Airline passenger charged with interfering with flight crew
Flight from Los Angeles to Nashville diverted into Albuquerque due to in-flight disturbance
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Asiel Christian Norton, 43, of Venice, California, made an initial appearance in federal court on June 8 for a charge of interfering with flight crew members and attendants. Norton will remain in custody pending a preliminary and detention hearing scheduled for June 10.
According to a criminal complaint, on June 4 Norton was a passenger on a Delta Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Nashville. After takeoff, Norton allegedly rushed to the front of the aircraft and began pounding on the door to the flight deck. When a flight attendant attempted to intervene, Norton allegedly pushed the attendant. Other passengers then assisted the attendant in subduing Norton. The situation caused the flight to be redirected into Albuquerque, where Norton was arrested.
It is a violation of federal law on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States to interfere with a flight attendant in the performance of their duties or to lessen their ability to perform those duties by assault or intimidation. If convicted, Norton faces up to 20 years in prison. A complaint is only an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
“We take all threats to the safety of air travelers very seriously, and we will vigorously enforce the laws intended to protect air travelers and others placed in danger by breaches in flight security,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, Fred J. Federici. “I am also grateful for the actions of those involved in this incident who helped ensure a safe outcome for the travelers on the airplane.”
“The FBI has no tolerance for individuals who interfere with flight operations and endanger the safety of passengers and airline personnel,” said Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office. “I am pleased many people aboard the flight felt the same way, judging by the courageous attendants and passengers who sprang into action to restrain this person. As more Americans return to the skies, the FBI reminds travelers that misbehavior on board aircraft will not be tolerated and, if warranted, will be thoroughly investigated and referred for prosecution.”
The FBI investigated this case with assistance from the Albuquerque Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Mysliwiec and Stephen White are prosecuting the case.