JetBlue attendant: Why judge may not be amused by Steve Slater
JetBlue attendant Steve Slater is being called a working-class hero for allegedly berating an abusive passenger and then jumping down the exit chute. But judges take any crimes related to air travel very seriously.
So, what happens next to Steve Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who seems to have had an onboard meltdown Monday before sliding out of the plane via its emergency chute at John F. Kennedy International Airport?Skip to next paragraph
He has already been charged with reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. But will prosecutors follow through with a trial of someone who is fast becoming an Internet folk hero for essentially saying, “I’m mad as hell, I’m not going to take this anymore,” to quote Howard Beale in the 1976 movie “Network.”
Former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz says Mr. Slater, who did not post $2,500 in bail and remained in Jail Tuesday, will likely face a judge not quite as sympathetic as the public.
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“In my experience anything to do with air travel is taken very seriously because it invariably involves the life and safety of hundreds of passengers,” says Mr. Mintz, now a criminal defense lawyer at McCarter & English in Newark, N.J. “I have seen all these regulations and law very strictly enforced.”
Some legal specialists are hard-pressed to think of a defense.
“I’d like to know exactly what happened,” says Hanan Kolko, a labor lawyer and a member of the New York law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English, & Klein. “Just because I can’t think of anything does not mean it’s not out there.”
According to media reports, Slater was on a Jet Blue flight from Pittsburgh that had landed at JFK in Queens, N.Y., when a passenger got up to retrieve her luggage in the overhead compartment before the flight was at the gate. Slater repeatedly told the passenger to get back in her seat, she cursed him and he is alleged to have been struck in the head with some luggage.
He then went back to the front of the plane and in an obscene fashion told the passengers what he was thinking. Then, reports say, Slater pulled some beers out of the galley, deployed the emergency slide, and ultimately headed home.
Mr. Kolko doubts Slater, a flight attendant since 1990, will return to the airline business. However, some people think JetBlue or law enforcement officials ought to reconsider taking action against him.