Prosecutors in the infamous “nut rage” case have recommended a sentence of three years in jail. Authorities said Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-ah endangering passengers during a bizarre tantrum over a bag of macadamia nuts. Hyun-ah is also accused of destroying evidence and obstructing an investigation.
On December 5, Cho Hyun-ah was aboard a plane at New York’s JFK International Airport. As the plane left the gate, the first-class passengers were offered small bags of macadamia nuts.
According to reports, Hyun-ah was outraged, as her nuts were not placed into a bowl before they were served. Witnesses said she verbally and physically abused several flight attendants.
As reported by ChoSun, the heiress eventually ordered flight attendant Park Chang-jin off the plane. As a result, the attendant informed the pilot that there was an “emergency in the cabin,” and asked him to return to the gate.
Following the incident, Cho Hyun-ah reportedly conspired “to destroy evidence that could be held against her, and encouraged its destruction indirectly by chiding staff for failing to contain the incident.”
Prosecutors said the former Korean Air executive sought the help of a colleague, identified by authorities as Yeo. According to reports, Yeo destroyed incriminating evidence per Cho Hyun-ah’s request.
Authorities also accused aviation inspector Kim Woon-sub of providing Hyun-ah with classified information about her case.
Yeo and Woon-sub were charged with destroying evidence and obstructing the investigation into the incident. They are each facing two years in jail.
Cho Hyun-ah has not denied that the “nut rage” incident occurred. However, she said Park Chang-jin is at fault, as he failed to follow procedure.
The defendant said she did not intend to risk anyone’s safety. Hyun-ah said she thinks “this case happened because of devotion to [her] work and because [she] could not be considerate to other people.”
During the trial, prosecutors underlined the fact that the defendant “still blames the cabin crew for causing” the nut rage incident.
They asked the three-judge panel to impose a sentence of three years in jail, as the defendant endangered flight safety and used her position as an executive to avoid prosecution.
Cho Hyun-ah has been incarcerated since December 30, and will remain in custody until the panel of judges announces their decision. Although the specific date is unknown, the announcement is expected prior to the Lunar New Year on February 19.
The nut rage incident brought international attention to an issue that has plagued the residents of South Korea. As reported by ABC News, the country’s elite families, also called chaebol, are often assumed to be “above the law.” Prosecutors hope Cho Hyun-ah will be punished for her behavior despite her socioeconomic status.
[Image via NY Post]