Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Tampa man accused of assaulting flight attendants to remain in federal custody

SEATTLE — The Tampa man accused of disrupting a Seattle-to-Beijing flight a week ago by trying to open an exit door and assaulting flight attendants waived his detention hearing Thursday and will remain in federal custody.

Joseph D. Hudek IV, 23, has been charged with one count of interference with flight crew members for allegedly assaulting two flight attendants on Delta Air Lines Flight 129 on July 6.

His attorney, Robert Flennaugh II, said in court Thursday that 185 letters of support have been written on Hudek's behalf. However, Hudek agreed he would remain in custody rather than seek his release, which federal prosecutors have opposed.

Hudek, who was sitting in first class and traveling on a "dependent pass," ordered one beer before takeoff and showed no signs of intoxication, FBI Special Agent Caryn Highley wrote in a criminal complaint filed Friday.

About an hour into the flight, Hudek — a 23-year-old Plant High School graduate — briefly went into the lavatory, according to the complaint. He then went back out and asked one of the flight attendants a question in the galley area, the complaint says.

Hudek returned to the lavatory for about two minutes. After he walked out, he lunged toward the emergency exit door, grabbed the handle and tried to open it, the complaint alleges.

RELATED: Friends baffled by Plant High grad's arrest in melee aboard China flight

The flight attendant and a second flight attendant tried to subdue him, but Hudek allegedly shoved them away and moved the emergency release lever halfway up.

One flight attendant later reported that the door could have opened if it had been fully disarmed at the altitude they were flying over the northwest end of Vancouver Island, B.C.

Attendants asked passengers for help as one of them called the cockpit to alert the flight crew of the emergency. The pilot notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the threat, and the flight carrying 210 passengers and 11 crew was diverted back to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Meanwhile, Hudek allegedly punched one of the attendants twice in the face, hit a male passenger in the head with a wine bottle and punched him several times.

RELATED: FBI: Delta flight attendant smashed disruptive Tampa man with a wine bottle on flight

A flight attendant grabbed two wine bottles and hit Hudek with both, breaking one over his head.

The male passenger then put Hudek in a headlock, but Hudek freed himself as several other passengers from the first-class cabin jumped into the fight to restrain him, the charges allege.

Hudek was eventually restrained with zip ties, but he "remained extremely combative, and multiple passengers were needed to restrain Hudek and keep him restrained until the plane landed safely back at Sea-Tac Airport," at 7:10 p.m., the criminal complaint states.

One flight attendant and a male passenger were treated for severe facial injuries.

The flight left Sea-Tac Airport for Beijing again just after midnight on its scheduled 11 ½-hour flight, according to FlightAware.com.

Hudek faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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