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Three women were charged Thursday with allegedly punching and beating an airline security officer who tried to stop them from boarding their Delta Air Lines flight to Puerto Rico last fall, prosecutors said.
Jordan Nixon, 21, Janessa Torres, 21, and Johara Zavala, 44, all of Long Island, were arraigned Thursday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. All three pleaded not guilty. They were released on $25,000 bond and told to limit their travel to New York City and Long Island.
Peter Guadagnino, who represents Nixon, said his client denies the allegations. Jacob Barclay Mitchell, who represents Zavala, and Mia Eisner-Grynberg, who represents Torres, declined to comment.
Thursday, the alleged incident took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 22
According to an indictment unsealed Thursday, the alleged incident took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 22. The three women were scheduled to leave at 12:55 p.m. flight to Puerto Rico, but they were acting belligerent and one appeared to be “visibly disoriented and possibly intoxicated” as he approached the boarding area, prosecutors said. A woman also refused to properly wear her mask.
In a separate filing in the case, prosecutors said the women were scheduled to depart on a previous flight scheduled to leave at 8:10 a.m., but were rebooked. In the time before 12:55 p.m. On the way out, prosecutors allege, surveillance video and receipts from bars and restaurants at the airport showed the women ordered about nine alcoholic beverages. When Nixon approached the door, she was holding a clear to-go glass filled with an orange drink that smelled like alcohol, according to court documents.
The gate agent reported the women’s behavior to the flight crew, and the flight captain and another crew member determined that the trio should not be allowed to board the plane. After an airline security officer asked the women to leave the gangway, they refused and then began yelling and cursing, according to the documents.
The documents allege that Nixon hit the security officer in the head, then took the radio from him and began beating him until he fell to the ground. When another employee tried to help the officer, Zavala punched him in the face, according to prosecutors. The three women began punching and kicking the officer while he was on the ground. Torres allegedly stepped on his head and face, causing his upper lip to bleed. When he tried to get up to seek help from other crew members, the women allegedly grabbed his vest and tore it apart.
The flight crew members finally took out the guard behind the glass doors of the walkway. The three women continued to “yell at and hit the flight crew.”
Both the gate agent and the security officer were hospitalized and have not returned to their jobs, according to court documents.
In a statement accompanying the announcement of the arrests and indictments, Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said: “Extreme and aggressive behavior related to our air travel is out of control. This office has zero tolerance for violent conduct that threatens the safety of airline passengers and employees and will prosecute defendants alleged to have engaged in such conduct to the fullest extent of the law.”
The number of incidents involving unruly passengers has risen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, fueled in part by the federal transportation mask mandate. Unions representing airline workers have repeatedly called on the Justice Department to prosecute these cases more aggressively.
In November, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal prosecutors to make investigations of such crimes a priority.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been 76 reports of such incidents so far this year. Last year, there were nearly 6,000 reports of unruly passenger behavior and the agency launched investigations into more than 1,000 incidents. The vast majority of incidents involve passengers refusing to cooperate with the requirement to wear a mask when flying.
Rogue passengers are forcing the system to keep passengers safe in the sky
While much attention has been focused on misbehaving passengers on flights, there have also been incidents at airports.
The Transportation Security Administration, which enforces the federal mask mandate in airports, trains and other transportation settings, said in September that it had received more than 4,000 reports of mask-related incidents since the requirement was implemented last week. last year.