Christina Szele Sentenced for Interfering With a Flight Crew

DENVER (LAWFUEL) – Christina Elizabeth Szele, age 35, of Woodside, New York, was sentenced this afternoon by U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane to serve 5 years probation for interference with a JetBlue flight crew, Acting U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette, and FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis announced today. Szele was ordered to participate in drug and alcohol abuse treatment, as well as anger management. Judge Kane also ordered her not to fly on commercial aircraft during her 5 years of probation. Szele has to pay restitution totaling $7,987.40 to Jet Blue.

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. Szele pled guilty before Judge Kane on November 25, 2008. She was sentenced today, 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, New York. She was then arrested by Deputy U.S. Marshals in Brooklyn, New York, for pre-trial release violations. There were no other violations after this incident.

“The job of the flight attendant is crucial to the safety and well-being of everyone on an airplane,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Dave Gaouette. “Anyone who interferes with these responsibilities must be held accountable for their criminal conduct.”

“I greatly appreciate all the time spent on this matter by those with the Court, the United States Attorney’s Office, and of course, our Agent,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis.

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

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