New York: Steven Slater, a flight attendant
who is now a folk hero of sorts after he cursed passengers,
grabbed a beer and dramatically activated an emergency chute
to flee from a plane at the JFK Airport here, is out on bail.
The 38-year-old veteran flight attendant is charged with
second-degree criminal mischief and first-degree reckless
endangerment, both felonies that could land him in jail for up
to seven years.
Slater did not speak during the hearing, but a written
statement from him was read out to the court. "For those of
you who had dignity and respect for the last 20 years, it`s
been a great ride," the statement said.
He acknowledged opening the chute and exiting the plane.
His next court appearance is scheduled for September 7.
At the arraignment, Slater`s court-appointed lawyer,
Howard Turman, said that the activation of the slide by Slater
on Monday was not reckless.
He said Slater, who worked for JetBlue airlines, followed
the proper procedure for activating the slide, checking out
the window first to make sure no one was on the tarmac who
could be struck by it, New York Times reported.
The bail of USD 2,500 set by the judge at his arraignment
yesterday was not posted initially and he remained in custody.
Hours later, Slater exited from the lockup after posting bail.
It is not clear who posted the bail for him.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, a celebrity fan page for Slater
already had over 20,000 members. At least one fan set up a
legal fund on his behalf.
Slater said he appreciated the groundswell of support
that has grown since the incident, but declined to comment
JetBlue is investigating the incident and has removed
Slater from duty. The company would not say whether or not he
is on paid leave, a news channel reported.
The incident took place after the JetBlue flight from
Pittsburgh landed at the JFK airport. A passenger stood to
remove a bag from the overhead bin while the plane was still
taxiing, a law enforcement source said.
The source said a flight attendant exchanged words with
the passenger, and the conversation escalated.
"To the passenger who just called me a mother f*****
f*** you. I`ve been in this business 28 years and I`ve had
it," he said over the plane`s public address system, CNN
quoted a blog of Phil Catelinet, a passenger.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the
passenger also apparently pushed or hit Slater during the
altercation. The identity of the passenger involved in the
altercation has not been confirmed.
When the plane stopped at the gate, Slater reportedly
grabbed beer from a beverage cart before deploying the
emergency slide and using it to leave the plane.
"At no time was the security or safety of our customers
or crew members at risk," JetBlue said in a statement.