You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

Friday, February 26, 2016

Denver Man Found Guilty Following Jury Trial of Interference with a Flight Crew

DENVER – U.S. Attorney John Walsh and FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Thomas Ravenelle announced that Joseph Wayne Lynch, II was found guilty this week following a three-day jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore of interference with flight crew members and attendants.  The jury deliberated for approximately 3 hours before reaching their guilty verdict.  Lynch, who is free on bond, is scheduled to appear next for sentencing, which is scheduled for May 16, 2016.

According to evidence submitted during trial, as well as court documents, on August 4th, 2015, Joseph Wayne Lynch boarded U.S. Airways Flight 580 from Philadelphia to Denver. Having missed his previous connection, the airline upgraded Lynch to first class to accommodate the inconvenience.  Because of his loud and odd behavior upon boarding, the lead flight attendant limited his alcohol intake.  After the flight took off, he swapped seats to sit next to a young lady with whom he wanted to strike up a conversation.  He became increasingly upset when the flight attendant denied him further alcoholic beverages, which made him disruptive and threatening.  At numerous times during the flight the defendant also had inappropriate physical contact with the flight attendant, including placing his hand on the small of her back repeatedly, and finally grabbing her and kissing her neck.  When instructed that his conduct was inappropriate, he then began a slew of profanities directed at flight attendants and passengers.  Mr. Lynch was so loud that the plane’s captain heard his rants in the cockpit – over radio traffic and despite noise cancelling headphones.  The flight attendants got an ice hammer, a pot of hot coffee, plastic handcuffs and alerted two able-bodied passengers to assist in the event that Mr. Lynch got even further out of hand.  When confronted, Lynch responded by repeatedly stating, “Let’s go!” He then promised to bring the airline down.  He also (falsely) claimed to be a former Green Beret / Special Forces, and he showed off his purported bullet wounds, along with a photo of his pot farm. 

Normally the first class section requires only one flight attendant.  Because of the defendant’s misconduct, a second flight attendant was in the first class section for half the flight for safety reasons.  Lynch’s continued escalation of threats and inappropriate behavior eventually led to the Captain temporarily turning over flying duties of the aircraft to the first officer, lock-down the cockpit, and notify the airline of the situation and request law enforcement be present at the gate upon arrival. When Denver Police officers arrived, and later an FBI Special Agent, Lynch redirected his threats and anger towards them. 

“As everyone who flies on airliners knows, a drunk, abusive passenger acting out against other passengers and the flight crew is not merely an inconvenience, but a serious threat to the safety of everyone on the flight,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.  “This sort of boorish, abusive and threatening behavior will not be tolerated by the flight crew (and fellow passengers) and constitutes a federal crime that we will prosecute forcefully to protect the flying public.  May this case serve as a warning to others.”

The defendant faces not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.

This case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Denver Police Department.

Lynch was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason St. Julien and Mark Pestal.

Updated February 26, 2016