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Drunk Pilot Sentenced To Prison

'It's Been Embarrassing,' The New Jersey Pilot Said

A pilot who was pulled off an airplane in Traverse City, MI in August of last year has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for operating an aircraft while intoxicated.

The incident occurred before the plane left Traverse City, and his lawyer tried to argue that the pilot, 35-year-old Sean Michael Fitzgerald, had not operated the airplane under the influence because it had been sitting at the gate and no passengers had boarded when he was removed from the aircraft with a blood-alcohol level of 0.34 percent. The legal limit for pilots is 0.02 percent.

The Michigan news website MLive reports that Fitzgerald was convicted of operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced October 13th, and must surrender to a federal prison within 10 weeks. That would give him an opportunity to appeal the conviction based on his attorney's unusual defense.

Cherry Capital Airport, where the incident occurred, has suffered a negative economic impact of some $4.5 million due to the publicity surrounding the incident, according to airport manager Kevin Klein.

Fitzgerald was ordered to pay  $5,500 in fines. Once he is released from prison, he will be supervised for three years during which time he may not operate an aircraft or drive any type of vehicle for hire.

For his part, Fitzgerald said he simply wanted to apologize to everyone. "It's been embarrassing, the worst 14 months of my life," he said. The judge said at the sentencing that Fitzgerald is an "intelligent, well-spoken, still-young man" who can will have an opportunity to recover after he serves his time.

FMI: Original report

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