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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Friday, February 9, 2018

Florida Man Who Assaulted Airline Flight Crew and Passengers Enroute to China Pleads Guilty

Defendant Admits He Struck Passengers and Crew after Attempting to Raise Lever on Exit Door while Airborne

          A Tampa, Florida, man who assaulted crew and passengers on a Delta Airlines flight bound for China pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to four federal felonies in connection with the July 16, 2017 incident, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  JOSEPH DANIEL HUDEK IV, 24, is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on May 15, 2018.  The four federal felonies (interference with a flight crew and three counts of assault in a special aircraft jurisdiction) are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

            According to records in the case and the plea agreement signed today, HUDEK was seated in first class on the Delta flight. The aircraft had 210 passengers on board and 11 crew members.  The plane had just passed over Vancouver Island and was over the Pacific Ocean when HUDEK came out of the first class bathroom and in an agitated state attempted to raise the lever of the exit door of the aircraft. Two flight attendants attempted to stop HUDEK and he threw one to the floor and punched the other. When a passenger attempted to assist the flight attendants, HUDEK hit him over the head with a wine bottle. Ultimately, multiple passengers were required to restrain HUDEK, and one lowered the exit handle of the door as the aircraft returned to Seattle.

            In court filings HUDEK admits he ingested marijuana edibles before the flight.  In a pretrial ruling Judge Coughnour barred HUDEK from using a mental incapacity defense based on his voluntary consumption of marijuana.

            HUDEK has agreed to pay restitution to the injured passengers in an amount to be determined at the sentencing hearing.

            HUDEK remains out of jail on bond, but is prohibited from traveling on aircraft.

            The case was investigated by the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Hobbs.

Violent Crime
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or
Updated February 9, 2018