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Press Release

Rochester Woman Pleads Guilty To Assaulting Two People On An Airplane

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

CONTACT:    Barbara Burns
PHONE:    (716) 843-5817
FAX #:    (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Cynthia McKnight, 24, of Rochester, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo to two counts of simple assault in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, which each carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John D. Fabian and Charles M. Kruly, who are handling the case, stated that on April 19, 2022, McKnight was a passenger on an American Airlines flight from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. After the aircraft’s doors were closed, and while the aircraft was preparing to depart, McKnight made her way to the front of the aircraft and engaged in a verbal altercation with one passenger, then spat on another passenger. As a result, the aircraft was required to return to the gate. McKnight then attempted to exit the aircraft as it was in motion on the ground, pushing a flight attendant in the process who had attempted to prevent her from opening an aircraft door. McKnight was able to open an aircraft door, which deployed the aircraft’s emergency slide, and exited the aircraft.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Stansbury and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police, under the direction of Chief Brian Patterson. 

Sentencing is scheduled for May 16, 2023, before Judge Vilardo.

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Updated January 6, 2023