Original article no longer available
Alaska Dispatch News
By Nicole Tsong, Anchorage Daily News
Published: November 7, 2002
EAGLE RIVER: Suspect threatened flight attendant.
An Eagle River man pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to a charge of interference with a flight crew.
James Michael Ridge admitted to threatening a flight attendant during a February flight to Kentucky. His behavior didn’t cause pilots to divert the airplane, but he created enough of an uproar to be charged.
He was indicted that same month by a federal grand jury in Kentucky. Because he didn’t contest the charge, he was allowed to have the case moved to his home state of Alaska for a plea hearing and sentencing, his attorney said.
Prosecutors said alcohol and medication for depression fueled Ridge’s profanity-laced diatribe on Feb. 5 that led to his arrest.
Ridge, 68, was traveling to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to visit family, said Kevin McCoy, assistant federal public defender. He was on Delta Airlines Flight 1008, traveling from Anchorage to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, according to an FBI affidavit.
During the flight, Ridge asked an attendant about half an hour before the plane was expected to land if he could smoke, said assistant U.S. attorney Steve Skrocki. When she said no, Ridge threatened to “split her skull open.”
Other passengers had to hold Ridge back, Skrocki said. The flight landed as scheduled. Ridge was arrested the next day, according to court records.
During the plea hearing Tuesday, Ridge told the judge his memory of the events were hazy, Skrocki said.
His case is not like air rage incidents in which a passenger’s behavior forces a pilot to make an unscheduled landing, McCoy said. “This was not a particularly outlandish event,” he said. Ridge was “drunk and obnoxious.”
His sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 9. He faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail, according to the plea agreement. He has been released on $500 cash bond.
Reporter Nicole Tsong can be reached at email@example.com or 907-257-4450.