Company suspends exec accused of slapping child on Delta flight

A company president accused of slapping a crying child on a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta has been suspended, the parent company confirmed Saturday.

Joe Rickey Hundley, president of Unitech Composites and Structures in Hayden, Idaho, faces a federal assault charge after he allegedly slapped the 2-year-old when his mother was unable to quiet the child as their plane approached Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Feb. 8, according to federal criminal complaint.

Hundley, 60, has denied the allegation and also denied the mother’s claim that he used a racial slur before striking the child.

“We are taking this matter seriously,” Al Haase, president and chief executive officer of AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group, said in a statement. Unitech is a division of AGC. “In accordance with our company’s personal conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pending investigation,” Haase said.

Unitech describes itself as one of the largest manufacturers of composite products for aerospace, transportation, military, commercial and industrial applications in the Pacific Northwest.

Haase did not mention Hundley by name in his statement, but a spokesman later confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Hundley is the executive.

The statement noted that Hundley was on personal travel. “The allegations are disturbing and are contradictory to our values,” Haase’s statement said.

Hundley was on Flight 721 from Minneapolis, Minn., to Hartsfield-Jackson and sitting next to Jessica Bennett of Minneapolis when her son began crying from the change in cabin pressure as the plane descended, Bennett told FBI Special Agent Daron Cheney in the Feb. 12 affidavit.

Bennett said she was trying to get the child to stop crying, but he continued.

“According to Ms. Bennett, a male passenger next to her in Row 28, Seat A, later identified as Joe Rickey Hundley, told her to shut that” [racial slur] “baby up. Ms. Bennett stated that Joe Rickey Hundley then turned around and slapped [JS] in the face with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder.”

Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution flight attendants separated the passengers after the incident and that the crew arranged for law enforcement to meet the flight when it landed.

Efforts were made Saturday to reach Hundley’s attorney, Marcia Shein. In an Associated Press report, Shein said, “We think that it is important to let the case develop, and we’ll see how it all comes out.”

Bennett told the FBI agent the slap left a scratch below the child’s right eye. In an interview with The Smoking Gun, which first reported the incident, Bennett said Hundley “reeked of alcohol.” She said Hundley had several alcoholic drinks during the two-hour flight and was seen stumbling. Bennett said she was traveling to Atlanta for a funeral.

Hundley told The Smoking Gun that he asked the mother to “quiet the child.” Hundley said he was traveling to Atlanta to visit a hospitalized relative and was “distraught” on the flight. He said he’d had “a single alcoholic drink.”

Virginia court records show Hundley pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2007.

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