Man pleads guilty to assault on United flight to Florida

FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, a United Airlines plane takes off over a plane on the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, a United Airlines plane takes off over a plane on the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

PA

A 29-year-old passenger was desperate to open the cabin door as a United Airlines flight began its final descent to Pensacola, Florida last year, knocking down a flight attendant in the galley as he struggled with the door lever, according to federal court filings.

He now faces hefty fines and possible jail time.

Kameron C. Stone, of Fairfax, Virginia, pleaded guilty to interference with a flight crew and assault charges in the Northern District of Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 9, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced in a news release. Prosecutors said the charges stem from an incident that occurred on a United Airlines flight from Dulles International Airport to Pensacola International Airport on April 16, 2021.

A defense attorney representing Stone and a United representative did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ February 10 request for comment.

According to documents filed with his plea deal, Stone was “noisy and obnoxious, and he smelled strongly of alcohol” during the robbery. His behavior included verbally harassing other passengers and making guns while pretending to shoot them, prosecutors said.

One of the flight attendants on board had to repeatedly tell him to sit down and fasten his seat belt, according to court documents.

The situation reportedly escalated when the plane began approaching Pensacola Airport to land.

Prosecutors said Stone got up from his seat, walked down the aisle, and approached the flight attendant who was sitting in an armchair near the cabin door. When she attempted to block the cabin and cockpit doors, Stone “pushed her, grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her against the galley wall,” according to the statement.

She hit her head and arm in the process, according to court documents.

“During the altercation, Stone was able to break through the main cabin door on the outer portion of the aircraft, setting off the alarm and causing the pilots to declare an emergency with the Federal Aviation Administration,” the statement said. the prosecutors.

According to court documents, the flight attendant had to grab Stone’s other hand to keep her from opening the door fully as she shouted “close the door” and “help me!”

Three mini-bottles of Pinnacle Vodka fell out of Stone’s pocket during the struggle, prosecutors said.

The government said three other passengers — including an off-duty U.S. Marshal — held Stone until they were safely at the gate. Law enforcement met the theft upon arrival.

Stone later admitted he drank one or two alcoholic beverages before boarding the plane and drank the three small bottles of vodka once on board, according to court documents. He also said he wanted to apologize.

Stone faces up to 20 years in prison and a $350,000 fine when he is sentenced on April 28.

The number of surveys on reports of unruly passengers peaked in 2021 with nearly 1,100 cases, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. To date in 2022, 394 unruly passengers have been reported, 93 investigations have been opened and 40 enforcement actions have been taken.

The FAA has a zero-tolerance policy for passengers who cause disruption and can impose fines of up to $37,000 per violation.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering breaking news and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She holds a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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