Federal authorities have charged a 32-year-old man who allegedly assaulted a flight attendant Thursday morning on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Hilo.
Steven Sloan Jr. was charged with assault and interfering with a flight crew.
Assault is punishable by up to a year in prison, while interfering with a flight crew is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, upon conviction.
Sloan, whose town of residence was not provided in the charging document, is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.
The flight attendant, a man, wasn’t seriously injured.
Sloan’s lawyer, federal Public Defender Sharron Rancourt, told a judge Friday morning the detention center was unable to bring Sloan to the phone for his scheduled initial court appearance, so it was postponed until 9:30 a.m. Monday before Magistrate Judge Rom Trader.
According to a court document filed by the FBI, at about 7:30 a.m. aboard Hawaiian Airlines flight 152, the flight attendant — identified only by the initials “K.K.” — was moving from the front to the rear of the aircraft, collecting passengers’ trash.
The flight attendant told the FBI he was punched with a closed fist to the chest by a man sitting in an aisle seat in row six. According to the document, the flight attendant described the punch as shocking and thought it might be a joke, perhaps by someone who knows him.
When the victim faced Sloan, whom he didn’t know, he asked Sloan if he was OK or needed anything, according to the document.
The flight attendant reportedly told the FBI Sloan rose from his seat and stood face-to-face with him in the aisle, appearing “upset or agitated,” but not speaking. The victim saw Sloan shift his weight and draw his right arm back to punch again, causing the flight attendant to take a defensive posture and move away, the document states.
The victim felt a punch to the back of the head, near his ear, that hurt more than the one to the chest, causing him to move to the front of the aircraft, according to the document. The flight attendant said Sloan returned to his seat and acted as if nothing happened.
The flight attendant was fearful for his own safety, the safety of the other two flight attendants and the other passengers, including the woman seated next to Sloan, according to the document. As a result, the victim advised the other flight attendants to guard the doors of the aircraft. The captain, who was notified of the incident in the passenger cabin, decided to return to Honolulu.
The document contains testimony from two other passengers, both of whom corroborated the victim’s account of an unprovoked attack.
The woman seated next to Sloan told agents she yelled for Sloan to stop and said Sloan started to shout “shut up” and other things described in the document as “random rants.”
She reportedly said she was afraid and wanted to get away from Sloan, but she was seated next to the window and he was seated in the aisle, blocking her escape route.
According to the document, while an FBI agent was obtaining biographical information, Sloan was “grunting and mumbling under his breath and … appeared to have an aggressive demeanor.” After being read his rights, Sloan declined to make a statement or answer questions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a motion requesting Sloan be held without bail, checking boxes on a form stating Sloan should be detained for the safety of the community and as a potential flight risk.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.