Original article no longer available
By CLAIR JOHNSON
Of The Gazette Staff
A woman removed in Billings from a Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Boise, Idaho, for allegedly fighting with the crew appeared in federal court Wednesday on charges.
Judith McKenith, 55, of Bergenfield, N.J., is charged by complaint with assaulting or intimidating flight-crew member Capt. Ralph Lawson and flight attendant Robyn Benz.
Federal Defender Mark Werner requested a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing, which U.S. Magistrate Richard Anderson set for Friday. Anderson ordered McKenith detained until then.
In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent W.E. Facer, who investigated the incident, said he was advised that McKenith was believed to be intoxicated before the flight and that she was served three drinks in flight.
When McKenith was denied more alcohol, she suddenly became belligerent, Facer said. McKenith then hit Benz on the chin. Passengers tried to intervene and to help Benz. McKenith assaulted at least two of the passengers by striking one in the face and kicking another in the groin, Facer said.
McKenith then said she was going to the cockpit to talk to the captain in the flight but was restrained, and the nonstop flight was diverted to Billings, Facer said.
When McKenith was removed from the airplane by the Billings Airport Police, she was “uncooperative, unruly and attempted to bite and strike the officers,” Facer said in his affidavit. McKenith continually attempted to wrap her legs around the railing descending the stairs from the plane.
Officers arrested McKenith and took her to the Yellowstone County jail, where a breath test showed she had a blood-alcohol concentration of .202 percent. The legal limit in Montana is .08 percent. She also had in her possession prescription anti-depressant medication and anti-anxiety drugs. McKenith admitted that she had taken an antidepressant.
Northwest Flight 1279 landed at Billings Logan International Airport shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday and was grounded for about 11/2 hours before resuming flight. The alleged fight occurred about 100 miles south, southeast of Billings early in the afternoon on Tuesday.
No one on board required medical attention, said John Kinney, acting federal security director in Billings.