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Press Release

California Man Pleads Guilty to Interfering with Flight Crew, Forcing Plane to be Diverted to KCI

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

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A California man pleaded guilty in federal court today after he was subdued by several passengers and flight attendants when he tried to open the exit door on an American Airlines flight en route to Washington, D.C., forcing the plane to land at Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Missouri.

Juan Remberto Rivas, 52, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Roseann A. Ketchmark to one count of interfering with flight crew members and flight attendants.

Rivas was a passenger aboard American Airlines flight 1775 traveling nonstop from Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C., which was diverted to Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 13, 2022.

By pleading guilty today, Rivas admitted that he created a disturbance which knowingly intimidated a flight attendant of the aircraft. Rivas went to the front of the plane and was arguing with the flight attendant. Rivas grabbed some plastic silverware and placed the plastic silverware in his shirt sleeve to appear to create a shank. Rivas grabbed a small champagne bottle by the neck and attempted to break the bottle on the counter. Rivas then attempted to open an exit door by lifting the handle.

Another flight attendant grabbed a coffee pot and hit Rivas with it. Rivas was then restrained for the remainder of the flight.

Under federal statutes, Rivas is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul S. Becker. It was investigated by the FBI.

Updated January 23, 2024