Orleans, Bane had three drinks. Just before the plane began its descent into MSY, Bane walked up to two flight attendants who were in the front of the plane and asked for a fourth drink. The attendants responded that drinks could not be served at the late stage of the flight and asked him to return to his seat.

At this point, Bane grew angry and wouldn’t sit down, asking what the flight attendants would do about it. One flight attendant informed the pilot of the commotion, and the pilot announced on the loudspeaker that all passengers should go back to their seats. “We’ll handle any customer issues that you may have when we land,” the pilot said, according to the New Orleans Advocate. “Please take your seats now for safety. Thank you.”

But, Bane ignored the pilot, saying that he had “no authority” over him, adding that he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then stated that “the flight crew, including the captain, would be nothing for (him) to handle,” and that he would put a flight attendant in a “body bag.” Local law enforcement met the plane when it landed. When police officers boarded the plane and asked Bane to come with them, he again ignored their requests, instead yelling “move me,” then punching the two officers. More police officers then boarded the plane, but Bane still ignored their commands. Eventually, the officers shocked him with a stun gun in order to put him under arrest.

Bane’s attorney argues that he has “permanent post-traumatic stress disorder” after serving seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

H/T: The New Orleans Advocate

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