A Texas man is trying to convince a judge that his in-flight meltdown, which caused a Dallas-bound flight to be diverted to Albuquerque, should not be treated as a crime, The Dallas Morning News reports.
The attorney representing Justin Riley Brafford, 29, admits that his client’s behavior on an October 2018 Southwest Airlines flight wasn’t exactly gentlemanly. Brafford was seated next to a female passenger, and he attempted to flirt with her, including “playing footsies” with her, resting his head on her shoulder, tugging at her sweater, and rubbing his feet against hers, according to the criminal complaint against him. She wasn’t having it and asked for another seat.
When a flight attendant showed up to help the fellow passenger to another seat, he “scolded” Brafford. Brafford then allegedly launched into a “profanity-laced tantrum” that lasted about 30 seconds, and then he sat back down in his seat and behaved himself for the remainder of the flight.
Unfortunately for Brafford, his fellow passengers, and the crew of that flight, the journey wound up being much shorter than originally planned, thanks to Brafford’s behavior. Other people on-board purportedly felt “intimidated” by Brafford’s “belligerent” demeanor, and the captain made the decision to make an emergency landing in Albuquerque.
FBI agents were waiting for Brafford at the gate.
He’s been charged with interfering with a flight crew, which is a felony, and has been behind bars ever since, having been denied bond.
Brafford’s attorney, John Van Butcher, says that the law under which his client is charged is vague and unconstitutional. He says that, while his client was “rude” and “boorish,” being rude is not a federal crime. He also points out that Brafford never touched the male flight attendant, who is physically larger than Brafford.
Further, Van Butcher says that angry passengers and angry flight attendants have verbal confrontations every day, and that the vast majority of such confrontations don’t result in flight diversions or criminal charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano A. Torrez, however, says that most airline passengers know that they can’t behave in an unseemly or threatening manner on board an aircraft.
As for Brafford, he purportedly has a history of drug use and a lengthy rap sheet. What’s more, he has “little reason” to remain in New Mexico, where he’s been jailed. For these reasons, a judge has determined that he should be kept behind bars. He’s scheduled for a hearing next week.