DENVER (LAWFUEL) – Christina Elizabeth Szele, of Woodside, New York, pled guilty this morning before U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane to interference with a flight crew, United States Attorney Troy Eid and FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis announced. The guilty plea is in connection with Szele’s June 17, 2008 outburst aboard a JetBlue aircraft. She is currently residing in a halfway house after posting a $10,000 (10 percent cash) secured bond. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kane on Thursday, February 5, 2009.
Christina Elizabeth Szele was charged by Criminal Complaint on June 18, 2008, following her arrest by the Denver Police Department and the FBI. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on July 7, 2008. She was re-arrested for pre-trial release violations on September 15, 2008. She will be sentenced on February 5, 2009.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on June 17, 2008, Szele was a passenger aboard JetBlue Airways flight 643 in route to San Francisco, California from New York, New York. Szele started smoking a cigarette at her seat during the flight. She was confronted by a flight attendant, and in response, she yelled obscenities, including racial epithets.
Flight attendants attempted to restrain Szele with flex cuffs, but she broke through the cuffs and punched an attendant in the face. She also assaulted a second JetBlue employee who was asked to sit next to her during the flight. Szele was successfully restrained after a second attempt. Because of the disturbance, the Captain of JetBlue flight 643 decided to divert the flight to Denver International Airport, where she was arrested. She is believed to have been drinking before and during the flight.
After her arrest, Christina Szele was allowed to return to New York on pre-trial release. While she was being monitored by the U.S. Probation Department she tested positive twice for cocaine. She also was arrested for misdemeanor assault in Queens. She was then arrested by Deputy U.S. Marshals in Brooklyn, New York, for pre-trial release violations.
“Ms. Szele’s guilty plea keeps her from flying during supervised release,” said United States Attorney Troy Eid. “It also requires she pay restitution of nearly $8,000 for her misconduct.”
“The FBI appreciates the continued cooperation received from the airlines, Denver International Airport, Federal Air Marshals, Denver Police Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office as we respond to and investigate crimes committed aboard aircraft,” FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis said.
Szele faces not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine for interference with a flight crew, as well as $7,987 in restitution. She also faces up to 3 years of supervised release, during which she would not be allowed to fly on commercial airlines.
This case was investigated by the Denver Police Department and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Mackey.