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Tampa man who blamed edible marijuana for airline melee pleads guilty

This July 7, 2017, photo taken the FBI and released via the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle shows the aftermath of a cabin on Delta Flight 129 from Seattle to Beijing, after authorities say flight attendants struggled with a passenger who lunged for an exit door. A Florida man who brawled with flight attendants and passengers when he tried to open the exit door of a Delta Air Lines flight bound from Seattle to China has pleaded guilty to four felony charges. The Seattle Times reports 24-year-old Joseph Daniel Hudek IV, of Tampa, pleaded guilty Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Seattle to one count of interfering with a flight-crew member and three counts of assault on an aircraft with a potential deadly weapon. [FBI via U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle via AP]
Published Feb. 12, 2018

SEATTLE — A Tampa man who authorities say wielded a wine bottle in a brawl with flight attendants and passengers as he tried to open the door of a Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to China has pleaded guilty to four felony charges.

Joseph Hudek IV, 24, entered the plea Friday in federal court in Seattle to one count of interfering with a member of a flight crew and three counts of assault on an aircraft with a potential deadly weapon, The Seattle Times reported.

The plea came after Hudek filed an affidavit with the court stating that he bought and ingested "edible marijuana" in Seattle just before his flight.

"Later, while on the airplane and after I had consumed the marijuana, I began to feel dramatically different," Hudek said in the document.

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

The federal charges indicate that Hudek — whose mother worked for Delta — was flying first class on a "dependent pass" on July 6 and became violent when flight attendants tried to stop him from opening the door over the Pacific Ocean.

A fight followed in which Hudek is accused of punching one of the attendants twice in the face, hitting a passenger in the head with a wine bottle and punching him.

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

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

According to a complaint filed by the FBI in Seattle, "Hudek did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, 'Do you know who I am?' or words to that effect."

It took several passengers to restrain him before the plane returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to a federal complaint.

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

RELATED: Tampa man: Edible marijuana made me punch out flight attendants

Hudek's attorneys had submitted more than 300 letters of recommendation to the court and testimonials from friends and family, arguing that he has no history of violence or substance abuse.

"I have never had a remotely similar incident in all my times of flying on an airplane," Hudek, a Plant High School graduate, said in arrest records.

Hudek's physician, Dr. Joe Whittaker of Tampa, claimed that "paranoia, confusion, hallucinations and combativeness" can be side effects of orally-ingested cannabis. Two other doctors said they believed the drugs were the root of Hudek's behavior.

Another endorsement came from Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. Cruz said that Hudek was an "honorable and caring" young man who grew up across the street from her.

Hudek has agreed to pay restitution to the injured passengers in an amount to be determined at his sentencing hearing in May, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Times staff writer Donovan Harrell contributed to this report.

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