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Passenger punches flight attendant, causes emergency landing in Tampa, FBI says

Colby Isaac Hilleary, 24, of Greenville, Texas, faces charges of battery and interfering with the duties of a flight attendant. [Hillsborough County Jail]

TAMPA — A Texas man punched a flight attendant in the face causing a Dallas bound plane to make emergency landing in Tampa last week, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Colby Isaac Hilleary, 24, Greenville, Texas, appeared in court Tuesday on charges of battery and interfering with the duties of a flight attendant, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Hilleary was a passenger Friday on an American Airlines flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas, according to the complaint written by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Just after the plane took off, Hilleary ran to the front and told a flight attendant that "the plane is going the wrong way" and "there are no pilots on the plane," the complaint said.

The attendant told Hilleary that the plane was over the water and would turn around shortly and there were pilots flying the aircraft. He convinced Hilleary to return to his seat, but Hilleary continued to behave erratically.

"The plane has been hijacked," Hilleary said while in his seat according to the complaint.

The attendant told Hilleary he wasn't making any sense and to calm down, the complaint said. The attendant told the "increasingly agitated" Hilleary that he was not in charge and to remain in his seat, the complaint said.

Hilleary got out of his seat and punched the attendant in the face, the complaint said. Other passengers and the flight attendant's wife, who was also working on the same plane, forced Hilleary to the ground and handcuffed him.

The pilot diverted the plane to Tampa International Airport and Hilleary was arrested by airport police.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony Porcelli agreed to Hilleary's release on a $10,000 bond, but barred him from air travel and ordered him to submit to psychiatric treatment and medication monitoring.

Contact Jonathan Capriel at 813-225-3141 or Follow @jonathancapriel.