New York Woman Charged With Assault After Being Caught Smoking on a Plane

DENVER (LAWFUEL) – U.S. Attorney Troy Eid of Colorado, and James Davis, Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Denver, announced that Christina Elizabeth Szele, age 35, of Woodside, New York, has been charged by Criminal Complaint for assault and interference with flight attendants. Szele is in federal custody, and made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court this afternoon where she was advised of the charges pending against her. She is detained, with a detention hearing scheduled on Monday, June 23, 2008 at 10:30 am.

According to the Affidavit in support of the Criminal Complaint, 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 allegedly started smoking a cigarette at her seat. She was confronted by a flight attendant, and in response, the defendant allegedly 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 was restrained a second time. Because of the disturbance, the Captain of JetBlue flight 643 decided to divert the flight to the nearest airport.

If convicted of interference with a flight crew, the defendant faces not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. If convicted of assault, the defendant faces not more than 6 months in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine.

This case was investigated by the Denver Police Department and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Mackey.

A Criminal Complaint is a probable cause charging document. Every defendant accused of violating federal law is entitled to be indicted by a federal grand jury.

The charges are only allegations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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