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Man Accused of Slapping Passenger’s Crying Toddler on Airplane

airplaneWe’ve all been there.

Sweating bullets on a flight with an unruly toddler, smiling apologetically at fellow passengers as we try to entertain our kid on what seems to be an interminable flight.

But none of us have likely experienced what happened to Jessica Bennett, 33, as she flew from Minneapolis to attend a funeral in Atlanta with her 2-year-old adopted son Jonah on February 8.

According to ABC News, the toddler began to cry as the plane descended. Bennett told FBI agents that she tried to get her little guy to stop crying when her seatmate, 60-year-old Joe Rickey Hundley, told her to shut the baby up and used a racial epithet.

Hundley is president of Unitech Composites and Structures, a civilian and military contractor in Hayden, near Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho.

The FBI court affidavit details that “Ms. Bennett stated that Joe Rickey Hundley then turned around and slapped [the baby] in the face with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder.”

WHAAAT?!

Apparently several people on the plane immediately intervened, including Todd Wooten who said he heard derogatory language coming from the rear of the aircraft and witnessed Hundley slapping the child.

Jessica Bennett says the slap caused a scratch below her son’s right eye. The mom says the slap wasn’t her first confrontation with Hundley who she says had already complained to her that Jonah was too big to be a “lap baby.”

The incident is still being investigated but Hundley faces federal assault charges. His attorney, Marcia Shein, tells ABC Hundley will be pleading not guilty. Although he’s no longer commenting on the incident, Hundley apparently did speak with The Smoking Gun (who broke the story) and denied striking the toddler or using a racial slur. However, he did acknowledge that he “asked the mother to quiet the child.” Hundley was traveling to visit a hospitalized relative in Atlanta and described himself as “distraught” on the flight, during which he said he consumed a single alcoholic drink.

But, as The Smoking Gun reports, Bennett says Hundley had a lot more than a single drink. “Bennett told TSG that she believed Hundley was intoxicated when he boarded the plane, adding that he reeked of alcohol, was stumbling around wasted and drank several double vodkas during the two-hour flight.”

This isn’t his first brush with the law or public intoxication either. According to The Smoking Gun “Hundley was arrested in 2007 following a fight with his girlfriend. Initially charged with simple assault, carrying a concealed weapon, and public intoxication, Hundley subsequently pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor assault rap. Hundley told TSG that the weapon he allegedly brandished was a wine corkscrew.”

As for the alleged plane-slapping incident? “Let’s just let the case speak for itself as it develops,” Hundley’s attorney says.

Uh… Okay. But it doesn’t look good ma’am. It doesn’t look good.

Photo Credit: flickr.com

You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.

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