Joe Rickey Hundley, a former aircraft parts company president accused of slapping a crying child on a Delta Air Lines flight, turned himself in to federal authorities in Idaho on Tuesday and was later released on a $10,000 bond.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta said Hundley, of Hayden, Idaho, appeared before a federal magistrate in Coeur d’Alene on a simple assault charge. His next court appearance, however, will be in Georgia, but a date has not been set.
Hundley did not enter a plea Tuesday, said spokesman Robert Page of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. The Idaho man has denied striking the child or making a racial slur before the alleged assault as Flight 721 from Minneapolis to Atlanta headed for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Feb. 8.
Hundley was sitting next to Jessica Bennett of Minneapolis when her son, Jonah, began crying from the change in cabin pressure, Bennett told FBI Special Agent Daron Cheney in Atlanta in a Feb. 12 federal affidavit days after the incident.
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.”
Bennett told ABC’s Good Morning America TV show her family has been traumatized by the incident involving her adopted son. She said she and Jonah had the aisle seat and Hundley was near the window.
She said when Hundley told her to quiet the child, using a racial slur, she asked him what he’d said. Bennett said he repeated the slur.
“He put his mouth into my ear and he said it again, and I had to push his face away from me, and I screamed, and this caused a commotion,” she said.
Bennett said other passengers stood up and began to intervene.
“And at that point is when he hit my child,” Bennett said.
Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that flight attendants separated the passengers after the incident and the crew arranged for law enforcement to meet the flight when it landed. Hundley was not taken into custody at the time.
Hundley had been president of Unitech Composites and Structures in Hayden until Sunday, when he was fired over the incident by the company’s parent company, AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group.
Bennett told ABC the child, who she said suffered a bruise to his face, is now distrustful of strangers.
“He knows that a stranger hit him. He is very leery of strangers now.”
Until his case is heard, Hundley faces travel restrictions and must surrender his passport. He is also prohibited from drinking alcohol or possession a firearm. If convicted, Hundley could face a fine or imprisonment of no more than a year, or both.
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