Furious flight attendant released on bail, grabs spotlight
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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 20:37
  
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 further. 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. PTI


First Published: Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 20:37


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