A Florida man is trying to blame reefer madness for his actions on a Delta Airlines flight from Seattle to Beijing, China. The FBI said in a statement that 24-year-old Joseph Daniel Hudek IV of Tampa ate several marijuana candies and then started brawling with the Delta crew and other passengers. Hudek’s defense attorney, Robert Flennaugh, claimed that Hudek was suffering from a “marijuana-induced psychosis” when these actions took place.
The incident occurred back in July, 2017. According to the Shanghaiist, Hudek was apparently not intoxicated when he began the long Delta Airlines flight, but he asked a flight attendant for a beer. Unfortunately, before entering the plane, the man had ingested three 10-gram marijuana candies since he believed that eating the cannabis snacks would help him sleep. Hudek was not served a second alcoholic beverage.
About an hour into the Delta Airlines flight, Hudek emerged from the bathroom and went straight after the plane’s exit door. He even managed to get the lever halfway up. Two flight attendants tried to stop him from opening the plane door, but he pushed them away so backup was signaled. Other passengers also entered the fray to stop the delusional man.
The situation quickly dissolved into a full-on brawl, with Hudek punching people in the face multiple times. He also bashed a passenger over the head with a wine bottle. One flight attendant responded by smashing and breaking wine bottles over Hudek’s head, but that blow only caused him to rage more and yell, “Do you know who I am?”
One of the injured passengers, Lon Arnold, was hurt so badly that he suffered permanent damage to one eye and a brain injury which prevents him from reading and writing like normal. Even after Hudek was zip-tied and restrained, he still remained combative. The Delta Airlines flight was forced to turn back to Seattle where officials had the Florida man arrested.
In February, 2018, Hudek pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with a flight-crew member and three counts of assault on an aircraft. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Hobbs compared the case to drinking and driving, in which a person chooses to endanger others with their behavior.
“He recklessly created a risk that endangered all the individuals flying at 30,000 feet on that flight that day,” said Hobbs.
Prosecutors recommended that he be sentenced to five years in prison, but the defense attorney noted that Hudek had been a “model citizen” before the airplane brawl took place. The lawyer argued that the combination of alcohol and marijuana candies had caused Hudek to suffer delusions and hallucinations.
“I’m deeply sorry for everything that’s happened,” Hudek said in a Seattle federal courtroom, according to the South China Morning Post.
Those injured by Hudek urged the judge to sentence the guilty party to five years in prison. However, the judge decided to give Hudek only two years in prison based on his youth, his clean criminal history, the 300 letters of support that the court had received on his behalf, and the fact that Hudek had flown 193 prior flights without incident.