News / World

Man who bit Hawaiian Airlines employee during flight gets probation

Halfway into the flight, the man refused to take his seat when the seat belt light turned on and became verbally and physically abusive — punching the bathroom door and threating to kill flight attendants, the court document said.

A Hawaiian Airlines aircraft prepares to land at the Los Angeles International Airport, California on December 22, 2016.

RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images

A Hawaiian Airlines aircraft prepares to land at the Los Angeles International Airport, California on December 22, 2016.

HONOLULU — A man accused of biting a Hawaiian Airlines employee during a July flight from American Samoa to Hawaii was sentenced to three years of probation Thursday for interfering with a flight crew.

Aumoeualogo Agaaoa Togia pleaded guilty in September in exchange for dismissal of an assault charge.

Togia drank alcohol before and during the July nonstop flight from Pago Pago to Honolulu, according to his plea agreement. Halfway into the flight, he refused to take his seat when the seat belt light turned on and became verbally and physically abusive — punching the bathroom door and threating to kill flight attendants, the court document said.

"Of course, we always have to see this in the background of Sept. 11 and terrorism," said U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi, noting that Togia's behaviour forced the cockpit into a lockdown. "You certainly created terror and fear" among passengers and crew members.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Nammar said Togia bit the hand of a flight attendant. After the hearing, Nammar noted that an earlier court document misidentified the flight attendant as a different type of worker.

While in a holding cell at Honolulu International Airport, Togia told an FBI agent he fought back after being "ambushed," that he "might have blacked out" and didn't remember what happened.

Togia has a history of alcohol and marijuana abuse, Kobayashi said.

"I know my behaviour was uncalled for," Togia said in court. He turned around to the courtroom gallery and apologized to his mother, siblings, friends and three children watching the proceeding.

Kobayashi said she concludes that his behaviour wasn't typical for him. While on probation, he'll be subject to certain conditions including drug testing. Kobayashi said she has a "high degree of confidence" he won't violate terms of his probation.

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