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Death vigil drove senior exec to slap toddler during flight

October 4, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The president of a US aircraft parts manufacturing firm, who allegedly slapped a crying 19-month-old toddler across the face on a US domestic flight after telling the infant’s mother to “shut that nigger baby up”, has pleaded guilty to a charge of simple assault.

The slapper, Joe Rickey Hundley, 61, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in a US federal court. The deal could still see the court sentence him to up to six months in prison, but that’s better than the maximum one-year term he could have faced if he had gone to trial and lost, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Global Travel Media reported the slapping and racial abuse incident when it took place in February this year. See: Aircraft firm president accused of slapping toddler on flight

The toddler was crying or screaming on the Delta Air Lines flight when Hundley allegedly slapped it with an open hand. 250x250TICBanner

While alcohol is acknowledged to have played a part in Hundley’s behaviour, the case is sadder than it seems. It turns out that Hundley had boarded the flight after having been awake for 24 hours on a hospital vigil which ended with his adult son, who was lying brain-dead in hospital after an insulin overdose, being taken off life support.

“He lost a child,” Hundley’s lawyer told the court. “And to hear a child scream … he lost it. He was up for 24 hours determining whether to unplug his son.”

The original affidavits, quoted by US website The Smoking Gun (which specialises in publishing court documents, and similar), quoted testimony stating that Hundley had been seated next to the child’s mother, Jessica Bennett, “who shared seat 28B with her son Jonah”.

Bennett, 33, told investigators that the plane was coming in to land at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta when her child started to cry “due to the altitude change”. While she tried to quieten her child, she says Hundley used the abusive racial epithet, then allegedly “turned around and slapped” the toddler in the face “with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder”. Bennett says the slap caused a scratch below the child’s right eye.

Other passengers then intervened. Bennett told The Smoking Gun that Hundley drank several double vodkas during the two-hour flight, was intoxicated when he boarded the plane, “reeked of alcohol” and was “stumbling around wasted”. This is at odds with Hundley’s recollection of having had only one drink.

Having admitted simple assault, Hundley will be sentenced at a hearing set for 6 January 2014.

The plea deal (which the judge is not bound to accept) would require Hundley to enter a drug- or alcohol-treatment program and attend anger-management classes.

The court heard that Hundley had been fired from his job amid publicity surrounding the allegations, and hasn’t worked full-time since.

His lawyer, Marcia Shein, is seeking probation for her client rather that jail, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “He’s already lost his son and his job,” she told the court.

Shein said although her client admitted guilt, neither she nor Hundley agreed completely with the allegations.

Written by : Peter Needham

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