PDA A Little Too Public; Allegedly Threatened FA
Take some "embracing, kissing, and
acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable" with
girlfriend, add in two threats to a flight attendant, don't mix in
any alcohol (to the consternation of the couple)... and you, too,
may find yourself convicted of interfering with a flight attendant,
a charge carrying a prison sentence of up to 20 years, just like
California's Carl Warren Persing.
Persing was convicted last week of interfering with a flight
attendant based on incidents aboard a Southwest Airlines flight
last September from Los Angeles to Raleigh, NC, with a stop in
Phoenix, reported the Daily Breeze.
The case was based on two mid-flight encounters -- a public
display of affection involving Persing and his live-in
girlfriend, Dawn Sewell, while in their seats, and the other
between him and a flight attendant who told them to conduct
Persing's attorneys argued that what the flight attendant
perceived as "overt sexual activity" was really just a tired man
laying his head in his girlfriend's lap. They acknowledge that
Persing and the flight attendant exchanged words but questioned
whether it was sufficient to interfere with the flight.
A federal judge is scheduled to sentence Persing in August.
Persing's attorney Bill Peregoy said he is certain there will be an
Persing's conviction is just the latest example of how,
following 9/11 and the institution of new security regulations,
many airlines have become increasingly alert to minor infractions.
Passengers, for the most part, realize they need to be on their
best "airline behavior," reports ABC News.
"As a potential act of terrorism, it's being a little
oversensitive," Charles Slepian, an aviation security expert at the
Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, said about Persing's case. "After
all, the mile-high club has been around for at least 50 years. But
flight crews are sensitive that some passengers get upset when
others get cozy, and that could erupt into an
There are other cases of behavior that ended in an individual(s)
being taken off of a flight. Emily Gillette was kicked off her
Delta flight for breast feeding, as ANN had reported.
Many travelers, however, already follow the rules; the number of
unruly passengers who have been penalized by the FAA for trying to
"assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember" has
dropped dramatically the last two years and is on track to hit a
record low. In 2004, the FAA recorded 304 enforcement actions.
Through September of 2006, there were only 79 actions.
Back to the amorous and
threatening Persing: "It (what he did) was clearly bad behavior,"
Peregoy acknowledged. But, he added, "Where does normal guy talk
stop and felonious communications begin?"
According to documents, the couple first attracted the attention
of other passengers during a brief stop in Phoenix when Persing
began "nuzzling or kissing" Sewell's neck and chest, then pressed
his face into her lap, according to an FBI affidavit. Their
behavior, it noted, made other passengers uncomfortable.
The flight attendant twice asked the couple to stop. The second
time, Persing told him, "I'm going to give you one warning to get
out of my face," the affidavit states.
The flight attendant later refused to serve the couple alcohol.
The affidavit quotes Persing telling him, "There is going to be a
serious confrontation between you and me."
Needless to say, FBI agents were members of the couple's
welcoming committee when the flight landed in North Carolina.
A federal grand jury indicted both Persing and Sewell,
concluding they had interfered with the flight attendant and
"lessen(ed) the ability of the attendant to perform his
The trial began -- and ended -- last week in a North
Carolina federal courtroom. Peregoy said that although the judge
dismissed the charges against Sewell, she was "scared to death"
about the possibility of future prosecution. She refused to testify
on her boyfriend's behalf.
Persing's defense was that he wasn't feeling well during the
flight and laid his head in his girlfriend's lap to sleep. The
flight attendant, his attorneys said, kept waking him up, and he
lost his patience.
Jurors took six hours to convict Persing of interfering with the
flight attendant after the three-day trial.
His attorney said the jury never considered a crucial question
in its deliberations: whether Persing knew that his behavior would
interfere with the flight attendant's ability to carry out his
"Mr. Persing," Peregoy said, "was on trial for no other
reason than (this): You will do what you're told by aircraft crew,
and you will do it with a smile on your face, or (they) will
Persing will return to the Raleigh courtroom early August for
his sentencing hearing.
Persing, 41, will probably serve jail time for the federal
felony conviction, said Assistant US Attorney John Bowler.
Peregoy said he will ask for probation, but expects the judge
may hand down "something pretty severe," such as a few years in