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Unruly flier accused of slapping toddler on Delta flight

10:50 AM, Feb 18, 2013   |    comments
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by Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

An apparent extreme "unruly flier" episode has the subject of passenger etiquette back in the news again this week.

The FBI intervened in this latest incident, in which a 60-year-old man is accused of slapping a crying 2-year-old boy in an effort to quiet the child on a Feb. 8 Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Atlanta. The man - identified as Joe Rickey Hundley of Hayden, Idaho -- was unrelated to the boy, who was the child of a woman sitting near the him, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jessica Bennett of Minneapolis, the mother of the 2-year-old, told the FBI that her boy began crying as the cabin pressure changed during the flight's descent into Atlanta. That's when Bennett alleges that Hundley hurled a racial slur at her child along with a command to quiet the child, according to a court affidavit posted by The Smoking Gun website.

According to that affidavit, "Bennett stated (Hundley) then turned around and slapped [the child] in the face with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder."

Bennett said she had been trying to calm the child at the time of the alleged contact, according WXIA of Atlanta.

Passengers and crew intervened to assist the mother and child, according to the affidavit.

Hundley admitted to requesting that the child be quieted, but he denied hitting the boy, according The Smoking Gun, the website that broke news of the incident. He told the website that he was "distraught" on the flight to Atlanta as he was en route to visit a hospitalized relative.

Bennett told Minneapolis' KARE-TV that Hundley "reeked of alcohol. He was belligerent, and I was uncomfortable."

Hundley told The Smoking Gun that he had only a single drink on the flight.

Hundley was charged last week in federal court, where he faced a simple assault charge that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Hundley's attorney told The Associated Press on Saturday that Hundley will plead not guilty, but the accused man already is facing fallout from his alleged actions.

Hundey's employer - AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group - tells AP that it no longer employs Hundley following news of the incident.

AP writes:

"Al Haase, president and CEO of AGC, issued a statement early Sunday that, while not referring to Hundley by name, called reports of behavior by one of its executives on recent personal travel 'offensive and disturbing' and said he 'is no longer employed with the company.' Keeney would not say whether Hundley was fired or resigned. Hundley was president of AGC's Unitech Composites and Structures unit."

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