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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 17, 2015

Illinois Man Sentenced for Interference with Flight Crew Members

United States Attorney Deborah R. Gilg announced that on April 17, 2015, Joshua Carl Lee Suggs, age 24 of Oswego, Illinois, was sentenced for Interference with Flight Crew Members.  The Honorable Joseph F. Bataillon, Senior United States District Court Judge, sentenced Suggs to the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons for 6 months and 23 days, which is time Suggs has already served.   Suggs will immediately begin a three (3) year term of supervised release.  Suggs was also ordered to pay restitution to Southwest Airlines in the amount of $4,400.00.

An investigation conducted by the Omaha Airport Authority Police Department, Transportation Security Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that on April 13, 2014, Southwest Airlines flight 722 departed Chicago Midway International Airport to Sacramento International Airport.  Approximately one hour after departure, Suggs approached a flight attendant at which time the flight attendant informed Suggs that the captain had turned on the “fasten seat belts” sign, and that the passengers and crew needed to take their seats.  Suggs stated that he wanted to look out the window.  After being asked to take his seat a second time, Suggs pushed past the flight attendant and attempted to open the exterior door of the aircraft, located in the aft galley.

As Suggs attempted to open the aircraft door, a flight attendant stepped between Suggs and the door and called for help.  A number of passengers exited their seats and subdued Suggs.  During the altercation, according to a flight attendant, passengers were heard "screaming in terror" yelling phrases such as, "he is trying to open the door" and "we’re going to die."

As a result of Suggs’ attempt to open the aircraft door, the Captain contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and declared an emergency, subsequently requesting to divert the flight to Omaha’s  Eppley Airfield.  The flight was diverted to Omaha where Suggs was taken into custody by the Omaha Airport Authority Police Department.

The case was investigated by the Omaha Airport Authority Police Department, Transportation Security Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

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Updated April 24, 2015