SEATTLE — The man who violently interrupted a Delta flight on the way to China from Seattle appeared in federal court on Friday.
Prosecutors say Joseph Hudek, 23, attacked two Delta flight attendants and a passenger about an hour into the flight.
The attack happened after Hudek is accused of trying to open the exit door. Prosecutors say he managed to turn the lever of the door by 90 degrees, which is enough to disarm it.
Passengers witnessing this said they were terrified.
On Friday, Hudek appeared in front of a judge with a swollen right eye and a cut on the face.
Prosecutors released a picture showing the disarray inside the plane after the altercation.
Court documents state Hudek was sitting in first class and asked for a beer in the beginning of the flight but did not consume anymore. Details indicate that Hudek did not appear to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Investigators say Hudek got up to go to the bathroom, came back and asked a flight attendant a question, then went back into the bathroom. After two minutes he stormed out of the bathroom and lunged for the exit door.
Two flight attendants tried to restrain him but prosecutors say Hudek punched one of the flight attendants twice in the face. While this was going on, another flight attendant alerted the pilots in the cockpit through a telephone. Prosecutors say one passenger who tried to help also got punched and hit by a wine bottle.
That passenger eventually got Hudek in a chokehold and the flight attendants broke two wine bottles over Hudek who kept saying "Do you know who I am."
The defense attorney said little but the suspect’s grandfather told Q13 News he is shocked, calling Hudek a good guy.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a real good guy; he works hard, saves his money, I don’t know what happened,” Joseph Hudek said.
The grandfather says Hudek was heading to Beijing to visit a friend and says the 23-year-old has flown all his life with no issues.
“This is so out of character of him, I can’t believe it,” Hudek said.
The grandfather says Hudek’s mom is also an employee with Delta.
There were initial reports of Hudek attempting to breach the cockpit but prosecutors say that never happened.
Hudek was charged with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants.
A judge ordered Hudek to remain behind bars until next Thursday’s detention hearing. If convicted, he could receive up to 20 years behind bars.