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Press Release

Texas Man Facing Federal Charges Arising Out of In-Flight Incident Resulting in Emergency Landing in New Mexico

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Defendant Charged with Intimidating and Interfering with Flight Crew and Simple Assault of Fellow Passenger

ALBUQUERQUE – Justin Riley Brafford, 29, of Denton, Texas, made his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., on a criminal complaint charging him with interfering with and intimidating members of a flight crew and flight attendants while on an aircraft, a felony charge, and simple assault, a misdemeanor charge.  The charges against Brafford arose out of an in-flight incident requiring an emergency landing at the Albuquerque Sunport on Oct. 16, 2018.  Brafford remains in federal custody pending a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing, both of which are scheduled for tomorrow.

The FBI arrested Brafford on Oct. 16, 2018, on a criminal complaint setting forth the charges against Brafford.  According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 16, 2018, while on a flight from Los Angeles, Calif., to Dallas, Tex., Brafford’s criminal behavior caused the flight crew to divert the flight to the Albuquerque Sunport. 

The criminal complaint alleges that, while the aircraft was en route to Dallas from Los Angeles, Brafford allegedly assaulted a female victim, leading the victim to request that flight attendants move her to a different seat.  It alleges that Brafford approached the victim in her new seat, causing her to seek assistance from a flight attendant.  When the flight attendant approached Brafford, he allegedly responded in a belligerent manner, which the flight attendant, other flight crewmembers, and passengers found intimidating.  The pilot determined it appropriate to divert the aircraft to the Albuquerque Sunport, where the FBI took Brafford into federal custody.

A conviction on the interference and intimidation charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, and a conviction on the simple assault charge carries a maximum penalty of a year of imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.  Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Presiliano Torrez. 

Updated October 17, 2018

Violent Crime