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Press Release

Airline Passengers Charged with Interfering with Flight Crew and Assaulting Passengers

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Kelly Pichardo, 31, of Bronx, New York, appeared virtually today in federal court on charges that she interfered with a flight crew member and committed simple assault. Leeza S. Rodriguez, 30, also of Bronx, New York is scheduled to appear next week on the same charges. Pichardo and Rodriguez were previously indicted by a grand jury on three counts related to events that took place in February 2021.

The indictment alleges that on February 24, Pichardo and Rodriguez, while on board an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Los Angeles, interfered with the ability of the flight crew to perform their duties by assaulting a crew member. The indictment also alleges that Pichardo and Rodriguez each assaulted a passenger during the flight. Pichardo’s and Rodriguez’s actions compelled the flight crew to conduct an unscheduled landing in Phoenix, Arizona.

It is a violation of federal law on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States to interfere with flight crew members in the performance of their duties or to lessen their ability to perform those duties by assault or intimidation. 

A conviction for Interfering with a Flight Crew Member carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of confinement and a $250,000.00 fine. A conviction for Simple Assault carries a maximum penalty of 6 months of confinement and a $5,000.00 fine.

An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The FBI investigated this case with assistance from the Phoenix Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Hakala is prosecuting the case.

CASE NUMBER:           21-CR-00494-DWL
RELEASE NUMBER:    2021-042_Pichardo

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Updated July 21, 2021

Press Release Number: 2021-042_Pichardo