A 20-year-old man from Irvine appeared in court on Monday to face federal charges after authorities accused him of punching a flight attendant in the nose last week while he was flying from New York in Orange County, an attack that rocked other passengers and forced the pilot to divert the plane to Denver.
Brian Hsu was arrested at a home in Irvine on Monday morning and then appeared in federal court in Santa Ana, where an investigating judge ordered him to report to Colorado later this month to face two counts related to the alleged assault, including one accusing him of interfering with American Airlines Flight 976 on Wednesday, October 27.
Passengers on the flight en route to John Wayne Airport said Hsu punched an attendant twice in the face, leaving his face mask bloodied. Videos showed that Hsu was taken away in handcuffs after the flight was forced to land, but he was later released.
In an interview with federal authorities at the Denver airport shortly after the incident, Hsu claimed he had recently undergone brain surgery in Rhode Island to “reconstruct parts of his skull” as a result of ‘a head injury last year, and that he had suffered âpsychological damage,â among other symptoms, from the injury. He also stated that following the injury he sometimes experiences a “mental fog” in which it is difficult for him to think clearly, and that he is very sensitive to sound, according to the interview details included. in a criminal investigation. complaint unsealed Monday.
“Hsu said his parents thought he was acting differently from what he used to do,” the FBI agent wrote.
Hsu told authorities he was returning home on the flight from New York on Wednesday after the medical procedure in Rhode Island, according to the complaint.
In the interview, Hsu also said that another recent football injury two or three weeks ago made it impossible for him to shake hands in fear, and that he could not have physically hit the hostess. air with his fist, as the authorities claim.
In court proceedings on Monday, Hsu sported short hair and wore a black long-sleeved shirt and sports pants, Hsu was handcuffed and shackled at the ankles.
Before the hearing, he spoke calmly to a Federal Public Defender, glancing around the courtroom gallery.
Magistrate judge Autumn Speith placed Hsu on an unsecured $ 10,000 bond that would allow her to be released again once she was paid. Speith ordered Hsu not to travel outside of the Central District of California except when he travels to Colorado to appear in a Denver courtroom on November 15. He can also travel to New York from September to attend college and to Rhode Island for medical appointments with a doctor there.
He had to hand over his passports and other travel documents. His public defender said Hsu’s mother was in the courthouse and would hand over these documents the same day.
âOf course,â Hsu said, when Speith asked him if he would abide by the conditions of his release.
According to the criminal complaint, witnesses told FBI agents that Hsu was standing next to an airplane washroom when the flight attendant asked him to leave. It was then that Hsu hit her in the face – a witness said he hit her hard enough that she slammed against the bathroom door. Another said he saw Hsu give him “full swing”.
“I have a broken nose,” the flight attendant said immediately after being hit, a witness said according to the indictment.
Another flight attendant approached Hsu after the punch, telling him to return to his seat. After initially refusing, Hsu finally sat down – that’s when other passengers taped him to the seat and held him down with plastic ties.
In his statements to the FBI, Hsu claimed he was standing by the bathroom and stretching when “he accidentally bumped into the victim’s flight attendant.” He claimed the attendant “got restless and started swinging at HSU’s head.” Hsu said this made him back down and raised his hands in defense.
Hsu’s mother was also on the flight and made a statement to the FBI. She also said that Hsu recently had brain surgery and has since exhibited “symptoms of dizziness” and “seems to get angry more easily.” She said Hsu was “afraid people would touch her head.”
“After her last surgery in Rhode Island, HSU found it difficult to stay still and frequently felt the need to stretch,” the FBI agent wrote of Hsu’s mother’s statements.
On Instagram last week, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker called the incident “one of the worst manifestations of unruly behavior we’ve ever seen.”
Parker said Hsu would be banned from American Airlines flights. And he said the company “is doing everything possible to ensure that he is prosecuted to the extent possible.”
Violent behavior by passengers on flights has increased this year: the Federal Aviation Administration said it received 4,941 reports of unruly passengers through October. The previous record was 310 in 1995.