A Bronx, New York, woman is now headed behind bars for four months after assaulting a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight and intimidating a flight attendant. Her co-defendant is set for sentencing on Nov. 7.
Kelly Pichardo, 32, pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew and will serve three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison. She is also liable for $9,123 in restitution to American Airlines after the flight from Dallas to Los Angeles was forced to divert to Phoenix so authorities could take her and co-defendant Leeza Rodriguez into custody.
According to testimony in the case, Pichardo and Rodriguez, seated in first class, began shouting racial slurs at a fellow passenger. When he took out his phone to record them, Pichardo physically tried to stop him and spat on him. When a flight attendant tried to intervene, she “knowingly intimidated” him.
Gary Restaino, U.S. attorney for the district of Arizona, said in a news release, “There is a line between boorish behavior on an airplane and criminal activity, and the defendant clearly crossed it. First-class passengers are not immune from prosecution: defendant’s verbal and physical intimidation disrupted the travel of passengers and crew alike.”
Unprecedented increases in reports of unruly behavior by passengers let the FAA to crack down, imposing record fines and instituting a now-permanent zero-tolerance policy.