A Tampa, Florida, man who assaulted crew and passengers on a Delta Airlines flight bound for China was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison for four federal felonies in connection with the July 16, 2017 incident, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. JOSEPH DANIEL HUDEK IV, 24, pleaded guilty in February 2018. HUDEK claimed he suffered a psychotic episode with hallucinations after consuming marijuana edibles. In imposing the prison sentence U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said he could not ignore the violence to the flight attendants and passengers and the fear HUDEK caused to all of the people on the flight.
“Assaulting flight attendants and passengers, and threatening the safety of everyone on a commercial airliner will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “We take very seriously our responsibility to hold accountable those who victimize the flying public and airline employees. I commend the FBI for their work to ensure the victims in this case were heard and the evidence of this crime was made available for all concerned.”
According to records in the case, 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, 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.
Speaking to the court, passenger Lon Arnold described how he suffered permanent injury to his vision when HUDEK punched him in the eye. HUDEK also hit Arnold over the head with a wine bottle causing a concussion. Arnold said “the violence was incredible… I was afraid he was going to kill the flight attendant.”
In addition to the two year prison sentence, Judge Coughenour ordered HUDEK to pay $67,841 in restitution to the victims and imposed three years of supervised release to follow prison. During supervised release HUDEK is not allowed to fly on a commercial aircraft.HUDEK remains out of custody on bond. The Bureau of Prisons will determine his prison placement and will order him to report to a federal prison in the next four to six weeks.
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Hobbs.